Pandemic Problems

For the past couple of months, I’ve kept a post it on my desk. It says:

How are people doing?

– Downtime
– Social isolation
– Perspective

You can probably guess what it’s for – it’s a reminder of the core struggles I’ve been noticing from people.

Downtime: downtime is lower quality, and people struggle to recharge. Also, given restrictions they aren’t planning vacation, and might delay taking time off for when they can do something (this ‘when’ never comes).

Social isolation: especially for people who live alone, it’s easy for this time to be very isolating. Many people are lonely.

Perspective: It’s been very easy for techworkers to live in a bubble for the year or so, and combined with other two things it’s not uncommon for people to lack perspective – to get more angry or upset or anxious than they would usually.

Whilst we can’t do much about the current situation, these are reminders to:

  • Encourage people to take time off – and take time off myself. Little and often has been working better for me. When someone starts to seem a bit fried, I encourage them to at least take a long weekend. This is easier in environments with untracked AFK where people actually take it. I know some companies gave people extra vacation days in 2020 – what a great idea. Even Putin gave people extra holiday this year (although maybe it was just a disguised lockdown 🤷‍♀️).
  • Take the time to check in with people as a human and ask how they are personally. Encourage team social events. Just do my little bit to maintain some sense of connection in the darkest timeline.
  • Encourage a little more perspective. Generally, for example five of us from DuckDuckGo are attending LeadDev Together, and also specifically – when people have a harder time seeing the other person’s point of view, it’s more likely to create (or exacerbate) conflict. Often the first step to resolving these things is to encourage people to think a little more broadly.

So much of decent management is consistently showing up and giving a damn about people as human beings. This has been harder than ever to do over the past year, with our own struggles depleting our emotional energy.

Sometimes it seems like some people think the pandemic is over, but it’s not, and even once life resumes it will take time for people to recover and reset. I think I’ll be keeping this post-it on my desk for a while longer, so I’m sharing this post in the hope that it may be helpful to you, too.