I am a self-professed control freak. I think most Practice Managers have a little bit of this in their personality, and it makes them a better PM, as long as they know how to turn it off.
Like most PMs, the COVID-19 vaccine campaign has added that final straw to an already wobbly camel’s back, and has meant that the day job has bled into our precious evenings and weekends. Last minute notice about vaccine deliveries, fast changing directives, and patients worried that they’ve been overlooked all intrude into our private lives. Add into the mix that actually, we aren’t doing much else outside of work, so it feels like less of a sacrifice, and the fact that we know these are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary effort, and you have the perfect recipe for burn out.
We may be superheroes, but a burned out superhero is no good to anyone, so what can we do to find a happy medium?
For me recently, I’ve had to look at how I use social media.
It’s so easy to blur the boundaries between home and work when using social media – the clue is in the title – it’s meant to be social, and we are social animals.
The General Practice Managers UK Facebook group is a lifeline for many managers, allowing information sharing, myth dispelling and morale boosting. Some PMs have joined Facebook to have access to this group specifically. But if you also use it to keep up with friends and family, those work-related notifications can be relentless. To allow a proper break, consider snoozing the group for the weekend, or turn off notifications for the group permanently, and only go on the group when you are looking for specific information.
Many practices have their own Facebook page, but again, this can be stressful when you receive messages from patients out of working hours, or comments on the page. Like any good control freak, it’s hard relinquishing control, but is there someone you can share the role with? Or can you set up notifications on messages which tell the sender you will answer in working hours? I’ve found that patient comments will often be answered by other patients, and all you need to do is “like” the comment to show your support. Can your patient group be tasked with informally helping with countering grumpy comments?
Twitter can be relentless, with agitators given a public platform to hold court, and again the line between home and work can be hard to define. And don’t get me started on WhatsApp groups! WhatsApp are the worst: I always have to silence the notifications and dip in as and when I want to catch up (mum if you’re reading this, I’ve not snoozed the family group, honest!).
Everyone seems to be an expert when it comes to COVID, and people are surprisingly willing to either demonstrate their expert-ignorance or their rule breaking publicly on social media. It’s so hard not to rise to it when you are living the reality at work every day.
I found recently Facebook was really affecting my mental health. I was getting angry with friends who were doing things not in the spirit of the rules, or blatantly against the rules. Even some friends who were saying that Covid is a government conspiracy! I’ve a friend who calls those people Covidiots which always makes me smile.
So I took the huge step (for me) of temporarily deactivating my account. Pretty drastic for me, a self-confessed Facebook addict. Scroll forwards a week, and I was shocked to find I hadn’t missed it one bit. I had spent the week feeling very Zen and not quite realising why. When I reflected on my feelings, I found it was because I hadn’t had that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) pressure, I hadn’t been plagued messages or comments from patients who were demanding their vaccination, accusing us of malpractice because the media were telling them everyone in the first two risk groups should have been vaccinated by now, or a request from the bookkeeper of the local chiropractor who wanted to be classed as a frontline healthcare worker, even though they’d be working from home since December. I was shocked that I didn’t feel cut off from my friends – I started calling them instead of abstractedly catching up with them on Facebook. I told my family on our WhatsApp group that I’d come off Facebook for a bit, so they needed to let me know their big announcements direct. My mum (well into pension years), immediately came back that she was pregnant…
Then I realised (oops) that I didn’t have access anymore to manage the work Facebook page, so I set up a temporary Facebook account just to manage this, and welcomed the stress back into my world! I was really shocked at the sudden stress headache and tight neck I had, which showed me in no uncertain terms that this was impacting on my physical and mental health.
So what are my next steps? Well, I’d like another week off, but when I return, I plan to include management of social media in my job description and my CV. There are people who have this as their day job, so I need to acknowledge that it’s an important part of mine. I plan to scope my staff to find someone who is eloquent, diplomatic and trustworthy to train them up to be my co-editor. I will turn on my “away” message at the weekends for the site, and I will hand over control to my co-editor when I’m on leave (yes I can dream that I’ll be in Barbados!) and at any time when I start feeling my control slide.
Do you recognise yourself in this? I’d encourage you to do the same, even just for the weekend. It’s incredibly liberating removing the Covidiots from view.