The perils of home working 

The week before lockdown I had attended and enjoyed my first ever writing retreat, a weekend of writing, time to reflect and focus on the book. I left the retreat in high spirits, I had a plan, I had an idea about what the book would like, more importantly, I felt I had some newfound confidence about my writing ability something I have battled with since starting to do this book.

I had only been home for a couple of days when Boris announced lockdown. Overnight our once comfortable routines had been flipped upside down and turned inside out. “I mean who would have thought this time last year that we would find out lives being impacted by universal pandemic” even Mystic Meg couldn’t have predicted that!

At first, the prospect of working from home didn’t seem too bad I was pretty optimistic “after all it wouldn’t be for that long, would it?” However, my initial eagerness to play my part in this crisis, to get “stuck in” and to make a difference was soon replaced by a sense of weariness, fuelled out of frustration from feeling powerless. My mind was all over the place which just fuelled my feelings of anxiety and frustration. 

The news and social media were full of well-deserved praise and admiration about those who are working on the ‘Front line’, but it ignored all those who are still working behind the scenes sat staring at their computer screens all day long, still passionate about making a difference who have been left in limbo.

The whole working landscape had changed, any previous priorities were quickly replaced by new ones. There was a sense of urgency and almost panic in the air whilst the doors to some of our front-line services were forced to close. Forced to create a temporary email address because our IT systems didn’t have the capacity for everyone to work from home or having to grapple with unfamiliar technology such as zoom was tough at first and took some adjusting. 

Previous face to face meetings was quickly replaced by virtual ones. I have found I have developed a love-hate relationship with Zoom. I find myself getting angry at people who appear distracted during meetings and am suspicious of people who don’t show their faces and wonder if they are even present at the meeting at all. But then I love having the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, seeing their faces, it reassures me I’m not the only person who has been confined to working at home, alone. 

People say to me, switch off, but I find it hard detach when my workplace is now my home, I now realise just how much I took the daily commute on the bus for granted. Before the urgency to get dressed and ready for work has gone and my commute takes me less than two seconds because my new workplace is in the bedroom across the hall. At least the bus journey allowed me to mentally prepare to think about the day ahead and being able to use the return journey to download and switch off. 

I have found not being able to care, being forced to work from home or care from a distance friggin tough. I even suffered my first panic attack during the first few weeks of lockdown. At first, I thought I had COVID my chest felt heavy and I had difficulty breathing my body felt like it was in constant fight or flight mode and yet there were no threats, well not visible ones anyway. 

I know I am fortunate at least I still have my job, it’s been particularly hard hearing about independent venues from the night-time economy talk about not being able to reopen or who are uncertain about their future. 

I find myself working longer hours, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything leaving me feeling like a fraud. I’m working, but It doesn’t feel like work. The only saving grace is that when I talk to colleagues and share my frustrations, I can take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I have worked in the addiction and recovery field for over 25 years and I am passionate about what I do, it’s in my DNA.

I may be employed by an organisation, but I work for the people I’m paid to help and who I care about

So, when an opportunity to get back out and touch base in the real world came around, I pounced on it. Being back out there, on the streets, in the hostels visiting people in the temporary hotels has offered some compensation for the last few months working alone. Just being someone’s sounding board allowing them to offload, brings more job satisfaction than any paycheck could. 

It’s a daily struggle surrounded by all the ambiguity, uncertainly and knowing that there are a lot of things that are out of my control, so I have to focus on the things I can control and the positives because there has been many. Like hearing from people who had used lockdown as an opportunity to address their addiction, who have accepted the support offered and are more stable now than they have ever been, it fills my soul. 

Self-care – Over the years I have developed a set of coping strategies making sure I am taking care of my own needs before others. Although I must confess that isn’t always easy, its work in progress as you will have probably picked up from my blogs. 

What I am saying is that If I thought I was taking care of my own needs important before this pandemic; I now realise I need to pay even more attention to myself to avoid the dreaded burnout, so I thought I would share some with you… 

Acceptance  –We all react to stressful events in different ways, many of us try to protect ourselves by refusing to accept the truth of what’s happening. After all, by denying that you’re even experiencing a crisis, you can kid yourself that you still have some sense of control over shit you are not.

  • Look back at examples where you’ve coped with uncertainty and change before can help you accept your current situation
  • Make a list of all the things you can’t control and permit yourself to stop worrying about them. Instead, focus on the action that you can take.

