By Pam Mason on 24 Apr 2020
This is a personal reflection from our Senior HR Manager, Pam Mason, written four weeks into the COVID-19 isolaton period.
Day 31 of the Corona Virus lockdown. I can honestly say I have been on a rollercoaster of emotions since Boris’s announcement on the 23rd March. The first week I spent my time worrying over the lack of chocolate, pasta and wine in the world, travelled about 8 miles to purchase 38 toilet rolls and discovered that I don’t like tinned pineapple so why did I buy 4 cans of the stuff.
The second week I moved into a phase of fear, still attending the office and some schools for meetings. I was opening doors with my sleeve, trying to avoid any pupils which approached me in the corridors and awkwardly saying ‘sorry I can’t shake your hand’ to headteachers, then getting in my car and disinfecting my hands in a rather OTT way.
At the end of March, we had our last team meeting in the office, I left Universal Square with an air of sadness yet excitement that I could now work from my beautiful home for the next few days and my wonderful children will be at my side, I would be home schooling them and will do a great job.
31 days on, my home is no longer beautiful, I have noticed all its bad points, the house needs a good paint and clean and the ironing pile is doing my head in. My children continue to be wonderful, yet utterly annoying. Their continuous desire for snacks, drinks and KFC has become extremely irritating. They have around a 20-minute attention span when undertaking school work and become easily distracted by endless facetime requests from friends, Tictoc and of course the Xbox. My youngest son was actually ‘reading’ his book upside down one day, clearly my literacy class was engaging.
I have good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours trying to juggle my job, supporting my children, pet dog and new puppy, not to mention my partner who is a Headteacher. Sometimes I feel like I am spread so thinly I am not giving enough time to any of them which makes me feel so anxious and sad inside.
What I have learnt is what a fabulous and supportive employer I have and just how important leadership is in these uncertain times. My manager checks in regularly with me, sometimes sharing fun messages via ‘WhatsApp’, sometimes calls to ask how I am feeling which allows me to off load and we also have weekly management meetings over Zoom. The first one being the funniest experience ever watching us all trying to figure out how to operate this new-fangled communication method and saying many times ‘I can see you but can’t hear you’.
We are having a larger-scale team meeting next week but this time using Microsoft Teams, all being well I can get my microphone on my laptop working in time, I am really looking forward to this.
My advice to managers is; contact your team regularly; ask how they are; comfort them; do something fun and be openly supportive to their personal circumstances.
I am trying to be extra mindful of my own wellbeing. I endeavour to plan my day out each morning, writing down key tasks I want to achieve that day, this really helps me not to feel overwhelmed. I try and stick to set breakfast, lunch and tea times where possible to allow some routine during the day. Meals have become a main event and I am enjoying cooking again. As the weather has been so glorious I am doing as much work and exercise as I can outside, admittedly sometimes going over the one hour ‘allowed’ when on a walk. I actually have a bit of a tan and averaging at 16,000 steps a day!
I am however enjoying a few more glasses of Sauvignon and bags of crisps than I was in the ‘old world’ which makes me feel guilty, but then again, everything in moderation!
To summarise, look after yourself and talk to your staff about how they are feeling, even the strongest power women (and men!) are likely to be going through some very new emotions right now, be kind, stay safe and continue to follow social distancing guidance, only another 6 months to go. Time for a glass of wine.