“I’m working even longer hours than before” is what many of my executive coaching clients are lamenting right now. The switch from office to home has created even less of a work boundary. As online meetings have increased to quite literally back-to-back all day, there is little time to get anything else done.
Therefore, it’s understandably tempting to “just go and check what’s happening” by logging onto the workspace after dinner. Before you know it, it is time for bed. This unrelenting schedule with no meaningful timeout (lunch is at the makeshift desk in the spare bedroom) is being repeated daily.
Yes, being Zoomed out is a “thing”. At every virtual meeting, you are still on your best behaviour, like you would be if face-to-face, even if in the virtual boardroom, you are only properly dressed from the waist up!*
However, it is not necessarily the type of work that is causing the stress and fatigue. It is the lack of breaks.
To attain peak performance, be in ‘flow’ and therefore, achieve high, satisfying productivity, the brain (and body) needs regular rest and recovery. Unlike artificial intelligence (AI) humans are not machines which can keep working delivering the same output 24/7.
A variety of inputs impact results including having regular breaks. This enables the brain to press ‘save’, trim and organise its files, however, breaks also allow space for insights to occur. This is the sudden flash of illumination of a current challenge, providing a solution outside conscious awareness i.e. when you were not actively engaged thinking about it.
To support your daily fulfilment and happiness:
When you are working, ensure that your attention is 100% on the task.
When you are playing, ensure that your attention is 100% leisure.
When you are resting, ensure that you are giving this 100% commitment.
When you are communicating, ensure 100% focus on the other person(s).
If you are used to splitting your attention and not taking breaks, (and consequently not indicating to your brain precisely what operational mode it needs to be in at any given time), changing your behaviour could be challenging at first. You may find that some extra rest and recuperation are initially required to help you reset. Perhaps, this is not a bad idea during Lockdown anyway?
Finally, to master your mindset around this, view every break, whether for example it comprises enjoying a cup of tea in the garden between meetings, evenings playing with your children or exercise, as a contributing factor towards your success. There is a reason that rest, and recovery are scheduled into Olympic athletes’ timetables: it works.
* For the record, in 16 years coaching clients virtually I have never done that.