This week, it happened to me – halfway through a six-month contract. I got a calendar invite for a ‘catch up and chat’ with my manager.
Big budget cuts and the client wants to focus on paid social media, not organic posts (I’ve been writing playbooks for them).
I’d done what they hired me to do, and none of the other teams had any work left for me, so that was it.
She did it nicely and better via Zoom than email – though it felt hardcore and surprised me.
You’ve done a great job. We couldn’t have done it without you. Love to have you back next year when budgets are back to normal. Let us know if you need a reference…
Bit more than a ‘catch up and a chat’ !!
Two conversations were happening in tandem. The one on Zoom with my manager and the internal one in my head with Anxious Annie. FUCK.I can’t believe it. How are you going to pay the bills? What about the yoga holiday! Have you been slacking again?
She’s good at her job 🙄
I find these short-term contracts with agencies exhausting. It’s hard to relax and do your best work when you’re on float with multiple projects. I feel disposable (had a week’s notice on this one), so my LinkedIn profile is always ‘open to work’.
How much energy do you put into precarious work, even if it pays well? It’s hard to get the balance right. 110% usually, all or nothing, which is a route to burnout.
Here’s what I did to get over it.
1. BREATHE. Wrote down what just happened. Seeing it on the page helped get it into perspective – a tip I picked up from the author of The Kindness Method, Shahroo Izadi, on the Solo Collective podcast.
2. Went for a walk.
3. Finished the job and sent a friendly email to the team and my agent. Set my boundaries for future roles (3-months minimum, it’s hard to do strategy and make a difference in less time). A longer notice period.
4. Booked a Rapid Rewire masterclass with Steph Kwong via Growmotely. “Learn a proven, cutting-edge methodology to confidently create rapid change for yourself, guaranteed.” Gotta feel it to heal it! Powerful stuff.
Have you ever been fired? How did you deal with it? I’m taking a break from Agencyland.
Justice for Johnny! 🎉 😁 I’m happy you’re at peace and have your life back.
Talent to Money Summit is on 7 & 8 June online. The first global summit run by The Ask, helping you to start (and grow) a business you love. Great speakers who will be sharing their stories and strategies for success. I heard about this via the Newsletter Mastermind group (Ness Labs).
How ‘digital nomad’ visas can boost local economies(HBR.org). A visual overview of the current visas via country and how they might play a key role in fostering entrepreneurship and the creation of technology clusters around the world. Time for the US to get on board or risk being left behind.
Building a swarm of thoughts with the founders of Napkin (Ness Labs). An interesting experiment – gathering a group of 100 authors to help build the next-generation thinking and writing tool (it looks great – watch the video). Get a month for free when you sign up for their newsletter.
Gitlab: The Remote Playbook 2022 – this is the 3rd edition of Gitlab’s famous playbook. This time focusing on how your team works, not where, evolving design, mastering future of work skills, reducing burnout, and boosting wellness at work. Learn how they’ve scaled as an asynchronous, no office company.
Written by Nika Talbot, founder of award-winning Firebird Studio. Content designer and UX writer. Based near Brighton, heart in Italy 🇮🇹
Here’s to the new smart villages in Italy.🍷 🇮🇹 A number of towns have launched travel incentives – and will pay you to work from there.
Santa Fiora in Tuscany (the city of water and music) and Rieti in Lazio are both offering to cover up to 50% of your rent if you stay between two and six months as a remote worker.
Local rents are pretty cheap – €300-500 per month, so you could be paying around €150 a month to rent a cosy cottage or apartment in a beautiful village this summer.
Santa Fiora’s mayor, Federico Baloccchi, told CNN:
It’s not targeted at occasional touch-and-go tourists, but people who really want to experiment with our village life.
The goal is to incentivise people to move in and virtually work from here. We want Santa Fiora to become their flexible office.
It’s part of a 10-year development plan to revitalise rural areas which ‘is now more like 10 days [thanks to Covid] so we’re getting on with it.’ Phase one focuses on connectivity and tech and getting workers and firms in – to capitalise on the trend of people wanting space and moving out of urban centres.
And if you fall in love and decide to invest in tourism there, they’ll give you up to €30,000 to open a B&B, hostel or hotel.
I asked about eligibility for freelancers, age/earnings cap etc and ‘it is open to anyone in possession of a smart work job’. Pensioners welcome 😉 as long as you can show you’re working as an online consultant or indie contractor.
