I went to work on Monday, March 16th. About 2 o’clock that afternoon my manager called to say it’s happening; pack up your laptop and go home. In the span of about a minute I became an instant remote employee along with many other people. In the scheme of things, home is a very, very fortunate place to be during a pandemic, no question, but working from home still carries potential for some serious struggle. Overnight people went from the luxurious ability to send everyone in the household off for their day before heading off to an environment nicely set up for work, to sending everyone as far away in the house as safely feasible before heading over to a desk made out of a pile of boxes and attempting to get something done before someone had a need.
Chris Port, the COO of a Dell Technologies business, captured the situation very accurately in a June 7th Forbes Article on home-bound employees: “It is time we recognize the difference between working from home and being at home during a crisis trying to work.”
Did anyone else just breathe a sigh of relief reading that? While employee engagement and productivity are fundamental imperatives for businesses trying to survive and needing to provide service, the third imperative has to be figuring out how to help employees get the job done as well as humanly possible, given the circumstances being what they are. Reading that distinction between working from home and being sent home during a crisis to try to work from home was so reassuringly helpful — and I’m not even homeschooling kids or competing with anyone for prime workspace! But the fact of the matter is, life is not normal for anyone and everything has been thrown out of whack.
Of course everyone worries about what would happen to our mission and business if we remote workers all just kicked back and relaxed. But I’m also worried about what I know is also going on out there: a lot of self-critical intolerance of any perceived weakness or lesser performance leaking out, something I’m personally familiar with.
Being a wellness person, though, I naturally then instruct myself to chase that criticism with compassion. But I’ve been noticing something about compassion. While it helps to ease something in me, it doesn’t quite get the job done: there is always something still unsettled which compassion alone doesn’t quite reach. But I got to the bottom of the compassion shortfall this past weekend when I detected a hint of pity mixed in with the compassion. That explains it: pity doesn’t quiet anything.
It seemed reasonable that pity’s opposite would rectify the situation so after searching around awhile I landed on respect. And because I like pretending I’m scientific, I conducted an experiment to put it to the test by drumming up some honest regard for how hard I’m trying and how hard this pandemic is even though I’ve got it pretty good compared to what some other people have been given for assignments in this pandemic.
The results of my experiment were statistically significant: 100% of the research participants involved (me) reported not only feeling significantly better but inspired to just keep trying. Trying harder even.
My conclusion is this: respect is an essential companion to compassion. If there is an experience worthy of compassion, then the circumstances for creating that experience is worthy of respect, be those circumstances human failings and mistakes or existential chance and misfortune. My hunch is that for whatever else respect is good for, it also serves as a very good checks and balance against pity. To take this back to science, I don’t think pity would survive in a petri dish once respect was introduced.
What about you? Does something different come out of you when you give yourself some respect for what you are managing and feeling?
Note: This story was originally published as Wellness Wednesday, a weekly column I write on being whole and healthy for the organization I work for as their wellness specialist.
This is interesting. I live in central Pennsylvania, the birth-place of crappy marriages. I hear so many accounts from people who don’t respect or aren’t respected by their spouse. Watching this dynamic, I decided long ago that the most important aspect of any relationship is respect. It never occurred to me that this includes my relationship with myself. I’m extremely hard on myself. Some moderate mental illness and a case of tourette syndrome often leave me without respect for myself. I wonder how I can turn that around. At least now, I have a goal.
I love everything about this comment — the insight, the willingness to be real, the humility and the hint of a hilarious viewpoint driving it all. I checked out your blog to see if this all held up and not only did it hold up but, jackpot, all of this insight and honesty and hilarity has been conveniently packaged in a memoir available by purchase on Amazon, so that was handy and is now heading my way. Insightful memoirs by people with minor, moderate and all the way up to severe mental illness are a weakness of mine and if they are funny…well, icing on the cake.
As for your curiosity about how you can turn the lack of respect for yourself around given that you have some moderate mental illness with a touch of tourette’s, well, being a wellness person with my own mental health challenges by way of a moderate case of bipolar along with anxiety, etc., this is just about my favorite sort of thing to think about. It’s basically what I have dedicated my life to. It’s what ultimately what my own memoir-in-the-making is seeking to answer. Which is all to say that I have a lot to say about this topic, which will be hard to fit in this comment box so for right now, if I were to boil my thought about what you are wondering down to a single comment, I would say I think it helps to develop a “third person” kind of relationship with yourself whereby you are able to see that it is not your fault that you have been given the assignment of having tourette’s but that you are working with yourself to see what you can do with this assignment and this struggle/challenge/inquiry which is what you are here to find out. Clearly one thing you are doing is making something interesting out of your experience via your writing which is contributing something valuable to the big collective treasure pot of good stuff. There is dignity and honor to what you are doing which this third person perspective is able to clearly see. Keeping in touch with this wise third person view is where you have to remember to return to find out more about why you are so unquestionably deserving of respect. Being “present” for yourself in that sort of way definitely qualifies as a skill, but one that can be developed like learning how to make a decent grilled cheese.
Okay, thanks for stopping by my blog! I always feel a little like a hostess of a party at this point and want to send my blog guests on their way with a plate of cookies or whatever.
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So first, thank you for buying my book. Knowing that someone is willing to invest in something I’ve written is gratifying. It’s also nerve-wracking. When someone visits my blog, if they don’t like it they can simply click away. If they’ve bought my book, not only have they spent their money on it, but they’ve cleared a block of time in their life to read it. And then there’s always a chance of a book review, the thought of which just makes me sick to my stomach. So with all that said, I really hope you enjoy it.
This: “given the assignment of having tourette’s” is an interesting perspective. The mantra we repeat around my house is ‘everyone has something’ and I need to constantly be reminded that my something is far better than many. I’ve tried to honor my assignment. I’ve worked hard on awareness over the past 7 years via blogging and published articles in magazines and websites. And lately my TS hasn’t really been bothering me. I’m in a relaxing place where I can see it from a lighthearted perspective. I think the pace of life during the pandemic has a lot to do with this. Now that we’re all coming back out (this is my first full week in the office) I need to monitor myself to make sure I don’t lose that perspective.
Lot’s of swirling thoughts. I started following you so this conversation can be continued.
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So much to reflect on here, so little time, so, in the spirit of my story this Friday on numbers, I’ll be efficiently list-like in my reflections:
1. Your nerves can relax; Fragments arrived yesterday and I had enough time to read up through Roz over breakfast. You’re honest, raw, real, insightful, funny and compellingly and compulsively readable. (Maybe because of your OCD? No end to where gifts can come.) In short, I love it. Worth every one of the dollars and cents I happily handed over.
2. I also have felt like COVID has given me a little break from the stimulation in so far as activity is concerned such that now getting back into the outwardly busy side of life is a little de-stabilizing in a way that most (normal) people don’t seem to relate to.
3. Your family sounds awesome.
4. I would say you are doing a great job on awareness judging from the first 3 fragments I’ve read in your memoir. Can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow.
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Oh thank god you’re liking it.