For others, this will seem very familiar and there are lessons from experiences that might be useful for those not used to this kind of environment.
Military personnel deployed from home have often dealt with a range of difficult working and living conditions. The extreme example might be conditions that involved a daily threat to life, with limited supplies, basic amenities and isolation from loved ones with only limited communications to stay in touch. Others will have spent time in less threatening conditions but nevertheless had to deal with the demands of long-term isolation from friends and family; a demanding work routine; periods of boredom; and also the challenge of seeing the same faces day in day out with little break. Does this sound more familiar?
I experienced something similar during an operational detachment where I ran a small but increasing British team of military personnel in an isolated location that was tantalisingly close to a hub of social distractions. We were permitted out of the facility for half a day per week, with a strict curfew and code of conduct including no consumption of alcohol. We did not have the stress of losing our jobs and financial difficulty, which is without doubt a significant factor for many people at the moment, but I think there are some lessons that can be considered by a lot of people in the current C19 restrictions.
Plans are useless, planning is everything. What are your aims, what is the objective, how will you achieve this? Consider how sustainable your current situation is, what do you have, what do you need, what might change? What is the worst case scenario, what is the best? What can you control, what is subject to external factors? How can you make the situation better?
Have a routine
Living and working in restricted conditions can result in the temptation to spend too much time working, or indeed not enough. Becoming distracted in a task can lead to fatigue and reduced productivity. Setting a work routine that allows sensible time slots for each task and provides the opportunity to consult with others maintains a healthy focus. Get up and give your brain something else to consider. Move to another room after an hour, keep hydrated, look out of the window, read something unrelated to work for 5 minutes. Having a routine is essential; get dressed; complete some basic hygiene tasks; set the conditions for long term healthy sustainment. A lie –in and working in your underwear may be a novelty but it leads to long term indiscipline, reduced productivity, a hit on self-esteem and the opportunity to get caught out on a webcam!
Work as a team
For those stuck in the house or a small essential work team, the close proximity and lack of change can create significant issues. Personal habits, different ways of working and lack of external influence can create a challenging environment to live and work in. Have a forum to discuss team requirements, around the table at dinner time, over a coffee break, or as a set meeting. Consider giving people responsibilities for a task, either around the house or within the team. Empowering people will help boost self-esteem and provide a sense of responsibility across the group. Examples might include a rota for cooking, dishwasher duty, cleaning, essential shopping, and calendar management. Communication plays a key part. Children at home can all too easily get lost in electronic devices and become ‘out of sight, out of mind’. There are benefits, although painful at first, of a team or family meeting each day to discuss what people have achieved in the day, what they hope to achieve tomorrow and what the priorities are for sustainability.
Clearly the biggest current concern is to ensure personal hygiene reduces the risk of contracting C19 for our own health and that of others. Depending on how well stocked your cupboards are, there is a chance that the availability of treats and snacks leads to an opportunity to binge on unhealthy food. With reduced mobility and activity, this could quickly lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Physical activity and wellbeing is key to long term sustainability. Get the blood flowing through physical activity you can safely do within the restrictions; a walk, run, home gym routine or online fitness class are all options that can meet your current fitness level and provide the chance to improve it. Many military personnel on detachment become the fittest they have ever been. Getting enough sleep is important and this is an area that is difficult to achieve on many military operations due to the often noisy 24 hour routine. Stress levels are likely to change over time, but getting decent sleep (duration and quality) will help reduce stress and drive a routine.
Set some down time
A largely personal choice that might involve time to be alone, or as a family group. Time away from the ‘task’ and chores is important for mental wellbeing. How many books do you have that are unread? Does the garden or window box need some attention? Is there a film or box set you’ve been meaning to watch?
Social media and technology makes keeping in touch much easier, in days gone by, there was a reliance of ‘blueys’, airmail letters to and from loved ones that took weeks to arrive. Sometimes a 20 minute phone call per week. Most people are better placed to stay connected with friends and family. Often a problem aired is a problem shared, whether work of family related. Communication to the outside world is vital to many people but beware the communication coming in, whether it be negative or fake news, targeted phishing or spam. Be selective with what you say and listen to.
Prepare for normality
One of the challenges for military personnel returning from deployment is the return to normality of family and workplace routines, in civil society. There are lessons here for all of us, but also opportunities. Many of us will have coped with working in a different way, do we need to fully return to the old ways? Can we help the environment by working remotely more often? Can we improve our quality of life? What did we really miss, and who really suffered? Can we change our habits for the better of our community and ourselves? What new skills have we learnt that can be put to good use?
C19 has undoubtedly changed the way we live our lives in the short term, maybe for the long term. There are people who will be hugely impacted financially or physically and have suffered great loss. There are always lessons to be learned from such events and our ability to adapt should not be underestimated. Hopefully some of the lessons from experience in the military are useful to get through in the short term, but there are opportunities to make a better future in the long term that we should all consider.
Inzpire Limited has delivered its GECO Mission Support System to 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), part of the Commando Helicopter Force.
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