With lockdowns, closed schools and daycare centres, homeschooling, full time work, and doing all this for a long period of time, people are experiencing burnout more than ever, whether it is at work, parental burnout, or lockdown fatigue.
In the late stages of the Industrial Revolution, people were overworked. In the UK, it was common for the average worker to work 14-16 hours days, six days a week. In the US at the same time, workers worked 100 hours per week on average. In 1940, Fair Labour Standards Act in the US adopted a 40-hours work week. It was also common for the man to go out for work without worrying about housekeeping and family raising, because this was the wife's job. Back then, work and life outside of work were disconnected and clearly defined.
Nowadays, working remotely online means that the web and work are available 24/7. The distinction of "on" and "off"work time is no longer so clear. As knowledge workers, the type of work we do is mental work that stays with us even when we are not officially working. It can be especially hard if leadership celebrates hero culture or models working longer, not smarter, and "getting us across the line", because "sales don't wait for anyone". Basically, between work and commitments at home, we do not get a break!
Women still often do more of the housework than their partners, even when they work because then they feel guilty. And there are so many articles on the effects of the pandemic on the home where women pick up the slack, convince their partners to chip in, or get a pandemic divorce(!). One article by the New York Time tells the sad story of three working mums over the previous eleven months and the demands of their daily lives and work during continuous lockdown.
The old ways of working don't fit anymore and they are not sustainable. Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management strategy that believes people are paid for delivering value rather than for number of hours they work. Getting the work done is more important than having bums on seats (when we had an office that is). In the book we just finished at book club, Brian O'Reilly talks about unlearning old ways and habits of working and thinking to be able to work smarter, not harder.
The chance of experiencing burnout is higher in people that experience negative bias in their superior's assessment of their potential. Those people are more likely to feel regularly alienated at work, withhold ideas or solutions, say they are not proud to work for their companies, and do not refer people in their networks to work at their companies. As leaders, we should remind our people that life happens, even more so during the pandemic, and it is ok to take time for it. If company leaders can rise to the challenges that Covid has thrown at us, it might be the foundation for a more flexible and empathetic workplace for everyone.
In the meantime, please look after yourselves, let us know how you are doing, and if there is anything we can help with.
Book club started a new book this week. Now reading chapters 3 and 4 of Australia’s Second Chance: What our history tells us about our future by George Megalogenis. Explore the concepts, listen to others' ideas and share your thoughts. Informal chats every Tuesday at 12pm AEST. Join us on 14th Sep. Everyone is welcome!
We believe in community and giving back. We donate a percentage of our profits to a chosen charity for every quarter and for this one, we donated $750 to Digital Rights Watch. These guys help defend our rights and freedom in the digital world by promoting and championing privacy and security, personal information and data rights, transparency and accountability, and information and accountable journalism.
Providing valuable feedback — As a leader, giving feedback is part of your job and doing it well is a skill you need to develop and exercise regularly. We should focus on improving our communication efforts to achieve positive outcomes for all, and on developing a high performance environment where respect for each other is the norm by practising actionable, specific, and kind feedback. In our recent blog post, Sarah wrote about the positive rippling effects Feedback has on your organisation.
The eight flavours of engineering management — examples of eight management styles like a metric keeper, the tech lead, the strategist, and others.
The ideology of human supremacy — the somber truth is that the vast bulk of nature’s staggering abundance has already disappeared and we suffer from the "shifting baseline syndrome" where we accept the current state of affairs as the baseline.
Learning to learn — Sarah Drasner covers how she learns new skills and shares some tips and suggestions.
What do you do? And what do you like about your work?
I’m the founder of Lookahead. We’re a technical recruiting company who hire software engineers and the folks around them.
I make a living meeting smart people, so there’s a lot to like. Mostly I like how much I learn through observation. Some companies take off and others don't, some have lovely working environments, others.... less so. Being a fly on the wall for all these years has helped me shape Lookahead.
What aspect of your work do you find most challenging?
The people! 😁
There are many moving parts in a people-focused role. You’re never completely right or wrong, you’re never in control, and you never have all the information. It's the challenge that keeps things interesting.
Luck is needed too. With hard work and the right mindset you find yourself in the right place at the right time, but this is not a gig where you can reliably put in [x] effort to get [y] outcome. Sometimes we hire a role quickly and look like geniuses. Other times it’s a battle.
What are you passionate about?
