Human Connection: Change during COVID

2020, WHAT A YEAR.

Like the rest of world, 2020 felt like a long drawn-out nightmare, which we are only now waking up from. However, I count myself lucky. I have been able to work throughout the pandemic and fill my time up with obligations from home and work. I live with my family, which has been a great bonus, so they can share in my joys and comfort me when I am struggling.

Ah, I forgot to introduce myself. I am a NHS General Management Trainee who joined ASPH’s QI Team in November 2020. Again, I count myself extremely lucky. This transition was difficult, but the QI team have been not only accommodating, but great colleagues who I look forward catching up with each day. This nicely segues onto the main topic of this post: human connection during change.

Moving from a frontline role, with rich relationships with staff and daily chats with patients, to a home-based role with a team who I have not met in person… well it was nothing short of a 180o shift in my lifestyle. I had to change everything; from my work clothes (light blue scrubs to a work top and pyjama bottoms) to how I consume the news in the morning (which is rarely, now), to how I interact and build relationships in the ‘workplace’.

Why did I find this hard? Well, because there is no real handbook for the etiquettes of working from home. This left me having to figure out the answers to some very important questions:

  • What is an acceptable time to take a break?
  • Am I allowed to log off if I have completed everything on my to-do list?
  • Should I keep my hijab (headscarf) on in case there is an impromptu video call?
  • What if I zone out during a meeting and they ask me something?
  • Worse, what if I need to go to the loo during a meeting and the call my name?

Like other human beings around the world, I learn from copying the behaviours of others, especially those that I think are beneficial. Those role models in this case were my Qi colleagues. But how will I learn if we can’t be together? (Can you tell I miss real human contact?)

The solution to relieving my miserable human experience was the Qi team’s candidness, kindness and daily virtual check-ins.  The team had created a virtual workplace, where we could have our office banter and discuss the mundane. It created a safe space where we could openly be our dishevelled selves.

We were allowed to feel tired, after spending hours in front of the screen.

We were allowed to have a moan about having bad days, even though we were at home.

We were allowed to be frustrated, because we missed those corridor conversations which would have made our lives easier.

I appreciate the time in the mornings and afternoons, though I do not say much. They are there to validate our experiences and emotions. They allow us to connect, even when we are not together. After all, we were all human beings, trying our best to do our little bit in the wider spiderweb of the NHS.

If you take anything away from this blog, then be it this.

Your kindness and attention is invaluable.

When you volunteer it to others, in a world where is it easy to be lost within your self, you are doing the greatest service.

I hope you all stay safe and are doing all you can to protect yourselves, your loved ones and those around you. I hope your human connections are stronger than your internet.

Thank you to the QI team for supporting me through what felt like a free-fall into the scary unknown!

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