There is no doubt we have all been challenged in some way by the pandemic. Many routines that normally anchor us through our day have been turned upside down and threaten our ability to stay productive and effective.
The number of people now working from home is unprecedented and the fallout from this is escalating as inexperienced home workers realise this is not as easy or as much fun as they thought it was going to be.
The fallout is exacerbated when you include the passion we share for our beloved team and the parlous state the club finds itself in.
I have worked part-time from home for over 11 years now and just about survived. Here are my 7 top tips for surviving and thriving as a home working Sunderland fan (I am indebted to Inna Khazan Ph.D for these).
1. Structure and boundaries are the most important aspects of the transition to successfully working from home. This is necessary to help you focus on the day and be able to step away at the end of the day.
- Space: Make sure you have set up a dedicated workspace. If you have a spare room, that’s ideal. If not, you can set up at the kitchen island or dining room table, ideally next to the coffee machine. Arrange the equipment you need: laptop, chargers, phone, headphones, pen and paper, Sunderland AFC calendar, etc. Reposition your Porterfield 73 Cup Final winning goal picture, so that inspiration visually is easily accessible.
- Time: Get up at your regular time in the morning and follow your regular routine, take a shower, get dressed, and have breakfast. Do some exercise, yoga, meditation or watch the 1990 play off semi final (2nd leg) with strong brewed coffee and marmite on toast if it is part of your routine. It may be tempting to work in your pyjamas from your comfy couch or even your bed. However, you may find yourself feeling less motivated to work and more inclined to take a nap, so have a retro strip to wear for each day of the week. Liven up your week by wearing the 1978 top with the 1999 shorts and so on.
2. Social interaction is a very important part of the workplace. When the ability to interact is suddenly gone, your need for it is not. Fortunately, many video platforms are available—Zoom, Skype, WebEx, and Slack among others. Take the Post-it note off your webcam and have a morning standup with your team via video: “What did you do in the past 24 hours, what are you doing in the next 24 hours, what are you stuck on, what do you need help with?
Share your view of team selection for the next game and where Parky is going wrong. Remember to respond to RR player ratings by messaging and telling them they must have been watching another game.
3. Ask for help: In a typical workplace setting, when you are stuck on something you can always check in with your colleagues to brainstorm a solution. Working from home may create the feeling of having to solve every problem on your own. This increases the feelings of isolation and decreases efficiency. Use video or chat to ask your teammates for help when you need it. The ability to ask for help is crucial for your mental health as well as for your ability to do your job. Remember how helpful the RR team always are when called upon and do not take too personally accusations of being a happy clapper, disappearing up your own sphincter and/or being a big snowflake mag in disguise.
4. Flexibility: Take advantage of the flexibility that working from home offers, throw in a load of laundry in between meetings, or take a break to play with the kids as a reward for them letting you work uninterrupted, or just take a mental health break. Remember to sort your colours if you are doing laundry, that retro strip could run in the wrong wash. Also playing with the kids does not always have to involve “SAFC stuff”, but you know it usually makes sense so, do it anyway, it’s what your kids are for!
5. Staying focused: Even in normal times it’s not easy to stay focused on work for long periods of time. During the time of COVID-19, it is even more tempting to keep looking online or listening to the radio (for the latest signing story). Unfortunately, this is likely to reduce your productivity and increase anxiety. In order to stay informed without getting stuck, schedule a 15-minute news check for yourself twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Make sure you have your copy of All the Lads (Dykes & Lamming to hand, so that when that interfering thought about a player comes in to your mind, you can look it up promptly and then get back to the daytime job.
6. Take breaks: Be sure to schedule those mental health breaks, time for lunch, and shorter 10- to 15-minute breaks throughout the day to take a walk, meditate, breathe, or just move your muscles. Muscle immobility is one of the most common reasons for muscle aches we so frequently experience while working at the computer. These are even more likely to happen if you are working at a make-shift space that lacks an ergonomic setup. Make sure you are using your SAFC mouse mat and your “ooh Bally Bally” nasal strip to aid good O2 return.
There are two kinds of movement breaks that will help: small movement and large movement. Small movement breaks do not require you to move away from your desk, just drop your hands from your keyboard to your lap, and move your upper body (roll your shoulders, gently roll your neck, twist at the waist to the right and left, stretch). Do this every 15 to 30 minutes. I usually sing or hum when I do this, my favourite is the Alan Shearer song.
Large movement breaks require you to stand up and walk away from your desk. You might go for a brief walk, check-in with the kids, or do some full body stretches. I find a quick spin around the garden and a re-enactment of Kieran Richardson’s free kick against the Mags a lively loosener (which has the added bonus of often drawing applause from my neighbours). Take large movement breaks every 1.5 to 2 hours. This will keep your muscles feeling better and provide you with a bit more energy and ability to focus.
7. Wind down: Once your workday is over, give yourself permission to step away and actually be done. Take stock of what went well throughout the day and what you might want to do differently tomorrow. Spend time with your family and have time to wind down and get some sleep. It is not easy being a Sunderland fan …. and having to squeeze in earning a living, looking after the kids, Roker the dog and Marco the hamster.
Stay safe out there my fellow fans.