The Value of Settling in, Not Settling

September 3, 2020 in
By Jessica Milloy

A recent blog from a co-worker, Mike Camburn, really resonated with me, particularly since I read it while I was on PTO, sitting on the beach. It was one of the few work-related things I read that week- I otherwise did no work during that time away and I took advantage of my down time to think about his message a little more. I thought about how important it is this year to give ourselves the space to recharge and stay sharp and, more importantly, it made me think about what I need to do differently as I returned to work and the coming weeks and months of what no longer feels ‘new’ and still doesn’t feel ‘normal’.

I’ll admit that, when COVID-19 forced us to start working from home, I thought it wouldn’t last long…perhaps a few weeks, maybe a month or so tops. I think we’ve all learned that this is a situation largely out of our control, unlike what we’ve experienced before, and not likely to resolve any time soon. As we’ve continued to evaluate a return to the office plan, we weigh our desire to return (we all want to be back together at some point) against the business need to return and, most importantly, the health and safety of all of our employees. So far, we haven’t seen a point at which all of those factors add up to make us feel comfortable reopening the office and bringing everyone back together. Looking into the fall, I don’t see this situation becoming less complex and it is now reasonable to assume that we will remain in this current situation for a while longer, potentially through the end of this year. 

Having said that heavy sentence, I’ll go back to my thoughts on the beach… If I am going to continue in this environment for a while longer, what do I need to do differently in the coming weeks and months to feel more successful than I did in the first few months of this experience? After we experience a change, we naturally want to settle in and get comfortable again. We talk about settling in in the context of switching to a new job, a new house, or even settling into vacation (the best kind of settling in, in my opinion). Settling in means (at least to me) that we’re adjusting to our new environment, setting patterns and behaviors that make us more comfortable, and generally looking for ways to be successful post-change. I’m starting to think that this current environment requires some settling into and focusing on those things that can make us comfortable in the coming weeks and months, until this crisis resolves, and we can return to a life that looks something like before. 

Now, let me be clear- I do not think that settling in is the same as settling. We all know what settling means- it means that we’re accepting a circumstance that is less than what we’d hoped it would be and we’re just making do. I’m not saying that there aren’t elements of that here, but I’m suggesting that we take a more proactive approach and actively focus on settling into behaviors and structures that can make us more successful in this environment vs. just settling for whatever gets us by. Here are some of the questions I’m asking to determine if I’m settling into helpful (or not-so) behaviors-

  • Is my work location as productive as it could be? I quickly created a space to work, but does it give me all of the tools and comfort I need?
  • Am I structuring my day and schedule in a way that’s sustainable and gives me the energy and focus I need to accomplish my work?
  • Am I giving myself the same downtime and time away that I used to (e.g., when travel was easier, when I left the office, when I had more of a social life) so that I can stay fresh and avoid fatigue?

Thinking through these things has given me more of a sense of control and helped me settle into a rhythm that I hope can sustain me over the next few months. And let me be totally clear- I want to go back to the office and I want to return to more normal activities just as much as anyone- and we definitely will as soon as we can do so safely. Just in the meanwhile, I’m going to settle into a pace, schedule, and habits that will make me feel productive and successful.

Jessica Milloy was a Human Capital Consultant and is now the Chief Operating Officer of FMP Consulting. Jess is from Alexandria, Virginia and enjoys traveling, cooking, and time spent with family and friends.