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Home-worker… care-work… self-care.

Last year I wrote a post about how working from home can lead to doing a lot of housework. I reflected on how working from home made me feel like I had been landed with all the domestic and care work and I explored ways in which I reclaimed a better balance.

A year on, and several big life changes later, seemingly everyone is now working from home and finding any kind of balance is an even bigger priority.

Working from home in these turbulent times poses some unique challenges for sure, but many of the issues I encounter are already familiar, they have just been amplified by what’s happened.

Home-work/life balance

A year ago, avoiding doing too much or unnecessary housework seemed like a big challenge and the strategies I used were simple: setting aside time to do chores rather than doing them as I see them, learning to ignore things that aren’t urgent, reminding myself of sticking to my working hours… . Just now, I need these strategies more than ever, because everything that’s happening in the world of educational technology seems urgent and there is an emergency all of the time.

Sticking to my working hours, not trying to do more than I am able to handle… making my work space as good as it can be. Sounds easy but all of these are hard to actually stick to.

I have bought myself some new plants, bringing a bit of the outside world to my work space and I am adjusting my set up to suit the different seasons. I have moved my desk closer to the radiator for example… 🙂

I was permanently home-based before this year, but even as a permanent home-worker I need to find ways to be effective as a CEO as my circumstances change and adapt to what is happening in the world around me. This year, this means being consistent about unplugging myself from work.

When it comes to technology sticking to working hours is even more key for me, because there is never a time when the emails and notifications stop. So I stop them. I have a dedicated screen on my phone for work related apps, so I don’t see them when I am not working. I switch off push notifications. I don’t have work emails on my phone and if I do want to log in I need to manually type in a very long complicated password. For me, that is an effective deterrent.

Whilst I haven’t found a way to set an out of office for DMs, I effectively provide one for myself, in that I copy and forward DMs that come in via various platforms when I am not working to my work account.

Care/life balance

A few years ago I was a carer for my mother, who has cancer. Fortunately my mum is well just now, but for a number of years juggling being a carer and working as well as having a life was a difficult balancing act.

This year, there is a large volume of different kind of caring needed, and I find myself struggling in spite of my good intentions.

I am really heartened by the absolutely amazing things so many people in educational technology have been doing day in, day out. I see you, I support you, I salute you.

In my own way at work and beyond work I have done what I can to contribute to those efforts and I am grateful to be part of communities that make such a positive difference to so many in a very difficult time indeed.

I care. And there is a limited amount of time, energy and brainpower with which I can act on and express that care.

So I need to prioritise and take a step back from being online and present every day, every week. This is an instance where I won’t permit the blurring of my work life and my life outside of work further.

I had a week off work last week and a week largely off social media. And that made for a good, healthy change. There is a crisis. But sometimes it just has to wait and be contained within its boundaries.

Home-work/self-care balance

I read an interesting article this morning which explored how people who live in Nordic countries mentally prepare for the literally darkest times of the year and there is one paragraph of the article in particular that resonated with me:

Surrounded by Norwegian positivity, Leibowitz soon found her own mindset shifting; she learned to love long walks with a headlamp to guide her path. And rather than yearning for sunlight, she came to appreciate the “soft, peaceful” appearance of the city in the darkness. “When it was snowing, I would always try to go out and enjoy the fresh snowfall.”

And that got me thinking about what the equivalent of a fresh snowfall will be for me as a home-worker this winter, as I continue to work through this crisis in the colder, darker months and return to localised lock downs here in Wales, which will restrict all aspects of my life.

Here are my initial ideas:

  • make a point of having at least 1 walking meeting outside each week, talking on the phone;
  • learn how to look after my office plants better and learn more about them;
  • protect my boundaries between work and care work and me time, to guard against burn out;
  • try lots of different herbal teas;
  • avoid scheduling meetings so that I can still get out for 1-2 long walks in daylight each week;
  • give myself permission to have a duvet day when I really need it.