A great way to dip your toe in the water and test out Smart Village life.
Thailand→ Looking to overhaul its Smart Visa to allow digital nomads to remain in the Kingdom for up to four years without a work permit.
Interesting huh. Many more nations will follow suit and compete for citizens as Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimotopredicted 20 years ago – and he digs into the microelectronics and products that enable nomadism.
Can you still buy a house in Italy for €1?
Technically, yes – but the houses are put to auction where people can bid on them. Some sell for €1, the average €5,000 – & then you have to pay for the renovations (say €20,000) within three years.
Rubia Daniels was one of the first to buy a bargain-priced house in Mussomeli, Sicily, in 2019 and bought two more for her children. So far, she’s helped 20 people buy homes out there and hopes to take another group in June. She didn’t intend to buy that many houses, but ‘it’s how the people make you feel that makes you say, ok, I’ll buy three.’
Already 100 people have bought a house, what are you waiting for? – Case1euro.it
Not for the faint-hearted but a hugely rewarding project – an investment in yourself, your family, and a new business opportunity (and I’ve seen €1 houses in France and Croatia too).
London Writers’ Salon: The future of newsletters & publishing w/Substack’s Hamish McKenzie →
London Writers’ Salon spoke to Hamish McKenzie about his writing, the future of journalism and being co-founder of a tech startup, Substack.
Great brain food 🧠 Raw, revealing and honest – he’s no tech bro. Appreciate his vulnerability on his burnout at Tesla – engineers picking over his work, his confidence took a hit and it took him a while to come back. On the stresses of being a founder, which he describes as ‘psychological torture’. The Substack soap opera rolls on – their employees have had online abuse.
He comes across as someone who cares deeply about the future of writing and wants to create a thriving ecosystem for media based on a trusted relationship between reader & writer – rather than clickbait.
Substack is here to give the media ecosystem more options, not replace it.
He looked exhausted (it was 6 am in Wellington) and needs a break. I wanted to give him a big hug! So 👏 to Matt and Parul for a sensitive interview and giving him space to relax and open up. Refreshing for him to be asked about his writing journey and challenges rather than how to support everyone else’s.
On what writers can learn from startup culture
Put something out there, get feedback, tweak, adjust, don’t give up! Nothing important is ever easy or worth doing – stay focused.
It’s not self-promotion but giving yourself a promotion. Find the joy in marketing. You can’t be of service to this world if people don’t know you exist.
🔥People & Company is joining the Substack team to work on community upstart efforts for writers in its network. Spark the flame, stoke the fire, and pass the torch.
Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please like it and share with friends. Thanks for reading!
How we can use Design Thinking to solve journalistic problems.
I’ve been to a few journalism events this week on the industry’s future and what needs to change.
NUJ Racism and the Media special meeting, Freelance Industrial Council, and the #buildbackwellDEN Spring ’21 meeting.
Common themes: Digital transformation, reinvention, diversity, resilience, burnout and mental health.
There was a backlash to the Society of Editors’ bizarre statement denying press racism in the UK. Press Gazette did a survey which shows there’s still much work to do. NUJ Black Members’ Council made a statement about what we can learn from the Meghan Markle race debate saying how the industry should have used the comments made by Meghan and Harry to start a long-overdue debate about the best way to prevent racist coverage.
Lack of diversity in newsrooms was the biggest issue flagged. It’s not so much a problem with recruitment, but retention – if the work culture isn’t diverse and welcoming, people won’t hang around. Depressing to hear stories of endemic racism in our media corporations and comments like: ‘Sometimes the only way to break out [of the box you’re put in] is to leave and come back in through another door.’
Look out for the full report on londonfreelance.org.
Do freelance rates discriminate?
We have some new data on gender, ethnicity and rates. Thanks to the #FreelancerPayGap initiative LFB has added over 1,000 Rates for the Job with info on ethnicity as well as gender. We have a gender pay gap and an ethnic pay gap. In this data set, women are getting less than men and people who don’t identify as ‘white’ are getting less than those who do.
More than 70 colleagues from across 12 time zones came to the DEN event – a 90-minute, interactive discussion on how we can build back well. It focused on three areas: PEOPLE, PROCESS and PRODUCT.
The aim is to co-create an agenda to take back to decision-makers so it’s not just a talking shop (there’s a working document).