Community. I’m lucky to be part of a few, but the RORO (Ruby on Rails Oceania) community stands out, and it’s where I got to meet Elle and Lachlan 🙂
More than a decade has passed so it’s easy to see the impact those meetups and Railscamps had on all of us. We were all figuring life out together, and are all better for it. Lifelong friendships have been formed and that support network matters, especially as you get older.
What are recent accomplishments you are happy with?
Keeping it together through the pandemic. We’re not out of the woods yet, but you should have seen how the team supported each other when 2020 got weird. Management became easier in some ways because everyone had each other’s backs. I’ll never forget this experience.
We moved to four days per week, at first because our workload plummeted. Then we realised it was awesome and kept it. Now we are dealing with workloads bigger than ever on four days. We closed our best year in recent history, and are on track to do better again.
What is one mistake that you will never make again?
Inaction. I’m working on closing the gap between having a gut feeling and doing something about it. Doubt that I’ll overcorrect into huge knee-jerk reactions, but if it does I’ll fix that.
How do you manage stress?
Challenging myself in some way because it gets me out of my head. Ideally surfing. If I’m stressed but the waves are big I always come out feeling better. Being thrown around like a rag doll in a washing machine helps you realise how small you and your problems are. You also leave the water knackered, and can't help but sleep well that night.
What is the best advice you can give?
Play the long game. Little things add up, especially when it comes to relationships. Go for consistent effort vs occasional herculean efforts.
What one thing would you change about our society?
I’ll put my hand up for moving the US to the metric system. As a concession we’ll agree to drive on the right hand side of the road. It will be beautiful. Here's how Sweden switched to driving on the right hand side back in 1967: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/h-day/
What are your goals or aspirations for this year?
As a team I want us to look after ourselves and make hay while the sun shines. 2021 is a strange year, but there is a lot of opportunity and we’ve never seen it busier.
This month Steve shares what he's drinking and cooking with us. Take it away Steve!
Food and cocktail nerdery has been getting Jess and I through lockdown. A neighbour recently gave us a bag full of lemons so here's a recipe that makes the most of them.
You'll use canned chickpeas in the pasta dish and the liquid (called aquafaba) does a better job than egg whites IMO so let's use some in this cocktail. Shout out to Simon Wright for the recipe.
30mL lemon juice
30mL simple syrup
30mL aquafaba or an egg white
Pinch of salt
Play around with the ratios according to your taste, it’s hard to go wrong.
Add large ice cubes to your cocktail shaker, then the ingredients. Shake for about 8-10 seconds, any more and it’s diminishing returns. Pour into a chilled coupe glass or whatever you have. Garnish with lemon rind.
Enjoy the cocktail while you cook. This will pair fine with the dish, but a buttery chardonnay or an orange/skin contact wine would be better.
My partner Jess made this recipe up which is a spin on this. Always taste as you go. The preserved lemons add a fair bit of salt so you might not need to add much.
Ingredients (serves 4)
400g canned chickpeas, drained
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
250g orecchiette pasta
4 Preserved lemons, diced
1 lemon (the rind and the juice, separated)
50g basil, chopped
100g baby spinach
8 sun dried tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
50g Sunflower seeds
Boil a medium pot of water with plenty of salt.
Get a large pan, heat oil on medium-high. When oil is shimmering add drained chickpeas and cook undisturbed for 4 minutes.
Once chickpeas are browned and blistered, give them a shake to turn them on the pan. Add salt, paprika, oregano and thyme. Cook for a further 2 mins. Empty onto a plate that's covered with a paper towel.
I hope you're enjoying that cocktail.
Make your gremolata: combine chopped basil, lemon rind, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, pinch of salt. Set it aside in a small bowl.
Once that pot is boiling, put orecchiette pasta in. Cook until al dente. It's better to under cook than over cook the pasta. Save half a cup of pasta water for later.
In your large pan, add 20ml of oil and 4 garlic cloves. Gently swirl until everything is golden brown.
Stir in preserved lemons, sundried tomatoes, half a cup of pasta water.
Add the cooked pasta, chopped baby spinach, chickpeas, gremolata and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you've under cooked your pasta, give it a bit of time on the heat.
In a small pan, heat oil until shimmering. Add pepitas and sunflower seeds. Stir until golden brown.
Serve pasta in a bowl and top with pepitas and sunflower seeds.
A side note from Elle: I know what we're making tomorrow, especially since I have preserved lemons in the fridge
Thank you for showing an interest in our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question, or just a recipe that you would like to share
Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill