How to Make Work a Sanctuary when Shit's Bad Right Now
I think President Camacho, put it best: "Shit. I know shit's bad right now, with all that [Corona] bullshit". And it is. Accurate. Shit is very bad and it is unclear when things will get better. There are few bright spots in a deluge of very bad news.
And it's not just the news or what we read. It's being inside, all the time. Being in a city and having to stay in your cramped living space with N people is really hard. Or no people, which is harder. It's isolating. Life as we no it is not currently accessible. This is the story for the lucky folks. Those that aren't needed to keep patients alive, food on the shelves or literally the lights on.
I'm in the tech sector. I'm not in an area that touches people's lives in the same way that a medical professional or a delivery driver or a grocery store cashier does. I'm surprised and grateful that I can work and that things can still move forward and that, in terms of work at least, things seem more normal. Or at least, more normal than not normal. I can "Stay Safe", as is the closing line of emails and phone calls these days.
For those who are not necessary for the survival of a community, we need to stay inside. We need to hold the social distance torch. We may have to do it for a long time. If that's the case, then we need to make work, the normal part of our day, a sanctuary. Every day you Zoom in or log into Salesforce or Slack your stand up that is your respite from the madness. That is the most normal part of your day. Once you log off, figuring out food, figuring out child care, figuring out the rest is hard.
For those of us in leadership positions who are not faced with the life and death of others, we need to put in the extra effort to care about how our people are feeling or holding up, to make the work itself seem valuable, to think a little more long term like "What do we need to do today to be prepared for when things return to normal?" and to try to make work more fun and social, given the constraints.
Work for most of us in tech is going to be the most normal part of our day. We need to plan to do this for a long time. To sustain social distancing it will take leadership and thought.
Here are some quick ideas:
1) Schedule a stand up over Zoom. Make it 80% optional, but limited agenda. Focus on how people are feeling. Encourage people to share any work things that would be valuable for the group. Learn about each other. Do it daily and make sure everyone gets a least some social contact with folks.
2) If you are a manager, schedule daily office hours. Hop in a Zoom. If no one shows, do some other work. If someone has a question, they know they can get you on at that time. Consistency is key.
3) Block off 1 hour a week for a social activity. Our team is going to play Brackteering by https://jackboxgames.com/. It will support 16 people plus spectators.
If you are in a larger company, publicize these meetings widely. Encourage cross-functional folks to join.
Things are hard. For people like me in tech, I have a respite, many folks do not. For me things are bad, but survivable. Keep things in perspective and carry-on and stay in isolation. It's the least we can do. Stay Safe and by doing so keep others safe.