Self-Compassion – One thing I learned from my recovery from drugs, is that I am very deep and have strong empathic tendencies and I sometimes find emotional distress difficult to cope with. 

I am trying to practice daily compassion, learning to keep back some any compassion normally reserved for other people and saving some for myself. To remind me that my emotions are not a character flaw and that they make me who I am 

Staying connected – I come into contact with lots of different people throughout the week during zoom meetings, but that doesn’t mean I’m connected. I have a handful of people who I can be myself around, where I feel safe to share my fears and frustrations with. Make sure you make time for those people in your life. 

Look and focus on the positives – While it’s often difficult to imagine anything good coming out of stressful experiences, building resilience can help you find any positives in the difficulties you’ve faced. Resilience isn’t a macho quality and it isn’t fixed; it’s an ongoing process that requires effort to build and maintain over time.

Write a list of the things you like doing and make the time to do them, I was asked to do this recently in a workshop and I realised that I hadn’t done some of them for a while. So I made time and did them and guess what I felt a whole lot better 

But here we, this pandemic ant going nowhere and as I’m always saying “Shithappens” its what you do with it that counts!

Love Fordy 

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

5 Replies to “The perils of home working ”

  1. I have found myself having to have the discussion with my youngest child about wearing a mask when we go to the shops next week. That is a conversation I never anticipated! She has adapted to it all reasonably well. Even at three.

    I took the leap as you know Tracey with Zoom, I still don’t feel all that comfortable with it though, I am very private these days in many respects, and it feels odd inviting people into my home in such a way. I think with my trust issues I would want to know a person was engaging, if they were at the meeting, one way or another. As opposed to a blank space where they should be, how odd. So much of how we relate includes body language, people in my experience say far more in that way often, than they do with their words.

    I was speaking with someone yesterday, and she is working longer hours now, for the same pay, as are some of her colleagues, whilst others are furloughed. She has been shielding so barely left the house since it all began. Her desk is the living room floor, not even a room or desk to go too.

    Following the conversation I did think I wonder how many employers will let furloughed staff go now, and make those that remain work that much harder? I think it is important for people to say if they are not managing with the extra workload, if that is the case, otherwise in the future they may find themselves stuck with it.

    It’s a bit like when government departments started to make more and more cuts, started privatising. I am aware that in probation they went from having admin staff who typed up their reports, and having a few weeks to produce court reports, to a turnaround of a couple of hours! Along with so much else that was cut, which meant they were left with very little time with the client, and stuck doing paperwork.

    As with all services more cuts and more workload = people put at risk, and the overworked staff member held responsible, when in reality they are often encouraged to hurry up and meet their targets. Not that I am saying they should not be held responsible. Has it been made too difficult to say when we are not coping these days, and that targets and caseloads are simply unmanageable to do safely? Now I digress, and my soap box has popped up out of nowhere…AGAIN!!!

    I really hope this way of working for so many, does not become an undercover austerity measure, if you all get my drift. It’s not austerity its something else with a different label.

    The lack of travel for some is so much better though, especially if you have two hour commute, the cost of travel for some…as one person saves however,another loses.

    Everything really has been turned on its head. No end in sigh,t and we all are all having to adapt. Part of of me thinks sometimes it’s good to have comfort zones and routines removed, and to feel the fear, it gives a shake up and time to reassess. Obviously for some it is devastating. But like you say Tracey and I have learned all too often, shit happens and it’s what we do with the pile of poop left that matters! ( I actually dreamt I was unblocking a shitty toilet last night! Story of my life!)

    Stay safe stay clean…Especially if you do not know where it has been :[)

    1. I love that, “Stay safe stay clean… Especially if you do not know where it has been” I hope you are keeping well love, I am trying my best not to get too distracted by work stuff and trying to focus on the things that make ME feel whole, which as you know is my writing and putting the world to rights.

      I am glad you overcame your fear of zoom, although it cannot replace the face to face to face contact, at least we can stay connected

      xxxx

  2. Your work means so much to people at the moment Tracey. You are giving voice to the very visible but seldom heard. I’m glad it’s helped you to reconnect with your roots as well. Stay safe.

  3. Ps. Keep going with the writing . A writing retreet sounds wonderful. And agreed you do a wonderful job keep going with that too 🙂

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