Building resilience 👩💻
Redesigning worklife | #76
Storm Eunice 👀 'Eunuch' would have been a better name for the UK's worst storm in 30 years - a record 122mph winds on the Isle of Wight. We had no power for most of the day on Friday. I got some comms out first thing and we had a quick team huddle on WhatsApp: "this is exciting but annoying" before the mobile signal went down.
I sat at my desk for a bit, shuffling papers and wondering what to do with myself. My laptop died, so I wrote a few social posts by hand. No matter how many online tools I try, I always return to pen and paper. Tidied up a bit, but there’s only so much you can do that doesn't rely on the grid. I have a pile of books to read but wasn't in the mood. I felt restless and wanted to get out and talk to people. I checked in on my neighbours and went wave watching 🌊
All the shops and cafes were closed except Mr He's Savoury Kitchen, a popular street food stall run by a Chinese couple - he was cooking up a storm.
It makes you realise what a luxury electricity is and how much we take it for granted. As Jennifer L. Lieberman says, a metaphor for modernity in her book Power Lines. "Writers from Mark Twain to Ralph Ellison grappled with the idea of electricity as both life force (illumination) and death spark (electrocution)." We need it for everything: heat, food, water, transport, energy, entertainment and communication. And this will only increase with new technology advances: 5G, IoT, crypto, cloud storage, electric cars, the metaverse...
We’re lucky in the southeast - the power was back on after a few hours, but not so in other parts of the UK. After Storm Arwen in December over 9,000 UK homes were still without power after eight days. There's much talk about building resilience and whether our infrastructure can cope with extreme weather and climate change. We need decentralised production so if one facility goes down, it doesn't cripple the grid.
I don't know what the answer is. I make a living online, and we're only going to be more dependent on electricity as technology advances. Friday was a wake-up call, and I realised I needed to be better prepared: water, canned food, torch, candles, in case it happens again. A day of disruption, but also FREEDOM. A tiny part of me was disappointed when the power came back on and everyday life resumed.
Once the power comes back on, if our homes are relatively undamaged, the most fortunate among us retreat into old ways. Everything is atomised again, from the hyper-targeted ads on our Facebook pages to the eerily specific recommendations that Netflix makes. While we still reel from the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, before we slide back into these habits, I hope that we can acknowledge the significance of our often-invisible inter-reliance.
Much-needed donations to charitable organisations honor that interrelationship, but we can do more. We can challenge ourselves to pay attention to our dependencies, even when our infrastructures are designed to help us forget them. Jennifer L. Lieberman
Start small: I can unplug for a few hours a day and be less reliant on Netflix and the internet for my evening entertainment. Read those books. It would be an interesting experiment to go off-grid for a day and try to live without it #FuelFreeFriday!?
5 Minutes with… Claire Brown 💬
Claire Brown, Career & Life Coach, advocates for the 4-day week and is very strict about sticking to that working model, even as she grows her own business. I asked her to share some tips on setting boundaries and keeping to them.
When did you decide to work a 4-day week, and what benefits have you seen?
When I started my own Coaching business in 2019, one of the key reasons was to do work that really matters to me and enable me to be present for my two young children. So, I embraced the opportunity to design my ideal working week around the childcare provision and, as a self-confessed 'outgoing introvert,' carved out much-needed reflection and downtime.
I have been working Mon-Thurs ever since and use Fridays to ease myself into the weekend, do some exercise, catch up with friends over a cuppa, or simply get everything else in life done! I value that day so much (which in reality is about five hours in between school drop off and pick up) that it has become my non-negotiable; I won't do any work on a Friday, even if that comes at a cost.
Carving out that day allows me to spend time with my closest friends and make plans for our weekend as a family. These past years, I've realised more than ever the importance of connection, so investing in those significant relationships seems to me to be time well spent.
As a busy working mum, it can be hard to find the time for yourself, so having the opportunity to pop to a Pilates class or squeeze in a swim or a PT session helps me stay physically and mentally well. If there's a house project I'm desperate to make progress on (like redecorating my office), I know there's an opportunity to start work on this without the need to book additional days off.
I absolutely love my work as a Career Coach. But some sessions can be intense when you're exploring issues that matter deeply to the client. Having that time to decompress, reflect on my practice, and commit to embedding that learning into my work also improves my performance. I'm passionate about learning & development, and I value the opportunity to listen to a good podcast or read a book on my day off.
When you run your own business it can be a challenge to switch off or find time to strategise when you're busy delivering your services. So, I often find I have those 'light-bulb' moments of clarity during my day off. Having this additional day recharges me and makes me even more productive. Even during the pandemic, I've seen my business continue to grow working a 4-day week.
Do you think it's a better solution than the currently fashionable 'unlimited holiday' benefit many companies have introduced?
Whilst having a chunk of time off to go away on holiday to unwind or to carry out a substantial project can be beneficial, the reality is that many people's workload doesn't allow them to take the leave they need. Or they take it just before they completely burn out. Often, you rush to get as much done as is humanly possible before you go on leave. Then on your return, your inbox has thousands of emails that require a response, and it can undo all of the benefits of having taken that time away in the first place.
By having a 4-day working week, you create this regular rhythm of balance, enabling you to forge habits that promote a greater sense of health and wellbeing weekly that give you benefits throughout the year instead of waiting until breaking point before you afford yourself the gift of rest. It also helps manage others' expectations of you where your availability remains consistent.
Any pushback from clients? Has it been easy to stick to?
My clients have all been wonderfully supportive, and I make it very clear from the outset what my availability is if they choose to work with me. I am increasingly trying to move towards a term-only business model, which I will write into my contracts to manage everyone's expectations. I find that by instilling these boundaries, others hear that as permission for themselves to consider similar working patterns.
There have been a few occasions when I've been invited to networking meetings or online training events on a Friday that I've had to decline. Still, if I'm really eager to connect with someone or continue my professional development journey, I'll find alternative ways to do this that honour my boundaries and commitments.
What advice would you give small businesses looking to implement a 4-day week?
As a business owner, I'm lucky that I didn't need to run it past anyone else for approval, and that sense of autonomy is one of the many reasons I love working for myself. If, in the future, as my business expands and I work alongside Associates or a Business Partner, I'll be looking to work with those who embrace the same approach.
If you employ people, it's essential to have an open discussion about their feelings towards a 4-day working week and the practicalities involved. Whilst you'd expect a great 'buy-in' culture, there may be underlying concerns that are helpful to address head-on.
If you provide products or services to clients or customers, there needs to be an overlap of provision and continuity, so it may not be practical for everyone to have the same day off unless you're in a position where processes can be automated.
Engaging with organisations like Autonomy can help you trial this within your specific context. This could be hugely beneficial to ensure the best possible working practices are put in place and that its effects are professionally evaluated to help inform your next steps.
Farrah’s talk on Substack and newsletters was excellent - it’s all here ❤️✍️
Time for a G&T.