Excellent speakers and breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas.
The Chatham House Rule means I can share information about the discussion but not identify anyone or attribute quotes. This is so people can speak freely.
– Flying the flag for freelancers. The fastest-growing sector of the industry. Will we all burn out? Is that where this is heading? Is there any research on freelancers and burnout, and where do we go?
– No more siloed working. Newsrooms and publications need to build a better relationship with freelancers and be more inclusive. Freelancers need to be paid fairly – more transparency around pay rates.
– We need a database of freelancers showing who’s available, their background and what they can do. To help speed up the commissioning process and encourage collaboration. Databases like this exist within organisations, e.g. the BBC has a portal, but there’s nothing that can be accessed by the wider industry.
– What companies are doing to prevent burnout – training people up on mental health, working on user-generated content, creating intranets about COVID as a resource for staff, and enforcing wellbeing policies.
– How Design Thinking can transform journalism. Never thought I’d hear Design Thinking, empathy and journalism in the same sentence 😉 Exciting! I’m reading a lot about Design Thinking on my UX course – here’s a nice intro.
Newsrooms need to take a more holistic approach with human-centred storytelling and understand what people need before creating a story/product. How much do you know about your readers? Involve them in the creation process.
– Soft skills vs hard skills: The importance of listening and empathy. The emphasis on hard skills in journalism is why I haven’t felt comfortable in it. It’s as though being argumentative, pushy and loud somehow makes you a better journalist. I did some subbing shifts on the nationals a few years ago – no women on the team, a hard-drinking culture and long working hours. A work culture that would exclude many.
Well done, DEN. An inspiring discussion and lots to think about. Feels like I’m heading in the right direction with the UX training – and I can see why I’m attracted to it.
I can combine my UX work with journalism to create better media products.
The vanguard is full of women and more diverse. The rearguard full of white men like me.
This mindset will continue to undermine journalism’s ability to adapt, remake, and renew itself, and the profession as a whole, especially younger journalists, will have to live with the consequences of this conservatism.
Rasmus Kleis Neilson
Go deeper 🛠
World Press Trends Outlook 2021: Digital transformation in the driver’s seat. Nearly 60% of publishers say staff will either WFH or have the option to WFH going forward. Only 5% expect to move everyone back to the office.
Content is Product and Product is Content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward. Dmitry Shiskin on why it’s time to start treating content and product as one. They are slowly merging into one thing.
The idea that the user experience of the delivered product of most journalism is anywhere near the quality of any of other media is in many cases a delusion of grandeur. 👏
Facebook is Starting a Substack Competitor(Nieman Lab) – Facebook to pay $5 million to local journalists in news push. They’ve pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next five years. Be interesting to see what happens – Facebook has strong community groups.
I am not just busy; I am being overwhelmed by an onslaught of requests like yours…
The pioneer of workplace burnout research is swamped with work. Christina Maslach, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, first studied burnout in the 1970s and has been searching for solutions since. She was busy before the pandemic, but now… her inbox has exploded.
I found myself apologising last week when a client called to chase me for invoices. ‘I’m a bit concerned you might need groceries… You can send me this month’s and last month’s if you like…’ Usually, I’m on it – I love invoicing clients, but right now, I’m overwhelmed and behind on admin. I have over 6,000 emails, as I said last week.
It’s been a double shift since Xmas, and it took this tweet from the Journalists’ Charity to remind me of that.
I’ve been reading lots of articles about pandemic burnout – it’s our anniversary, but burnout has been a silent issue for some time. Interesting to read this piece in The Atlantic on how burnout is technically a work problem.
Research suggests we tend to feel more stressed when we face conflicts about our various roles—mother, worker, friend to a frazzled co-worker, daughter to an anti-vaccine parent. And right here is the role conflict plague.
Three million American women have dropped out of the workforce since the pandemic began because they are shouldering the burden of all these different roles.
It points out there are plenty of wellness hacks to help us push through the pandemic, but according to burnout experts, it’s a problem created by the workplace, and changes to the workplace are the best way to fix it. The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that’s not been successfully managed.
We’re in the thick of the ‘shecession‘, and globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s. According to McKinsey’s survey, one in four women said they were thinking about reducing or leaving paid work due to the pandemic, citing company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress.
