By Kim Neeson, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC– Principal, Toronto, Canada
In the “before times,” we worked at the office (or someone’s office), sat in traffic, rushed to family events, maybe tried to get some gym time in, had our hair done, grocery shopped…the list goes on and on. And suddenly mid-March, we all stood still, glued to our televisions, phones, and computers wondering what this novel coronavirus was and what it meant.
Fast forward to December of 2020, more than nine months later, and we’re all living very different lives. We can’t freely go about as we used to do; we can’t party at bars, go to great conferences in wonderful cities, celebrate the holidays in the way we cherish and most of us are working from home, remotely.
The stresses we face during this time are unprecedented, and we have no playbook, no idea when this will all end, and what changes will be wrought once the pandemic fades into the distant memory. So while we live through these strange times and wait for the vaccines to get to all of us, it’s important to be mindful of the unique challenges we face and to find the silver linings and gifts COVID is bringing to our lives.
In October, I led a panel on this topic at the STAR conference. Here is some of the wisdom we shared.
Let’s acknowledge some hard stuff about COVID.
Your own, your family’s, the people who work with or for you. First, recognizing and acknowledging your own fear is step one. If you don’t manage your own fears, how do you help others? Trying to be present in the moment, taking each day as it comes, the old expression of putting one foot in front of the other kind of attitude — these types of mindfulness will help keep fear at the back of your mind, and not in the forefront. Then model that positivity with others, helping them look for the bright spots and focusing less on the negative.
Dealing with collective negativity
How do you stop yourself or others from going down that black hole of COVID doubt? Whether it’s taking a break from media, putting your phone down, changing the subject to something other than the pandemic, watching for the signs of negativity, and putting the brakes on it is something we have to constantly work on. One suggestion is to create a positive friend or colleague, someone who will lift you up when you’re feeling down, and vice versa.
Managing yourself and others remotely
Our days have become well outside the typical 9-5, with clients and others expecting you to work on their hours since the office workday has disappeared. So the lawyer who has young children and works when the children go to bed, or the co-worker who likes to get up early and starts to send you text messages at 6AM, how do you manage to keep your own boundaries sacred? Are distractions interfering with your work? Are you finding yourself getting lulled into chunks of time just scrolling away? Are you actually getting up and walking away from your desk every once in a while? Our in-office habits are not all transferrable to our working-from-home (WFH) habits. I’ve often said that we teach people how to treat us. Set your boundaries and don’t get caught up in someone else’s reality.
Remember when Zoom was fun? Novel? When the Zoom martini hour was a blast? Now you get another Zoom invite and want to cringe. It’s hard enough being a court reporter under “normal” circumstances – now you have to try to hear everything through the internet filter, which can be really good or really bad. There’s no question but that being on a computer all day, in front of a Zoom camera for much of it, is mentally and physically exhausting in ways that in-person meetings simply are not. What have you done to deal with your own tech fatigue? Have you set boundaries for how many meetings you’ll do in a day or week? Do you get up and go out for some fresh air and give yourself a break? Remember, we used to have to physically move from meeting to meeting and we had time in between; create that space even at home.
When you need to lead, how do you manage?
Tips for your own success include modeling your own mood and tone with others; being vulnerable with your group – let them know that you’re impacted, too, but show how you are moving forward; and share information – people want to know what’s going on, and by sharing what’s going on in your organization, you can alleviate the anxiety of your team who are wondering, what’s next?
Has time lost its meaning? Do you find yourself in front of the computer 12+ hours a day? Consider limiting the amount you spend doing any one thing so you don’t “overload” and burn out.
The cat runs across your computer screen when you’re in the middle of a Zoom call. You know what? Most people find that funny and it lightens their day for a bit. Have you got half an hour in between meetings? Jump on your stationary bike or do a quick walk outside. Not having a great hair day? Sit back further from the camera. Make the most of the things that would probably never happen in the deposition room and smile at the benefits of being home.
Take Care of You!
Now is the time to discover what you need. Without commuting, some of us have gained hours back into our days. How are you taking advantage of that new-found time? Maybe it’s going for an early morning walk or doing a virtual workout at lunch — hey, you can even be smelly and no one will ever know! With working at home, even mundane tasks like laundry can be done while you work, leaving more weekend time to do things you’d enjoy more.
Psychologically and emotionally, it’s important to acknowledge that some days will be tougher than others, so be kind to yourself. If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after anyone else.
What’s Your Silver Lining?
For me, it was a chance to live at my country home away from the city. One of the most fascinating things I experienced was taking a forest walk with my Great Dane every few days through a forest trail we have near our home. I couldn’t believe the changes in the forest every time I walked through it, and I often thought, How could I have never noticed this before? The time to stop rushing from one place to the next afforded me the chance to breathe a little deeper, look around, and notice what was right in front of me all along.
Everything we go through in life has a bright side. What’s been your COVID silver lining?
Kim Neeson is living her best life in the Blue Mountains, Ontario, Canada.
About By Kim Neeson, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC
From the courts to the freelance world, Kim Neeson has done it all. Kim was one of the very first adopters of realtime technology, and she has moved with it as it has morphed from a big black box with lots of cables to wireless realtime. At the pinnacle of Kim’s career, she and her group were the first to provide realtime reporting at the first-ever multi-jurisdictional bankruptcy hearing of Nortel Networks, which took place simultaneously in Toronto and Delaware courtrooms using videoconferencing and other technologies.
Kim has written and spoken widely about all things court reporting and loves to answer questions from court reporters of all vintages.