In lockdown I have seen my client's health suffer in numerous ways, linked to a slow yet very sure 'work creep' coming into their lives, eroding boundaries between their personal lives and work lives.
Initially there was this harmful idea that we should all be grateful, simply for having a job. This was especially the case during the particularly difficult lockdown months when the feeling of vulnerability in the workforce was high.
Funnily enough most of the business that were pushing this fearful idea the hardest were the ones having financially successful years. The clients working in the banks and legal services were particularly stressed though these industries were not showing any sign of a downturn.
At the same time bosses were pushing for more and more productivity and working from home meant that employees were always working, permanently on demand. There was no starting work at 9am and going home at 6pm. Lunchtimes dissolved along with everyones well-being.
The result: People were feeling very uncertain about their future, made to feel as if they were balancing on the edge of a cliff regarding whether they'd have a job in the future or not. You had to be forever available to the whims of your boss and sick days were seen as a luxury, for it was seen that of course you can still work even if you felt you were hit by a truck because you were at home. There was and still is a huge stigma to calling in sick when work days are predominantly from home.
Meal times lost all their shape, there was no longer any time for people to prepare a meal and food was on the go and at the desk. Family faced neglect which was pretty ironic considering they would be spending most of their hours, more than ever before in the same physical space as their families.
Slowly, in our Personal Training sessions my clients would request that they have access to their computer during the 50 minute PT sessions and this was fine, whilst I was understanding the nature of the pressures faced, I felt that the positions my clients found themselves in was hugely unfair and exploited by the mood of fear. Days would go by without people even leaving their homes for a lunch time walk.
Today, though in a lesser styled lockdown environment, more than just a few remnants remain of these highly pressured days. There is still the call by management that its time people go back into the office, with a sniff of a suggestion that productivity wasn't high enough at home adding more insult to injury as most people gave 110% to their work life with little thanks and no return, apart from the over-bearing idea that they survived the pandemic with a job in tow and that they should continue on that path of gratefulness.
It is time to look at our work and personal life balance and consider whether our work demands are pulling too many strings and whether the basics of our day to day health needs are being sufficiently met.
We can start by asking ourselves how we can reclaim our boundaries and in turn re-claim our time. If we can fence off our weekends then that's a very good place to start. We can look deeply at the state of our connections with friends and family, and ask in this rare opportunity to rebuild relationships, have our work demands instead made us less connected and lonelier.
We need to consider the state of our physical health and how this could be impacting our mental well-being. When we get to the nitty gritty of the situation, how much time are we dedicating to moving our body and getting our health rate up. Have we had time to develop our strength or have our muscles been wasting away slumped at the desk as we work more hours than we are getting paid for, contracted for, or working above and beyond out of obligation and fear.
Are we able to be sick and actually forget work for a day or two or five, without having to keep on top of our work emails and without feeling that we are being second guessed whether we are sick enough. Are we able to stay at home and not feel pressured to go to that Christmas party or that client meeting because we rightfully don't want to get infected by a virus and spread this virus to loved ones, or does that ability to say 'no' to going in and such demands not sit easily with us.
Can we remember that we are more than a cog in a machine and that there are more important things that need attention that are going forgotten. Maybe we can accept that whilst we do appreciate our work and we may even like it, that work is not the be all and end all and quite possibly you want to check out at 4pm today and that you will.
Let's put ourselves back into the picture. Let's take some zoom meetings out of the schedule and make an appointment with our sanity and self-care.