1,000 days

People wearing masks in 1918 in California

Very early on in the pandemic, an older caretaker of a church told Dave, “It will be a 1,000 days, every pandemic takes a 1,000 days.”

The Spanish flu lasted from February 1918 to April 1920. The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020. By my count, we are at 675 days which means we have about 10 months left of living with COVID.

For the first time in almost two years, I am quietly optimistic we are beginning to see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.

Early on, the other catchphrase was herd immunity. The pandemic will subside when a large proportion of the population has either contracted the disease or developed enough antibodies through vaccines to protect themselves from contracting the disease. With the highly contagious Omicron variant, we are now seeing herd immunity in action.

This week’s #HappyAct is to allow yourself to hope. Stay strong during these last few critical weeks and months and let’s all continue doing what we need to do to support our beleaguered healthcare workers who have been the real heroes on the front lines.

I choose to hope the end is near, and I for one, can’t wait to see what’s on the other side.

Ed. Note: This post is not based on any scientific evidence. Please take it as it’s intended, hopeful musings that brighter days lay ahead.

The 75 Easy Challenge

Bentley the dog ready for his 75 Easy Challenge
Bentley ready to take up his 75 Easy Challenge

You may have heard about the 75 Hard challenge that’s taken over TikTok and the internet. Created by fitness guru Andy Frisella, it’s a challenge that is supposed to toughen you up mentally and physically. He calls it “ironman for your brain”. The challenge involves doing five things for 75 days straight:

  1. Drink 3-4 litres of water a day 
  2. Follow a diet with no cheat meals or alcohol
  3. Workout twice a day for 45 minutes, and one of the workouts must be done outdoors 
  4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction or self-help book each day
  5. Take a progress picture each day

We were talking about the challenge in the car yesterday, and I said, “that’s way too hard and life’s challenging enough right now, I’d rather do a 75-day easy challenge”. Here’s what our 75 Easy challenge would look like:

Laurie’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Drink two glasses of wine two days a week, one white, one red
  2. Complete one puzzle
  3. Read the newspapers and actually get moving before 10 a.m. on the weekends (shoot, I guess I’ll have to start the challenge tomorrow)
  4. Walk from my home office to the kitchen fridge and back at least twice a day
  5. Wear something other than slippers and leggings at least once a week

Dave’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Ice fish twice a week
  2. Pet Bentley 10 times a day, including once on the belly
  3. Read 30 pages of either John Sandford, Wilbur Smith or Ken Follett a night
  4. Drink one bottle of Baileys or Cabot Trail maple cream, with or without coffee
  5. Bring his minnows in every night so they don’t freeze on the front porch (to help with #1)

Clare’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Eat two Mr. Noodles a day, one small bowl and one large bowl
  2. Limit her screen time on her phone to less than four hours per day
  3. Wear an actual winter coat each time she leaves the house
  4. Watch at least one hour of Netflix or DisneyPlus a night
  5. Clean up after herself in the kitchen at least once a week (again, see #1)  

Grace’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Keep her voice down to under 100 decibels when talking on the phone late at night
  2. Journal every day
  3. Write and re-write her study schedule daily
  4. Pick two items of clothing up off of her floor each day
  5. Learn one new song on the guitar each week

Bentley’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Chase the squirrels from the bird feeders twice a day
  2. Sleep on one couch at least once every night
  3. Eat two dog treats a day without trying to slobber
  4. Actually come when my humans call, “Come, Bentley”
  5. Bark for only 10 minutes a night on the front porch at absolutely nothing

There you have it. Hey, at least we’ll feel good when we’re all successful at the end of the 75 days. This week’s #HappyAct is to make up your own 75 Hard or Easy Challenge. What will it be? Leave a comment.

Find meaning behind the words this season

Sign with words hope, peace, joy and love

Peace and goodwill. Comfort and joy.

You hear these words everywhere you go this time of year, in holiday cards, in songs, in greetings and on signs.

I noticed a slight variation this week on my favourite church sign. It said, “Wishing you peace, joy, happiness and strength”.

Strength. It was an interesting choice of words. Yes, more than anything right now, we need strength and resilience.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find meaning behind the words this holiday season.

May you experience,

Kindness and generosity of spirit
Love and laughter
The comfort of warm food and fond memories
Precious time to reflect and recharge
Moments of happiness and joy
And strength and acceptance to bring you peace this holiday season

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Don’t miss next week’s special year-end edition of Top 10 Happy Acts, my favourite blog posts to help you get through another COVID winter.

And to the stranger who showed generosity of spirit and bought our hot chocolates at the McDonald’s drive-through in Kingston last Wednesday, thank you for paying it forward! We reciprocated and hope the person behind us enjoyed their McHappy Meal and chocolate shake.

Believe in the illusion

Daughter Grace with a drink

Last weekend, Clare had a hockey tournament in Barrie. It was supposed to be a fun-filled family weekend of shopping, eating out, spending time with her team and celebrating Grace’s birthday since my baby turned 19 last week.

It was probably one of our worst family weekends ever.

