I’m taking a couple of weeks off from Monday. Though I have a very civilised work/life balance, sometimes you need to switch off completely.
Unfortunately, I’m not going to manage that completely. I have a few livestreams planned and a few calls lined up. But I won’t be dashing down to my workshop in the mornings (at least not to work) and I won’t be blogging or on social media. Instead, I’ll be spending time with my family, working on some projects, and reading.
The need to take a break is natural but my desperation to get away from the screen has undoubtedly been amplified by the nature of my work during lockdown. I have written before about the brittleness in my confidence induced by performing. Normally, I might do two or three speaking gigs a week and a similar number of radio appearances. Over the last couple of months, I feel like I have barely stopped performing. I have been going from livestream to livestream, and when I’ve not had a camera in my face, I have been constantly plugging the book or upcoming events on social media. This has left me more exposed than I might like to some of the current toxicity there, which hasn’t improved with everyone being isolated.
Doing all this from your own home feels very personal. Normally I walk on stage for an hour, walk off and flop. Now I never leave the stage. Even when I’m not in my workshop, I have found myself even more bound to my phone than ever. It’s not healthy.
It is always risky generalising from your own experience. But I think my experience is likely to be many people’s experience in the future. They may be doing more video calls than livestreams but I think the mental toll still builds up. It is a performance on a stage from which you can’t escape.
As the size of our organisations shrinks, so more of us are exposed at the edges. We rely more on constant communication to bring in new work, keep partners close and customers happy. We are constantly in promotion mode, pitching our wares.
No-one can live their lives on stage like this. If we are all to work more remotely, more individually, and in smaller, networks of organisations, we need think carefully about the effects on people’s mental health. We need to ensure that they are working safely, and getting away from work as well.
One more challenge to the expected flexible working revolution.
See you in a couple of weeks.