Today I would like to introduce Charlotte Randomly who is joining the Voxel Hub Advisory Board. I had the privilege of working with them, I believe, over a year. Charlotte always inspired me with their gentle presence, wise perspectives and very colleagues and innovative thinking grounded in years of experience. They are lovely, fun and really honest. Through their work, they have already changed many lives for better, so I cannot wait to learn from them.
Please tell a little bit about you – what do you do for a living and what is your current professional focus?
I currently work for Bristol Mind managing and delivering a two-year pilot collaboration with the University of Bristol, offering mental health promotion work to students and staff. This is a national initiative which is being rolled out across universities in England and Wales.
Beyond this, I’m in a bit of a transitionary period career-wise. I’m developing my own business where I coach people to work with cycles. Sounds weird? Well, it is pretty niche! Basically, I think that many of us within western society have been coerced into a way of being and working which is driven by perpetual progress and pinning our self-worth on how busy and productive we are. In my personal and professional experience, this is a huge recipe for burn-out. When we work with cycles, we learn that rest is as vital as action. We only have to look at the seasons of the year to realise that nature isn’t in eternal full bloom and there are many months where the earth lies dormant. Like the earth, we need periods of rest too! A really obvious cycle that we’ve ignored and shamed for years is the menstrual cycle. I specialise in working with menstruators to support them to use their cycle as a self-care practice.
I am also training as a funeral celebrant and end-of-life educator. The more I’ve worked with cycles over the years, the more I have come to appreciate what a death-avoidant culture we live in. I think this has a huge impact on our collective wellbeing. I want to be part of the growing movement of other end-of-life practitioners seeking to create better narratives around death and dying.
How important are digital technologies for your work?
They’ve become absolutely vital to my freelance work. Firstly, without the small community of folks, I’m connected to via Instagram, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of starting my own business that focussed on something so niche. Realising that there was an audience for my work, even if they are scattered across the world, was a huge gift. Video conferencing tools, such as Zoom, have been essential in my ability to connect with people and I’ve also recently been experimenting with digital whiteboard tools such as MURAL to communicate my ideas more effectively within the virtual realm.
What are your hobbies, activities beyond paid professional work?
I am a huge book nerd. You can find me with at least 4 or 5 books on the go at any one time.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I taught myself to dj. Music has always been a huge part of my life and it seemed like ‘now or never’ at that time. (I later realised that was totally not true at all!) Five years later, it is one of my favourite things to do and I occasionally (in a pre-Covid 19 world) get to play out at the odd club or festival.
Beer or wine? Milkshake or smoothie? A good steak or superfood salad?
Oooh this is hard! If I you pushed me though I’d probably say: beer (we have so many great micro-breweries in Bristol, I am spoilt for choice), milkshake and steak (though I’d secretly be hoping the steak was served with a superfood salad).
Are you a cat or a dog person?
Cats all the way. No offense to dogs, they’re lovely and all, but cats rule. Shout out to my feline companion, Bookitty, who is the best cat of all.
How do you manage work/life balance?
It will probably sound a bit strange to a lot of people, but I work with the rhythm of my menstrual cycle as a means of creating as much balance as I can. Essentially what I do is schedule more outward-facing work when I know I’ll be in the more energetic phase of my cycle and then ensure I take more breaks or take time off when I’ve got my period (when I need more rest). This has really worked for me as a means of not totally overdoing it work-wise, but it’s not always straightforward to orchestrate!
How, in your professional opinion, are digital technologies impacting your life today? What is the impact on your wellbeing?
Sometimes stuff like social media feels like a time drain that I have to be really careful about. I feel like I have a fairly good relationship to this stuff, but it is something I am in constant process with and always reflecting on whether the balance is right.
I’ve learnt to notice the cues and signs for me that using these technologies is taking its toll on me and to adjust accordingly. Usually, this is as simple as intentionally leaving my phone somewhere in the house so I’m not constantly checking it. I also have an out of office reply at work that clearly states when I’m available. I think having clear boundaries around our availability can be a simple way of taking the pressure off and also create permission for others to do the same.
You are joining the Advisory Board of Voxel Hub at a time when most people embrace the remote work and digital technologies with astonishing speed. What trends and patterns do you see in our collective digital wellbeing at the moment?
I see two things emerging right now that I think are going to require much more of our attention and thought. 1) Many of us are using video conferencing facilities far more than we were prior to this Covid-19 outbreak. I think we really need to examine the impact of these technologies on our wellbeing. ‘Zoom fatigue’ certainly in my own experience feels very real! Video conferencing requires a different type of listening and concentration than we might use when we’re in the same room as our colleagues. I’d like to see organisations getting very precise and intentional about how they use these digital spaces, so that employees do not get overwhelmed by the differing demands of working in this way.
2) Simultaneously, while many of us are lamenting being online too much, there are millions of households out there who are facing digital exclusion and poverty. The stress and strain of having limited access to the digital world when so much of lives is being brought online is a very real issue for lots of people and undoubtedly one that has become of even greater importance during the isolation of lockdown. Vulnerable groups such as elderly people, asylum seekers and refugees and households living in poverty are being hit hardest by this. We need to have more conversation about this and ensure that we take this issue into account when we talk about digital wellbeing.
How are you taking care of yourself on those challenging times?
As a parent homeschooling a five-year-old right now, whilst trying to continue working from home I am giving myself permission to rest as much as I can, even if this means just small micro-doses of rest throughout the busy day. I am also sleeping as much as possible!
What would be your top digital wellbeing tip at the moment for our blog readers?
Don’t be tempted to take a screen to bed with you! I really notice the difference in how easily I fall asleep if I haven’t been staring at a screen straight before bedtime. I leave my phone downstairs and try to stop looking at a screen at least an hour before I go to bed. Easier said than done when you’re on a Netflix series binge!
I cannot wait to start learning from Charlotte and share the results with you all. In the meantime, you can follow Charlotte on her Instagram account to find out more about their fantastic work.