It’s Week Two of officially working from home. With rumours of an imminent lockdown in London, the reality of the pandemic and of our new working from home lives is setting in. My working day remains quite similar, but I realise that I’ve yet to make the most of the time I used to spend commuting or drawn up one of those the fun schedules that I see some children and their parents have created.
At work, we go ahead with our three-hour workshop with the Social Change Agency about a great new programme of work we’re developing called Care Labs. Of course, we hold the session online (via Microsoft Teams) rather than in one of our office. There are some advantages – such as more time to generate ideas without interruptions – but some disadvantages too. For extroverts like me, I don’t get to bounce my ideas off others as easily.
My colleague CJ and I have a telephonic planning meeting about our new website (to be revealed to the world in the coming weeks) and refresh our branding (ditto!). Again, there are pros and cons of working together in a socially distanced way. I already miss being able to nip out to Prêt or a local café for a meeting over coffee. Luckily, when it comes to this project, a great deal of the work has already been done and what’s left to do – bits of writing, editing, picture research – is well-suited to a home office environment.
In the evenings, I spend a bit of time talking to charity colleagues who are worried about the future of the sector. Many charities have had their fundraising income slashed overnight – charity shops have had to close their doors because of the coronavirus, events like the London Marathon which are important sources of fundraising income for many charities are now postponed or cancelled and, for the lucky few with reserves or endowments, investments have been knocked by the tumultuous financial markets.
There’s more in the news today about the need for schemes to support charities so that they can in turn help vulnerable groups to survive in this crisis. Clearly, civil society has a crucial role to play right now as well as afterwards when we are picking up the pieces. That’s why it’s so important that the Government steps in to support charities before it’s too late.
Locally, I hear of foodbanks, homeless organisations and groups like Age UK stepping up to work with the communities they serve. Many are struggling because a lot of their experienced volunteers are elderly or in at-risk groups and have had to retreat to the safety of their homes. Fortunately, so many volunteers are coming forward. It’s hard to heartening to see the willingness and generosity of my neighbours who are joining the many Facebook and WhatsApp groups springing up to provide mutual aid.
I realise that death and dying are not only on everyone’s minds but on our lips too. It’s being discussed on social media and on news broadcasts. I have a few personal conversations too, with family and friends, about wills and final wishes… Fortunately, there is lots of good advice out there. Hospices and those involved in palliative care are all well placed to teach us about having these tricky convos, as I know from the time I spent working for Hospice UK. Their annual Dying Matters week, with its #BeforeTheirTime slogan, is likely to be their biggest ever.
At work, we have a meeting to discuss an event we’ve been planning with a partner organisation. We agree to reframe the topic in the context of Covid-19 and decide to hold it as an online panel discussion rather than as a physical event. It’s exciting to see how quickly organisations can adapt and adjust their plans to these new circumstances. I imagine, many things we’ve taken for granted – like in-person events — will be changed forever after this pandemic is over.
I make it out for a walk to a favourite park at the end of the day and enjoy the tiny spring buds and the breeze. The #NaturalHealthService hashtag is very apt.
At 8pm, like everyone else across the country, I open our front door and join in the clapping for the NHS and other frontline workers.
Microsoft Team messages and WhatsApp chatter ping back and forth and I realise that my colleagues and I are probably communicating better with each other now than before. The fact that we are dispersed and all dealing with this extraordinary context has brought us closer together in some ways. Perhaps the new channels we’re using (videocalls rather than conference calls or our new WhatsApp group) has helped. Or perhaps we are being more conscious about how we communicate, checking that we have understood each other or being more sensitive about the differing pressures we face – whether home schooling kids, living in a cramped flat or worrying about an older relative.
Today I finally manage to do a 20-minute yoga class at lunchtime – following a YouTube class with friends and then to catch up briefly on Zoom for a chat. I haven’t yet drawn up an old school schedule with coloured pens and breaks for snacks… but it’s a start.
I’m learning lots about the power of data and tech to drive innovation in a crisis. (Follow my colleague Annemarie @CommonFutrs Naylor on Twitter for some interesting examples and commentary on this). Professionally, I’m also seeing how emotional intelligence and empathy is more important than ever. Not only is it an essential part of building and working in a team in such a fast-evolving, often frightening context, but it’s also fundamental to getting the tone right in external communications.
Although Friday nights aren’t quite what they used to be, downtime with my husband is more important than ever. So signing off now. Happy weekend, everyone!