Links worker Deborah talks about going back to her practice after 17 weeks of lockdown due to COVID-19.
I came back to work last Monday after two weeks annual leave and had the realisation that it had been 17 weeks almost to the day since we began our working from home journeys as Community Links Practitioner’s. 17 weeks?! How did that happen? It’s been a mixed bag for us all. As a team we reflect wider society in terms of the differences in our lockdown experiences, from pokey flats, houses with gardens, solo living and homes full of people, animals and shenanigans. We’ve all had variations in how we’ve coped and indeed these variations are set to continue as lockdown starts to ease. It’s now Wednesday and I’m still sat on my massive armchair, laptop on knee waiting for a joiner to finish dismantling a wall in my kitchen. One of my cupboards decided to free itself from the wall the other day, like me it’s had enough of this flat! I should be in practice and will be joyously walking there as soon as this joiner has done what he can for the day.
Yes, you heard that right. I am going into my practice to work at an actual desk in a proper chair. Oh my, how lush! Before I finished for leave I was struggling with slow internet connection, data entry deadlines, the four walls of my living room, amusing a nine-year-old and the reality that my home in many ways no longer feels like the sanctuary I retreat to after a day at work. The work is always here, in some way in your living space. We’ve all had to reconcile with this but with gratitude that we’ve still been able to support individuals, the privilege of being able to work from home and with the support and insight the ALLIANCE has to offer. We are a truly person-centered programme bringing the value of flexibility and relationships to the role, so of course as lockdown has started easing, that person-centered approach also applies to us as a staff team. I remember back to March when I was anxious to get lockdown started weeks before it officially happened. Others were still processing the pandemic and what it would mean. At the other end of these four months I’ve been desperate to get back into some semblance of normality with work so it was agreed in conjunction with my practice and our amazing Links manager Roseann that I could start back in surgery two days per week. Initially, this will still only involve telephone contact and working with the practice team to start looking at walk-and-talk meets with individuals I’ve worked with for some time and those I’ve yet to meet face to face. I’m very fortunate to be within walking distance from my practice, have my own room and ability to socially distance easily in the building. Not to mention Glasgow Green being a five minute stroll behind the building. Some differences are again being highlighted, in terms of space available in practices to house CLP’s, how dynamic risk assessments will vary practice to practice, our ability to safely get to work given distance and access to travel options or a car, and at a personal level around how we all feel coming out into the world again. Some of us, like me, are keen to get back into surgery, some would love to but can’t yet be housed safely and others have adapted so well to home working they aren’t sure about coming back yet at all or feel anxious about the risk still posed by COVID-19 when we know it hasn’t yet gone away.
At the weekend I met with two other CLP colleagues and friends in a beer garden. One being super excited to be socialising again and the other requiring some encouragement and support to leave their neck of the woods for the first time and traverse ordering drinks and using a public toilet. There was a lot of laughter, patience, and support for each other with where we’re at and where we might yet find ourselves. There is no right response. We did discuss finding balance in these new times, weighing up how to manage our physical health and mental health with work and family/social lives. I’ll give you a very personal example: my Dad has COPD and his health and wellbeing had been on an upwards turn due to his new confidence in self-managing this condition and the Singing for Breathing group he had been attending. Initially he had found a stride in lockdown, playing his guitar, keeping in touch with other members of the singing group and cycling around Italy and Scotland via YouTube videos on his exercise bike. As the months rolled on we could all hear how wheezy he was becoming again, we had a distanced walk and my siblings’ and I were worried. The next time we met he sounded so much better and his mood had definitely lifted. That little bit of family contact I have no doubt made the difference. Yes, it’s still risky for him and the anxiety won’t go away any time soon but the impact face to face social contact can have on our physical health and positive mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated.