We appear to be living through times of radical change. Thanks to the interference of the coronavirus pandemic, like many of you, I am now managing working from home as a self-employed professional alongside family commitments. The situation is frightening, but also an opportunity for learning and transforming our working practices.
Change on this scale is frightening because it is interfering with our regular routines and patterns of behaviour that give meaning to our everyday actions. We are working in different environments, merging work and family, improvising solutions or work-arounds all while experiencing highly charged emotions around the health risks and changing relationships we are now faced with. It can provide a sense of calm to understand how our routines convey meaning, and also how introducing practices such as play can help.
In our ordinary behaviour, we practice something called audience segregation. That is, we take on roles to present ourselves and our values differently in different places and to different people – and we try to keep those places and people separate. So at home we might be ‘children’s entertainer’, ‘chef’ or ‘building manager’, while at work we might be ‘boss who is a stickler for the rules’ or ‘office clown’. Outside of these relatively private spaces, we also have a set of behaviours and appearances which we employ in shared public spaces; to appear approachable or dignified, to convey popularity or solidarity. Appearances on digital media have a different, and emerging, set of rules and behaviours. I hope to cover these in another post as there are too many features to discuss in this one!
All of these behaviours serve a purpose, to make us feel a part of a community, to feel separate from people we disapprove of, and to support our values and sense of self-respect.
I cannot state strongly enough how attached we are to these psychological dynamics. Our mental well-being rests wholeheartedly in these routines. This is why so many advice columns out there are avidly recommending not to work from home in your pyjamas! But more than this, it is of the utmost importance to maintain positive social connection and meaningful structure.
Play can assist you in this as it engages a known routine within safe boundaries and marks a distinction between serious and non-serious activity. So why not incorporate a regular ‘play time’ into your weekly schedule? And if you want to incorporate some serious play into regular practices for personal reflection, I’ll be posting some LEGO build challenges for that on the website here.