We asked a random selection of PDS staff to reflect on the challenges they have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, what they have learned about themselves and what, if any, lifestyle changes they have made.
As Director of Resources Tim Youngs said recently, “It has never been more important to look after ourselves and put our wellbeing front and centre. Our Guiding Principles and 'It's ok to' documents remind us that we are working in exceptional times and may need to adapt our approach to work.”
In the first of several blog posts, our contributors give us their honest thoughts on the guidance and how and if it has worked for them and their teams to improve that all-important work-life balance.
Pragash Sarma, Senior Applications Analyst
“I grew up in a small village in Sri Lanka which was torn apart by decades of bloody civil war. Fear, curfews, school closure and isolation were part of my upbringing. You would think that I’d be better equipped to handle this pandemic, but this is an unprecedented situation which I am learning to cope with.
“I am lucky enough to live with my family in this difficult time, yet on some days I have felt bored, lonely, exhausted, and frustrated. Continuous lockdowns and tier restrictions are causing greater impacts on our daily lives; it's an emotional roller coaster.
“Lockdown has enabled me to discover new hobbies and things that I have never imagined I would be doing. I got caught up in the nation’s baking craze and started making a lot of banana cake and now really enjoy my newly discovered passion. Last spring, I spent a lot of time in the garden learning about plants. I've become a keen amateur gardener and look forward to the beautiful spring blossom and watching my growing tropical collection of banana, pomegranate and mango trees.
"It's ok to question decisions"
"The 'It's ok to' guidance is a fantastic supportive gesture by PDS to recognise that our working lifestyle has changed and there is a “new normal”. This makes a huge difference. My team has regular catch ups and we talk about how we’re all doing, open up about how we are feeling, and we are very supportive of each other. If I could add one thing, it would be, “It’s ok to… question or challenge decisions that may affect you."
“The advice I’d offer colleagues is this. You are not alone; this lockdown is affecting everyone in one way or another, so do not feel that you are fighting this on your own. Be kind to yourself. Your health and wellbeing are more important than ever.“
Banseka Kayembe, Change and Engagement Lead
“Living in a pandemic has quite drastically changed my day-to-day activities and general outlook. Like most people I feel like I’ve essentially lost a year of my life. During the first lockdown I was trapped in London away from my family with no idea when I would see them all again. Going months without seeing them was difficult.
“Lockdown and Covid have made me appreciate being able to have a social life a lot more, something I took for granted before the pandemic. I’m a bit of a workaholic and realised the only respite I got from working was socialisng with friends and family.
“I’ve definitely followed some of the PDS guidance. I now have very clear lines as to when I’m working and when I’m not so I don’t end up endlessly working with no rest. As a customer-facing employee, there was normally considerable pressure to look smart and well dressed when briefing people. It’s nice to see that culture relax a bit, as I think most people understand that some us might feel a bit silly dressing in full businesswear in our living rooms.
"Finding new ways to do my role"
“Working online means some people can forget that you might not necessarily work the hours they work. Reiterating to colleagues that you won’t answer emails after 4pm for whatever reason isn’t something people should be afraid to say.
“I’ve tried and tested new ways to engage stakeholders, given that much of our engagement prior to the pandemic was in person, not online. It’s a trial by error process, but it’s been interesting to find new ways to do my role that have certainly changed the way I engage.
“My one bit of advice to colleagues is to remember that you are not the sum of your worst day(s). Some of us have found working from home really challenging, especially those with children or caring responsibilities and I know that will inevitably impact work. But those difficult days aren’t a reflection of who you are.”
Tom Martin, Telecoms Assistant
“Suddenly being cut off from so many people has made the world feel like a much smaller place. It’s easy to forget how much it means to have a team that you can be with at work until you’re forced to work apart from each other. Remote meetings are nice, but not the same as seeing your friends in person.
“Lockdown has made me realise that travelling helps to put a barrier between my work and my free time – once I’m home, I know the time’s mine. Now my walk to work is only across the landing, it feels harder to separate the two.
"Spare time to self-care"
“Having said that, with a little extra time in the day, I’m able to take a few measures for self-care in these awkward times. When the weather’s been better, it’s been good to get the chance to go for a short walk in my lunch break. I’ve also tried to get into the habit of spending time meditating at the end of the working day to clear my mind a little.
“The ’It’s ok to’ guidance has helped to make it more comfortable to work remotely. In the team, we’ve appreciated that our meetings haven’t been tied down by expectations and formalities and we have kept up the social side of our group, even if we haven’t been able to see each other in person. Team pets have become very welcome attendees!
“If there’s one piece of advice I’d give, it would be to try to find a way to keep working and free time apart. Find a space where you can go to work and just keep it for work – nothing else! At the end of the day, switch off your computer, stop checking emails and ‘go home'. Relax, be yourself, and switch off until tomorrow.”