High status doesn’t insulate women from stress and burnout. Senior-level women are significantly more likely than their male peers to consider dropping their hours or dropping out of the workforce because of the burnout associated with being “always-on” and juggling multiple responsibilities during the pandemic. BBC Worklife.
As the McKinsey report shows, companies are stepping up, but many don’t address the underlying causes of stress and burnout—the childcare crisis and a need for flexible working at all levels of work. We still have outdated views of women in the workplace and see child giving as a female function, and care work is still low paid and undervalued.
Companies can do more—childcare subsidies should be the norm, not a job perk – and employers that offer this will attract and retain top talent. People give more and are loyal to employers when they feel valued and cared for.
The advice 🤔
Path For Life
I heard Jeanette Bronée talking about burnout and self-care in the workplace. She is a workplace wellbeing strategist and on a mission to make self-care part of business culture. She is hugely passionate about her work and what she said resonated with me.
Self-care is an essential skill in the future of work. Burnout is probably the most disruptive issue that we have to deal with in work culture, yet we don’t really know what to do. We’re focusing too much on the symptom of burnout rather than looking at the root cause.
I had burned out twice by the time I was 40 years old. And to no surprise. I was young, ambitious, and I expected my body to be there for me.
And she’s not alone. 7 out of 10 millennials burn out before they’re 40.
We need to foster the mindset that burnout is a work company problem to fix, not an individual issue.
The future of work requires us to change the way we think about performance and productivity. Even though time is our greatest challenge, health is the foundation for peak performance that can transform the workplace from a burnout culture running on stress and survival mode to a culture driven by care, purpose, focus and engagement.
‘Self-care is not for after-work’ – find ways to give yourself microdoses during the day. And it’s not about ploughing on: ‘We need to redefine resilience with Covid – it doesn’t mean to keep pushing through, it means to be supported.’
It’s time to rethink work culture – burnout culture is not working. And a warning that we may be heading to another version of it virtually – the next burnout – if we don’t get the balance right now.
Self-care can’t wait. As the last year of the pandemic has shown, the world is speeding up, but we’re not robots – our bodies are still running on the same system.
We think of self-care for when we make it, but we’ll make it faster if we practice self-care. It’s a choice. We can hustle because we practice self-care.
We can be successful and healthy; it shouldn’t be a choice between the two.
And there’s a direct link between individual self-care and the health of an organisation.
Someone said: ‘If I want to suffer, I’ll go back to being an employee in the corporate world.’
That makes me sad. Is this the world we want to bring our kids into?
Here are some practical things you can do to help prevent burnout and be your best. Thanks to Jeanette Bronée, Nilufar Ahmed, The Worldwide Association of Women Journalists & Writers, and the Society of Freelance Journalists – excellent events this week on mental health.
There’s a lot of help out there. 🙏
On work routine:
• Start with the basics – create a work schedule that integrates basic care, water, food, sleep and have structured work hours during the day.
• Fake commute: We need physical movement to prepare our brain and body for the next task. We need structure and separation. Build activity into your day. Try a standing desk.
• Power Pause – check-in: where am I right now, and what do I need to be more focused and have more energy? Get into the habit of giving yourself microdoses of self-care during the day.
• Have a personal board of advisors – mates, colleagues – who will look out for you.
• Take a nap – it’s better to take a 10-minute nap than have a coffee as it calms you down. The Nap Ministry is on a mission to bring back the culture of napping. ‘We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations.’
• Create a compliments folder – log every compliment you receive, including the date and who said it. Kudos – You’ll instantly feel better.
• Put your work stuff in a box and pack it away end of the day.
Tech is one of our biggest stressors:
• Be mindful of your email use and keep ’em short and succinct. Respond to emails at set times and set an autoresponder.
• ‘The pandemic is sending our brains conflicting messages. With video calls, faces are within 50cm of us, and this tells our brain that these are close or intimate friends when instead they are colleagues or strangers. It’s tiring. Avoid back-to-back meetings – we need time to pee, hydrate, and reset our brains.’
• Work on one thing at a time. Close additional tabs on the browser, clear your desktop, turn off notifications.
• When did you last have a proper belly laugh? We forget to have fun at work – play music while replying to emails.
• Make time in the day for casual chat that isn’t work-related – have a virtual lunch and use tech in different ways.
I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be over the moon if you buy something every now and then here.
Work with me 🙋🏻♀️
Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.
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