Work/Worry balance.


I don’t have what you would call a healthy relationship with my work. I am self aware enough to realise this but not really mentally equipped to do anything about it. I lurch from frustration to disengagement to obsession to anxiety and back again on a pretty regular basis.

Currently I am hovering somewhere between obsession and anxiety. Leaning towards the latter.

I am endlessly fascinated with the workings of the ‘world wide web’ but I do wonder whether my temperament would have been better suited to a less fast moving pursuit.

Like most (British) people I suffer a little bit from impostor syndrome but actually I can cope with it. I’m not bad at what I do — at least in my own opinion. I’ve carved a decent career out for myself and for the most part I know what I am talking about. I’ve been lucky enough to surf a couple of career waves; firstly the early days of social media and more latterly the GDS led revolution in Government digital. Partly it was a case of right place, right time each time but still I did, and am doing, OK.

These last 18 months or so (and more precisely the last 10) though, I’ve felt a bit like a footballer plucked from the Conference and dropped straight in to the Premiership. The scale of interest in the work of the ONS and its website is incredible. People, important people, really care and are watching carefully. You can almost feel their eyes on you. I keep expecting to buckle under the pressure but I haven’t. Yet. I’m pretty sure I’ve never worked harder nor been prouder of anything I’ve been involved in (even if much of the credit for the real work goes elsewhere) but I am fraying around the edges and it is becoming noticeable.

I found myself doing quite a lot of public speaking this year. Something new for me and utterly terrifying each and every time. I know the speaking opportunities I get have little to do with me and everything to do with people being interested in the ONS but it was good for me. I learned a lot about myself. Particularly how close to the wind I am prone to sail. I have become the face and the voice of ONS digital publicly even while others have proved to be the brains, heart and hands! The thing is it added something new for me to stress and obsess over and it was already a crowded waiting room.

My epiphany these last few days has been that I am never going to be completely happy with the work that has been done and never, ever going to be satisfied with my contribution personally. I need to find a way to come to terms with that because I am proud of what has been achieved. I am proud of how we went about doing it. I am proud of how hard all the team have worked to get us where we are today.

Yet here I am. One week from D-Day. Home and unwell. Wondering if I am really ill or is it psychosomatic? I’m pretty sure I just have flu but I am not a doctor (head or otherwise) and I’m wondering is it just a lack of vitamin C in my diet that has worn me down or if the anxiety is manifesting in physical symptoms.

Honestly I am not sure it matters. I have a deadline, a to-do list and a team to lead. Whether it is the voices in my head or the germs invading my body I still need to get past this and get back to work.

Because here is the strange thing. I really enjoy what I do. Sure I could do without the horrible commute and gnawing doubt but I work with great people and am doing genuinely interesting work in exactly the way I have always wanted to. So I am a lucky man really and need to remind myself of that. In fact maybe that is exactly what I have just done. Blogging as therapy, indeed.