The unfurling of time sometimes seems unreal, and after all these long months it can sometimes feel like we are on a train with no planned stops in sight and no final destination. As the new year stumbled in, and - sadly, without much improvement so far - I have had the pleasure, and honour of stepping up to Chair the Europeana Network Association. Taking on these challenging responsibilities has given me an opportunity to pause and rethink what it means for our community and how we can continue to work together and support each other over the months to come.
This has made me consider how we use our time and I would like to suggest some pragmatic steps to find new ways of thinking about how we share our workload together. We are at risk of facing burnout, and unless we set up some mindful boundaries to be able to manage our multiple responsibilities to self, family, community and our work, things are not going to get any easier. Making these kinds of changes can’t be done alone as we are (luckily) still linked into our work environment; albeit remotely. Any decision has to be a group decision.
Managing our workload together
We have been discussing these principles with the Management Board and at our recent meeting we all made a commitment to function, as a group with a new informal structure in place. We agreed to remain within a fixed eight hour work routine where meetings no longer encroach on family or leisure time. Hopefully we will manage to restrain ourselves emailing each other after hours or over weekends. Essentially this means being kind to one another and respecting private time.
Underlying this principle is a new social contract. No one will penalize you, for example, if you send off an email after hours or on the weekend, but, at the same time, don’t expect an answer before Monday. We have also introduced the notion of time-sharing, where members of the board take on responsibilities with a co-board-member on specific tasks so that when time resources are challenged there will always be a partner available to rely on. As the board took up these principles, and I hope that if we as a small group can manage to uphold them, we can then suggest something similar to the Members Council to see whether this experiment in time is as viable with the Council’s responsibilities as the communities continue with their valuable and intense work.
Be kind to your colleagues - you may not recognise their mental exhaustion in the tiny Zoom window where you are viewing them. The appearances of kids jumping on to laps and in out of the frame might be a bit of a giveaway, but the unexpected cameo performance of flatmates moving unwittingly into the screen is a glimpse into the outtakes of our lives and the havoc we struggle so hard to conceal in the Zoom window. At the same time we share windows into the emptiness of home lockdown - we have become prisoners in our own homes and until we can get back to our lives again, home can be a very lonely place. We have just gone through a terrible year and we are not out of it yet. So think about taking up these mindful principles and share them when, wherever and with whoever you can.
In Hebrew we say Shabbat Shalom - have a peaceful sabbath. So however you and your colleagues define your weekend, make sure it is a restful one. Bring back the Sabbath break - it is not necessarily a religious devotion but a useful separation of work and no work in order to refresh emotional energies and get a reset for the new week. Clearly, this is a group decision and not one we can take alone. So, introduce the mindful boundaries principle to your colleagues, your team, your boss, set Ctrl+Alt+Del and make a new start.