NYTimes: Pandemic Upends Traditional Work Patterns…and How I Disrupted Mine, On Purpose

The New York Times recently published a story that provided great examples of how people are flexibly fitting work and life together outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workday, as the pandemic upended the last of what remained between our work and life boundaries.

Many of us, me included, have had to rethink how, when, and where we work best over the past two years, often by default and less by choice.

That’s why going forward setting guardrails, as I noted in this story, is so important, “to establish when people are expected to be available for meetings, emails, and solo work. ‘Unless we’re intentionally coordinating our rhythms, it could end up that everybody’s working all the time.’”

I wasn’t immune from getting close to “working all the time” since March 2020. As a consultant executing work flexibility for more than two decades, this pandemic period for me has been like drinking from a fire hose as I kept my pledge to help as many new and existing clients as I could navigate the crisis-driven disruption of work.

However, after two nonstop years, I was ready for a vacation.

So, in April, our whole family took two weeks off to visit our youngest daughter who was studying in London for the semester.  We explored London and then traveled through the Cotswolds. Below is a photo of us at the entrance of a beautiful old church in Stow on the Wold. It was magnificent. Just what my heart and soul needed.

That was the first time I’d taken such a long, mostly work-free break since I’d worked for a bank in the early 1990’s where we had to take two weeks off in a row with no contact. I’d forgotten how it takes a full week to decompress which then allows you to really relax and enjoy your time away the second week. I will do my best not to forget again and make two-week breaks a priority every year, not just for me but for our entire team.

Not only were those two weeks off what I needed for both my mental and physical wellbeing, but it was also what I needed as I looked at the “next” of our own work.

Perspective is powerful, and hard to achieve sitting at your desk or on Zoom, day in and day out.

That’s why four weeks later, I booked a deliberate work retreat. I needed a change of space and solid uninterrupted, quiet time to tackle some key client needs.  I packed my yoga mat, walking sneakers, and laptop and headed to the Berkshires to work remotely.

Remember, remote work isn’t just about working from home. I took a few yoga classes and outside walks, but I also wrote more than I had in years, participated in a few client meetings, and made creative headway on some new product and service offerings we are developing.

Deliberate breaks. Rest. Changes in perspective.  All need to be a part of our work+life fit.  That’s both the challenge and the opportunity of the flexible “next” of work for everyone…even me.

As we head into a holiday weekend and conclude May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, remember if we’re going to bring our best selves to work, wherever and whatever our work may be, we first have to be our best selves in life.

To that end, this long weekend I will take overdue action that includes writing my representatives in Congress and supporting the work of gun control advocacy groups. Schools should be sanctuaries of safety for children. Grocery stores should be where we buy food and churches and synagogues where we go to worship without fearing for our lives. Enough.

Until next time, keep reimagining work…and life filled with peace and safety.