The ‘COVID Grind’ & Rediscovering Career Joy

The coronavirus has changed many things in our world over the past 6 months, positive and negative.

One of the biggest challenges I hear from coachees, is that COVID has brought on a ‘hollowness’ to their career which they have never previously experienced.

The hollowness stems for the day to day activities we previously held dear in our careers which, whilst juggling our own personal lockdown challenges, have stopped making us feel accomplished every day.

The grind of lockdown

HBR released a great article on this in Feb 2019, talking about different types of activities and how to feel more fulfilled.

Telic activities are finite activities. those activities which we add to our to-do list everyday and check-off at speed.

Whilst we get a feeling of accomplishment in these activities, the feeling is short-lived, as the moment is either in the future or in the past. The moment of accomplishment is only present in the now and is gone in a flash.

The joy of just being

Atelic activities are infinite activities — something you are doing, which doesn’t really have a goal.

Say — walking on a sunny day, reading, listening to music. A hobby. Something you enjoy.

These activities give us joy throughout the whole task. There is no rollercoaster of anticipation, achievement and loss. The joy stays with us throughout.

The COVID impact

COVID has changed the way we work forever. Again, positively and negatively.

Many people and companies right now are heralding the ‘increase in productivity’ of staff as one great plus of COVID, with teams being more productive at home.

However, there are some whisperings that this new productivity is starting to diminish.

I’d argue that is because our work generally involved more telic activities than atelic.

The challenge with telic activities is that there is always more to do and during lockdown. The unfortunate disadvantage of a never ending to-do-list which you are racing through, is that the job satisfaction will be diminishing.

‘The grind’ is setting in.

And during lockdown, the grind feels very real.

The hollowness of the grind

And in here lies the issue.

The grind is not fulfilling. Joy is short lived and many, many people are wondering right now ‘what am I doing this all for’.

When we are in the office, the seduction of the environment hides the need for atelic joys, because the human interaction fills this gap. When our roles are stripped bare and we are working at home — what is left?

Purpose and joy

For those really feeling this right now, it’s so important we create a plan to fill at least part of our day with atelic activities.

We need to fill our days with the joy of JUST BEING.

Kill the to-do-list for an hour, go for a walk, read a book, listen to music, have a coffee with your partner or the kids.

Our joy also now needs to be felt more at work than ever. Now is a great time to explore something new.

A new skill, connection, adventure — the exploration of these new journeys will be a much-needed departure from the grind and will boost your energy no end during this tricky period.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy the moment

If the grind is hitting, grab a cuppa, sit in the garden and enjoy the moment.

Think about how you could give yourself more time to explore new ideas and move yourself from the telic to atelic, from the grind to everyday joy.

It’s going to be a while before we are through this, so let’s find some joy in the moment.


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Additional reading:

HBR — Cope or Quit?

Executive Coach, Angel & Board Advisor at inspir’ em

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Emma Maslen

Emma Maslen

Executive Coach, Angel & Board Advisor at inspir’ em

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