Clare woke up the Friday morning with a stuffy nose, claiming it was allergies. After 5-6 hours of driving, it had developed into a full-fledged head cold. She was miserable. Grace was upset because her big birthday weekend was ruined and we spent the next 24 hours in the car or hotel room yelling at each other or sulking before turning around and driving home the next day.

There was one shining moment during that wash of a weekend. After buying drive-through Wendy’s for Clare to eat in the hotel room by herself, Dave and I did take Grace out for a nice birthday dinner at Milestones. We bought her first drink: a bellini.

If you saw any of my posts on Facebook last weekend, you’d never know our weekend was such a bust. You’d see a funny video of the kids acting silly during the car ride, a picture of Grace smiling at the restaurant with her bellini, and the pathetic Santa display in the lobby of our crappy hotel that made us laugh.

That’s the beauty of Facebook, social media and our memories. Ten years from now, we may look back on those posts and only remember those happy moments, not the tears, fighting and miserable parts of the weekend.

Not a bad thing, really.

This week’s #HappyAct is to believe in the illusion. Tis the season of believing, after all, and who knows, someday, at least in our minds and memories, it may become the truth.

I’m an Eeyore and I’m OK with that

Eeyore

When it comes to work, I’m an Eeyore, and I’m OK with that.

When someone proposes a new idea, I immediately begin to think of all the problems or things that would prevent it from succeeding. It’s not that I don’t support the idea, most times I do, but my brain kicks into logistical overload and I think through all the obstacles and challenges that would need to be overcome to make it happen.

It’s a blessing and curse…especially when you’re known as the happy act blogger.

But I’ve come to embrace my Eeyore and I believe it has helped me in my communications work.

It allows me to anticipate problems, think things through, and make better decisions.

It has helped me to develop emotional intelligence and a risk lens, so when the time comes to execute, we’ve done a good job planning and preparing for most contingencies.

It has also helped me to accept the things I cannot change, courage to try to change the things I can, even if I haven’t mastered the wisdom to know the difference.

Dan Rockwell in his Leadership Freak blog says you can be negative and still succeed. Overly optimistic leaders minimize challenges, fail to anticipate problems and are more likely to throw in the towel when success doesn’t happen quickly.

Being optimistic is great, but blind optimism is dangerous.

This week’s #HappyAct is to embrace your Eeyore but never lose the faith.

Serenity prayer

The missing ingredient in remote work

Work desk

The debate on the future of work rages on (you can read about my vision for it here). This fall, many companies announced they would start bringing people back in the office. With a fourth wave of the pandemic underway, many of those same companies have deferred their plans indefinitely, making remote work here to stay.

For those of us toiling away in our bedrooms and basements, we’ve had plenty of time to contemplate what’s missing in remote work.

The prevailing wisdom is what’s missing from remote work is the four C’s: collIaboration, connection, communication and culture. While all of these things have suffered a decline to varying degress, they are not missing from remote work. We’ve still managed to collaborate, communicate and stay connected with work colleagues.

No, the key ingredient missing in remote work is energy.

There is an undeniable energy in being around and working with people. When you meet or bump into people at the office or work together in person, you feel the energy level in the room rise. Ideas are born, connections are made. Energy fuels creativity, learning, innovation and propels action. We are driven to take action and succeed, which drives a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

It has been said for introverts, this pandemic has been a blessing. It has allowed them to work quietly on their own, focus on their passions and be happy. But for extroverts who rely on the energy of others to give them strength, and help them be the best version of themselves, the pandemic has been crippling.

The problem is introverts and extroverts alike need to be re-energized from time to time, and most remote workers are running on dangerously low batteries.

This week’s #HappyAct is to assess your energy level and needs. How are you doing? Share an idea on how to fill the void so we can all recharge.

Four sayings to help you be at peace with your actions

Whenever I make a mistake or am having a rough day, there are some simple phrases I repeat to myself to help keep me going.

  • One day at a time. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Just focus on one day at a time, and chances are things will get better.
  • This too shall pass. Some people say “Time heals all wounds”. I don’t think that’s the case, but time does have the ability to dull painful memories.
  • Everything happens for a reason. If you believe this, it is far easier to accept things when they don’t go your way.
  • Forgive yourself. This is a new one I’ve adopted during COVID

I hope these sayings help you too. Have a happy week.

Our emotional connection to work

Last week, I listened to an interesting webinar about our emotional connection to work, facilitated by Dr. Laura Hamill from Limeade.

For many of us, our relationship with work has been put to the test this past year. Some workers have grown closer to their employer, building a stronger relationship based on trust, some have struggled with feelings of separation, while others are considering breaking up with their employer.

While intuitively, we’ve always known we have an emotional connection to work, the pandemic has been a coming of age for our relationship with work. It has caused many people to reflect on what they want from their job, where they want to work, and how work contributes to their overall wellbeing.

Dr. Hamill talked about the factors that affect our wellbeing. There are some factors we have little control over: our genetics, underlying health conditions, personality, and socioeconomic status. The factors we have more control over include our mindset, habits and behaviours, social supports and relationships, and the organizational supports companies put in place for their employees.

