What have we learned?
We’ve had countless opportunities to reflect in the 16 weeks between mid-March and mid-July. There were moments of fear, frustration, overwhelm, uncertainty, and plenty of bright moments, too. The headlines are full of a renewed level of uncertainty, and it might be easy to start to churn, but instead of that, let’s take a few weeks to reflect on what we’ve learned and how we can apply those learnings going forward, so maybe the next 16 weeks won’t be so tough.
1. Working from home is a thing.People were skeptical, especially with kiddos running around and other potential distractions at home. For many years, many employers were reluctant to allow remote work, and now we’ve seen how widely successful it can be for many. Technology has stepped up and humans have adapted. Through tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google, we’re connecting with folks from all over without wasting time in transit or adding vehicle emissions to the atmosphere. People who’ve worked long days away from their families in the past are able to see their families during the workday in new and beneficial ways. Quick walking breaks or head-clearing breaks are easier in a home environment, reinvigorating our energy and focus to get back to work well. Daily commute time is minimized, which can be good for some and tough on others, if that’s when you used to listen to educational podcasts or unwind from the day. Though there are many positives to working from home, there are also some negatives. We need to be aware of the downfalls and distractions presented to us, and how to overcome those so that we can take advantage of the benefits of working from home.
Action step: Take a few minutes to determine your best working space, your daily working routine, your work-life balance, and make sure you’re keeping the best possible approach for these next few weeks.
2. How we spend our time shows others what matters to us.
Regardless of what we hold important, it is the things we spend our time on that shows others what matters to us. If you spend your time binge-watching Netflix, then others see personal entertainment as your priority. If you spend your time loving on your kids, then others perceive that your kids are important to you. If you are working, nose to the grindstone, sun-up to sun-down with no breaks, then you’re showing that you prioritize your work over everything else in a day. Get the idea? The same is true in the workplace as in your discretionary time. Spending your time on topic, product, or project A, and pushing task B or team B or – heaven forbid – person B off until “later”? That’s showing those around you that A is more important than B. Spending time on the things that really matter to us helps us come across as more authentic, more genuine. And it absolutely IS possible to balance your work, your wellness, your family and friends, you just have to allocate the time appropriately.
Action step: Take a few minutes to review how you’ve spent your time over the last 30 days. If you’re not sure, take a week or so and track it. Make sure you’re spending your time on the things that really do matter to you.
3. Teachers are underappreciated.By week three of the COVID-19 lockdown that started shortly after Spring Break for much of the US, we knew this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Teachers stepped up and innovated to provide virtual learning environments for their students. Parents everywhere who tried to support the online learning at home suddenly discovered how hard it is to balance content, classroom management, compassion, discipline, and still keep a smile. Teacher Appreciation Day happens once a year, but you don’t have to wait for that day to show your appreciation. If you have a chance as an organization, a parent, or a community member to do something to support and encourage educators, or even just send a quick note of appreciation, do it! Any day is a good day to do that, and definitely more than just once a year. Just as in any workplace, appreciation goes a long way to keeping people engaged in their work. Many educators have chosen their profession because they want to make a difference, and a word of appreciation for the difference they’ve made can go a long way!
Action Step: Consider the teachers in your life. Whether they were favorite teachers when you were learning or they’re your own kids’ teachers now, reach out with a note or a phone call of appreciation. Put a reminder on your calendar to express appreciation more regularly, add them to your holiday gift list, and take a moment to ask them how you can help them.
4. There is always someone to care for.
Whether it is a family member who is missing human contact, a discouraged colleague who is feeling overwhelmed, or a friend stressed about bills, there is always someone that needs help. When we’re distressed about the things going on around us, it becomes harder to focus on the good. Concerns about finances, job security, or health and wellbeing can prevent us from being able to focus on our work. And some of us sort of shut down when we’re overwhelmed or stressed. But what if, instead of shutting down, we reached out? Borrowing from the mental wellness science that encourages some individuals struggling with depression to get a pet to care for (by caring for that pet, the individual finds a new focus for their attention and an ongoing purpose), what if we made it a priority each day to express care for someone else? To call a family member, to connect with a colleague, to cheer up a friend, etc. The benefits would be both instantaneous and lasting for both the individual receiving the care as well as the one doing the caring.
Action Step: Take a look at your calendar--your week or month at a glance--and your daily plan. Find a place to reach out and care for someone else each day. It could be as quick as a text or a reply to their social media post, or as long as a virtual coffee or offering a hand with something they’re struggling with.
How about you? What have you learned in the last 16 weeks?