Learning to Cope with Cabin Fever

Simon Quarendon | November 24, 2020


Cabin fever started in the 1800s when settlers on the Great Plains in North America spent months waiting for the weather to change. Although the UK’s weather is not that extreme (yet), many people could probably identify with the term as the month-long lockdown spent at home has caused similar symptoms; irritability, restlessness, decreased motivation and even trouble concentrating.

We used the term to launch a series of HR campaigns designed to help our staff get through lockdown. With the end in sight next week it seems they have worked.

‘Operation Cabin Fever’ was the most ambitious of the three campaigns. It comprised a series of events that staff were invited to attend so as to break up their day and provide ‘hard stops’ at the end of the day (In the absence of working in an office environment some of our more junior staff sometimes found it difficult to know when to stop working in the evening).

These events included a twice weekly early morning workout with ‘Toulouse Toby’, a conditioning coach; weekly presentations from external speakers (the first two sessions covered such topics as mindfulness and networking during a lockdown); a weekly internal workshop (the ‘Simon Sez’ session) and weekly ‘Brown Bag’ lunches where my colleague Dom Hawes and myself could answers questions from the staff about the business. Although entirely voluntary, all these events have been well attended.

The Walk to Work’ campaign has proved highly popular too, with nearly half our staff joining a private Strava club and recording their daily walks, runs or cycles. The total number of miles walked by the group at the end of the campaign next week will be converted into pounds and a contribution made to a charity. (They may be getting bored but boy, are some of our staff getting fit!)

Our third campaign, the Anything But A Pub Quiz’  campaign was designed to encourage staff to spend the evenings with other colleagues who shared the same hobbies or leisure pursuits as identified on Bob, our people management platform.  This project has proved to be less appealing so far, probably as given the choice between spending an evening with a work colleague discussing recipes or watching  the fourth series of the Crown became a no-brainer.

We’ll survey our staff next week to see which, if any, of the campaigns they want to continue with once lockdown ends, when, like a scene from The Revenant we’ll emerge from our cabins blinking in the daylight.

Simon Quarendon

Simon Quarendon is a veteran marketer and communicator with a career spanning nearly 40 years. He has bought, built, sold, rescued, led and mentored just about every kind of creative communications agency in existence and run global accounts for the best in the world. Today, Simon runs the business end of Selbey Anderson, working across the group to make sure clients get the best and the agencies all prosper.