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Lockdown #2 - batten down the hatches

Well, it's October 2020 and we're ten months into the most extraordinary year.

Many of us will already be back to working from home - and managing and working with others doing the same.

After so many months of disruption, it's clear that people need continued support and advice to get through continuing challenging times.

I've been lucky enough to work through lockdown, with great support from family, colleagues and friends. I know this is lucky, and have observed some working practices and approaches that I thought worth sharing.

1) Keep people informed and in touch

If you have to furlough staff, keep talking to them. Pick up the phone and give them a call once a week (more if you are able). This isn't work, this is human interaction. Be generous with your time - people are feeling lost and uncertain and need that connection to a significant part of their life

2) Open your contact book

Now is the time that you can put your address book to good use. Help your colleagues and contacts make connections - as long as you're thoughtful about who you are connecting and why, everyone will appreciate the effort

3) Set some time for the social side of work

When in an office, you don't work solidly for 8 hours without a chatting to your colleagues So why would you at home? So, here are some thoughts about how working remotely can still involve socialising with your colleagues:

a) Remember to talk to your colleagues rather than just launch into work - I often type an email and then insert pleasantries at the beginning. Or book a call, just to catch up for 15 minutes if you need a reminder

b) Schedule team coffee break times - one of the highlights on my calendar is the 30 minutes virtual coffee break which included each team member presenting three slides about themselves. Since lockdown, many of us have never met our colleagues, so this is a good way of building some personal relationships. The only rule is no talk about work

c) Another highlight of my week is the end of week virtual drinks - Friday night at 5pm. People go to town with screen backgrounds, varying drinks from water to cocktails to tea and talk is all about the weekend

4) Set some diary ground rules

Consider your working practices and how they could adapt to the new normal. When in an office, you don't work solidly for 8 hours without a break. So why would you at home? So, here are some thoughts about how working practices can be adapted to be less stressful and more productive:

a) Plan meetings to be 45 minutes and book them for 55. This allows 5 minutes delay at the beginning for any technical issues and 5 at the end before the next meeting

b) Book yourself a lunch break - every day. You can decide whether a meeting invite is important enough to take it's slot, but a break away from the screen is a must

c) Get outside every day - a walk is still exercise - for your mind and body - and unbelievably valuable.

Now is probably the time to point out that this isn't easy. Like many people I over-commit and the first thing that is cancelled are the tasks that don't directly link to a deliverable. What I'm trying to do is educate myself that talking to colleagues is just as much part of my delivery as writing a new policy or completing a security assessment.

My final tip therefore, is:

Schedule and book time in your diary for socialising and self-care - and protect them as zealously as if they were a meeting with the boss. It's time to batten down the hatches and prepare for a stormy winter ahead. Prioritise your emotional and physical well-being as part of your maintenance plan - and help you colleagues, fmaily and friends to do the same.

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