While many companies stepped up during COVID to provide supports for employees coping with the stressors of the pandemic, Dr. Hamill maintains tools and programs are not enough. In order for us to be happy at work and have a positive sense of wellbeing, we need to feel like we belong, valued, productive and contribute to the organization’s success.

For this reason, culture, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion and employee wellbeing are inextricably linked.

As we reimagine the future of work, it will be imperative to put employee wellbeing at the forefront. If we don’t, we could be in for a nasty break up.

Graphic source: Limeade, 2021

What do you do if you’re not sure what makes you happy anymore?

Sign what makes you happy

My horoscope yesterday said, “Do what makes you happy”. The problem is, I’m not sure what that is anymore.

Call it the pandemic blues, call it middle age (okay, I’m being kind to myself here), but I’ve found myself pondering this question the past 24 hours.

What used to make me happy was simple. My family, my beautiful lake and property, visiting with friends and neighbours, little things like the refrains of the piano drifting through the air while I sit on the back deck with a glass of wine.

These things still make me happy, but I’ll admit, it’s more subdued now.

I wish I was one of these people who found a new passion and purpose during COVID. I haven’t. I’ve fallen into the cohort known as “languishers” the term coined by the New York Times to describe those of us feeling joyless and aimless, and “slipping slowly into solitude.”

With things opening up, you’d think I’d be chomping at the bit to reach out and connect with people, but I’m not. I was talking to a friend at work the other day who felt the same way. It’s not that we have social anxiety, it’s not that we don’t miss people and would love to see them again, we just don’t have the energy.  

They say one antidote to languishing is to immerse yourself in a project. But that takes energy too.

So dear readers, this week my #HappyAct is to ask you for advice. How do you figure out what makes you happy again? Please, leave a comment.

The future of work

future of work sign

There is a raging debate going on about the future of work. Companies are considering whether to continue to let employees work remotely, return to the office or adopt some form of hybrid model when the worst of the pandemic is over.

As I said last week, we’ve learned much in the past year. But I fear that as a society, we will let a precious opportunity slip through our fingertips: the opportunity to finally redefine our relationship with work, to seek a greater work-life balance and truly imagine a brighter future, one where we don’t just spend our days making a living, but living our best lives.

Here is my vision for the future of work.

First, employees would be able to choose how many hours they want to work a week. Imagine if you could say to your employer, I want to work 24 hours a week, 30, or 32 hours a week so I can pursue my passion, whether it’s painting, writing, running a side business, or volunteering.

Employees would have more flexibility to choose when they work. 6 a.m. to noon? No problem. I was reading one study where 15% of workers said they’d prefer to work in the evenings or at night so they could do things outside during the day. Depending on the role, why not? It could also help with child care challenges for working families.

We need to discover how to bring joy and fun back into our work world. The reality for many office workers is their day consists of never-ending emails and meetings, distractions and interruptions that is making us unhappy at work. When you feel like your day consists of putting out fires and you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do, it’s disheartening. Even before the pandemic, people were habitually checking email 74 times a day and switching tasks every 10 minutes. 

There are many, innovative solutions to making work fulfilling again.

Let’s start by hiring more people. I believe too many companies are running too lean. There are simply not enough people to do the work. If some people opt for shorter work weeks, there could be the opportunity to hire people and distribute work a bit more equitably to help ease stress and workloads.

We also need to be smarter about how we spend our time during the workday. Companies could establish designated meeting times, and work times to help people concentrate and accomplish meaningful work, without disruption.

Several years ago, a Fortune 500 software company in India tested a simple policy: no interruptions Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before noon. The company experienced a 65 percent increase in productivity but also reported employees experienced an increase in work satisfaction. They discovered the most important factor in daily joy and motivation was a sense of progress.

We’ve also learned working from home this past year the importance of human connection. We miss our colleagues dearly.

The future of work needs to include being together again, but not dictated by arbitrary policies. Being able to collaborate, have fun together, celebrate successes are all great examples of when it will make sense to bring employees together in person. Training is another thing we’ve learned is a much more richer experience in person than remote learning.

Good workplaces will develop a do good culture. Providing opportunities for employees to get involved in their communities, and volunteer for worthy causes will add a new layer of purpose to work. Some companies already offer up to five days a year for employees to volunteer for local charities.

The future of work also includes more vacation. There will be a pent-up demand for travel when borders open up. North Americans could learn from other countries like the UK where residents get 28 days of vacation a year, France 25, and Germany and Australia, with 20 days.   

Finally, companies need to adopt the ner way of business. Ner is the business philosophy where the most important aspect is people and leaders only need to create an environment where people can excel. Companies have no hierarchy, just self-managing teams. Ner companies donate 3% of their profits and 2% of employee time to contribute to social projects and top salaries can’t be more than 2.5X higher the lowest salary. The ner philosophy creates more human, meaningful and entrepreneurial workplaces. And it works. Watch this video to learn more about ner.

Yes, we have a unique opportunity before us: to reimagine the future of work. Companies that are short-sighted will focus on one aspect: place.

Companies that are progressive and visionary will focus on outcomes and a new, more human philosophy towards work.

Who would you rather work for?