“Every waking moment of your life does not need to be optimized to make you a better, more profitable you,” Duffy explains. “Pandemic or otherwise, you have worth outside of your output.” To be sure, our work obsession is nothing new, but perhaps this crisis is giving us a beat to question what we once thought to be normal. With so much is in flux right now, making space for your brain to rest and process may uncover some clarity about how you want to emerge in the future. “Unstructured time may not look ‘productive’ from the outside because it doesn’t generate a tangible output,” adds Duffy. “But it can help surface latent insights into how you’re feeling and what you need more of to get through this time.”
Productivity isn’t a requirement
As Beecroft says, we don't have to be productive to take care of ourselves. Often, not being productive is taking care of ourselves. “Sometimes doing nothing, lounging on the couch and relaxing are great forms of self-care,” she continues, noting that taking a break from everything is often exactly what your body needs, particularly when dealing with anxiety.
“Structure and routine is important during a pandemic, however so is compassion,” says Jennifer Musselman, a psychotherapist and executive coach. “Showing yourself and your loved ones empathy and [taking] the time to adjust to this new normal is critical.” And this includes not setting high standards immediately for jumping into production mode.
Many of Musselman’s clients still subscribe to unhealthy beliefs about what they "should" be doing, many of which existed pre-pandemic. But with previous forms of stability—from office work to child care—now gone, striving to meet these old standards is almost impossible.” With this, she says we must level-set with new standards and learn to be more forgiving, both of ourselves and others. "I'm doing the best I can," could be a better mantra right now than “I’m doing everything I can.”
Employers can help
At this moment, we are all in uncharted territory—and this also includes companies. “Leadership doesn't know how to effectively measure employee performance from a distance,” says Musselman. “I have clients complaining that half their day is spent doing their work, and the other half is documenting and reporting how much work they've completed.” With many companies losing money by the minute due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the pressure for workers to prove their worth is intensifying and will likely grow the longer this situation continues.
As companies lay off staff or face the threat of collapse, many are fearing for their livelihoods. A friend recently told me: “If I can’t perform like I did before, I’m worried about losing my job. How would I survive?” Unfortunately, her fear is not unique. It’s more important than ever for companies to find ways to support their workers even if business has been disrupted.