As we take a look around us these days, we can see that spring has arrived (minus a final few light dustings of snow) and we are energized by thoughts of new beginnings and encouraged by signs of life and new growth all around us. It will be nice to start getting back outdoors, firing up the grill, and talking longer walks in the sun. I am glad to know that more and more people are getting vaccinated, and the overall COVID-19 infection rate is staying fairly stable; but it is still very concerning to know the variants are present in Ohio. We will need to keep our eye on any sustained increases in COVID-19 spread over the next few weeks. Now is the time to be even more committed in our adherence to safety protocols (i.e., masks, 6-foot physical distancing, and sanitizing). I would remind you to also stay at home if you are not feeling well.
I appreciate your continued efforts in the midst of multiple uncertainties to keep focused on our mission and the needs of our stakeholders. You have demonstrated an extraordinary amount of patience and flexibility this last year, and I am asking you to continue in this way for a bit longer. Over the next few weeks, we will begin to roll out additional guidance, tools and resources, and support for our return to our offices on our statewide campuses. We will also be soliciting feedback/input from you around LifeWorks strategies (culture and balance), return to offices (safety and flexibility) in the next few weeks to optimally inform our “re-opening” plans and approach to Extension work.
I know there is COVID and video meeting fatigue. I encourage all of you to find ways to balance screen time with tech-free time; give yourselves the space on your calendars for “deep work” where you can focus without interruption; cancel meetings that are not needed and could be accomplished with an email or a phone call; shorten meetings that must be maintained; walk during meetings where you are not required to be live or are not the lead; take your lunch break away from your computer; protect time to just talk or network with colleagues; schedule and protect your vacations; and know that you have permission to say “no” or “not now” to some things. I try to practice all of these – with varying levels of success but a commitment to succeeding more. We need all of us for the long-haul and our mental health and well-being is critical. We will be having more time and attention given to this aspect of the work we do, how we do our work, and how COVID has informed what work can look like. I look forward to future conversations and sharing of useful strategies.
When I think about what we have been through as a nation, as an organization, and as individuals this last year, I am continually amazed at our perseverance, our innovation, and our compassion for one another and those we serve. It has not been easy, and we still have a challenging journey ahead of us. Please reach out to check in on your colleagues, find ways to cheer one another (even it is bad dad jokes from Tom DeHaas), hold one another up when you see someone struggling, be present in the moment, and be kind to yourself and to your peers. You matter, Extension matters, and we won’t be functioning in this environment forever. Hold on, reach out, and breathe. We are in this together and there is no one else I’d rather be navigating it with.
With gratitude, Jackie