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.
In the second blog post in the series, our contributors give us their honest thoughts on the guiding principles and 'It's ok to' guidance. They tell us how, and if, it has worked for them and their teams to improve that all-important work-life balance.
Emma Canny, Business Partner
I don’t live near family or friends, so seeing so little of people I really care about has been tough. I have nieces and a nephew that I am missing growing up, and family that I’d rather see in person to know they are actually doing ok. Missed birthdays, weddings, holidays have all sailed by and Christmas wasn’t as I had hoped or planned.
My husband is an actor, so his work has been hugely impacted by the pandemic, and that ultimately impacts us both. On the positive side, I don’t miss that 5:45am alarm for the commute in from Hertfordshire, that’s for sure.
Happiness in the smallest things
I’ve learnt that it’s ok to slow down and that I can find happiness in the smallest or simplest of things; a walk, sunshine on my face, a takeaway coffee... a hug.
My morning starts with yoga instead of a commute. Exercise has taken on a completely new meaning during the pandemic. At the end of the working day, when I try to go from office mode to home mode, a workout allows me that mental separation.
I struggle with sitting all day long so that’s also been a lifestyle change. I miss running between buildings on the Parliamentary Estate and climbing escalators from the Tube! I’ve now got a standing desk for my laptop and screen, which has made a difference.
The ‘It’s ok to’ guidance has really helped empower me to set boundaries and not feel guilty. Some of the advice is hard to implement, even though I agree with the principle. I don’t always get a proper lunch break, I struggle to take small breaks or find time for fresh air throughout the day, and I am often in back-to-back meetings. I’d love to change these things, but reality makes them hard to achieve.
My advice to colleagues is don’t feel like you need to just ‘continue as normal’ because these are not normal times.
Aji Salami, Cyber Security Operations Consultant
I’ve had more time to spend with the family, even though we were all trying to work and study at the dining table at the beginning of the lockdown. Kids’ classes could be quite loud and interactive, as teachers try to engage the children in activities.
My meetings require the mute button, especially when I’m presenting or speaking. Now we all understand everyone’s way of working. Children use the living room for those loud classroom sessions, whilst my wife and I use the dining area for quiet study and work calls.
Covid has taught me to be more thankful
Covid has taught me to be more generous, appreciative and thankful for life, the NHS, my friends and family. Things I used to worry about like deadlines and catching my train have become less significant when a loved one falls ill.
I try going for a run in the mornings before logging on. I take more walks and appreciate scenery I really didn’t notice before. I have become involved with my local foodbank and church community to help others in need.
I have adopted a lot of the ‘It’s ok to’ guidance like jogging in the mornings, dressing down for meetings, calling colleagues for a chat, and taking a proper lunch break.
My advice would be get involved in the local community or a group activity. Stay connected!
Kate Kemp, Programme Delivery Manager
The daily anxiety of running late for work has gone. I’m not rushing to get the kids out of the door and make it to the train. On the negative side, home schooling is… tricky. I’m learning things I’d forgotten but the time it can take to help can be more than I have.
Spending so much time with loved ones every day has its moments. I never thought I wouldn’t enjoy being at home every day but when it’s enforced it’s not quite the same.
I haven’t used the PDS guidance as much as I could have but have tried a few things. With home schooling I’ve put specific time in my calendar as opposed to the first lockdown when I thought I could do this around back-to-back meetings. That didn’t help anyone.
Our winning vote - no meetings after 4.30
As a team we have recently reviewed the list of ‘it’s ok to’ and added some guidance of our own. We used the whiteboard and voted on three things that we would take forward. Not putting team meetings in past 4.30pm was the winner, followed by making meetings 45 mins rather than an hour, and making sure we finish on time.
My advice to colleagues is go out for a daily walk. Explore the area you live in. Look high and low. I’ve lived in my area for years, but I’m still spotting new things and new places to walk.