“For the first time, I have more male clients than females,” says trained therapist Lucy Cavendish. Lucy is one of WorkL’s specialist advisors and also runs her own counselling service.
What’s particularly significant about the enquiries Lucy has received is that they have all been from men in a similar demographic: they are senior managers with families who are not coping with working from home.
Lucy explains: “They are used to saying ‘bye’, shutting the door and going to work – and that’s absolutely fine. When I go to work at my therapy centre in London, I’m in a different space and I’m Lucy Cavendish the therapist. At home, I am Lucy Cavendish the therapist, but I’m also aware that the laundry needs hanging out or maybe I could put the dinner on in between sessions. It’s completely different.
“Male CEOs are finding it really difficult to juggle that ‘I’m-not-really-at-work-but-I-am-really-at-work’ thing. They are also finding the children being around really difficult because of the noise and the demands.”
The gender divide
While work-from-home challenges are certainly not unique to men, a high percentage of CEOs are male. Female CEOs may also be challenged but they may be dealing with those challenges better because, as women, they have already learned to be more adaptable.
“Women have spent a lot of time being wives, being mothers, being domestic goddesses, going to work and holding up half the sky, so they are very good at adapting,” says Lucy.
“Men are not so good at that, unless they are in their early thirties or below. Younger men are very fluid – they change jobs and do all sorts of other stuff. Older men are having this huge shock at the moment and they are having to find lots of ways of getting through – and part of that is structure.”
Practical tips to creating structure
While ‘going to work’ may currently involve just going out of the kitchen and into another room or working in the kitchen, it’s important to do whatever it takes to go from at-home mode to at-work mode, says Lucy.
She offers four pieces of practical advice to help anyone still wrestling with working from home. She describes the advice as “the boring stuff we all know” and yet don’t necessarily do.
1. Follow rituals.
“It’s the ritual of going from home to work – even if it’s just what you used to do when you went out to work,” says Lucy. “Have a shower and put on a suit. That might sound completely barmy but getting into a routine and putting your work clothes on really helps people to get into the space of being at work.”
Lucy has been using the technique herself for many years. Before she trained as a therapist, she worked as a lifestyle journalist and often did radio interviews. “I still do some now. I put make-up on and I put my work clothes on. You can’t see me on the radio, but I do that to go from being ‘mother-of-four’ to ‘I’m at work’,” she says.
One of Lucy’s rituals as a therapist is to get up and light a candle. “Whatever it is, it needs to be something that takes you into that space: this is work and that is not work. I find that really helpful.”
2. Set up an office space.
“You’ve got to have a good working set-up,” says Lucy. “I’m very lucky that I have a study I can work in but If you don’t, find a space and try to set it up as a desk area – even if it’s in the corner of the kitchen. You also need a good chair as you are going to sit for hours on end.”
3. Have breaks.
“Have breaks so you’re not sitting at your computer all day,” says Lucy – and that’s not just to give your eyes a rest. It’s all part of creating structure. She recommends using the time to try some breathing techniques.
“When I suggest this to people, I know some think ‘what do you mean learn how to breathe?’. But then they do a couple of sessions and find out the techniques are actually really useful. They get you focusing on your breath and on your body so they are centring – and there are loads of them on offer all over Instagram at the moment.”
4. Go for a walk.
Get outside whatever the weather and take your exercise – you’ll feel a million times better,” says Lucy: “Having a dog means I have to go out every single day even when it’s bitterly cold. Once I’m out, I feel completely different and when I come back, I’m in an utterly different mental space.”
Lucy’s advice doesn’t just come from personal experience – one of the services she provides is walking therapy. “I’ve been offering it for about four years and it really took off last summer when we came out of the first lockdown,’” she says.
The future of workplace happiness
By improving our work-from-home lives, we might even create a shift in our mindset in terms of how we feel about spending more time working from home post-pandemic, believes Lucy.
“The pandemic has given people room to pause and it may be that we’ve got a whole new way of working beginning to start,” she says.
Findings from our WorkL working from home surveys have shown that people are 15 per cent happier than before they became regular home workers. Despite the challenges, many people have enjoyed the flexibility of the past year and have fond memories of moments they would have missed if they’d been in the office all day every day.
“I love working from home because I get to sleep in a little bit more and I get to go out and walk my dogs,” says Lucy. “But when I go to work in therapy centres, I sit and have lunch with other therapists or we go for a drink – it gives me communication and inspiration.
“I like a combination and something people might take forwards with them is a better sense of work-life balance.”