Many of us will be going back to working from home this week, after a Christmas and New Year festive break. Others will be on the front line and have hardly had a break at all, and I am so thankful for the many people who are living and working sacrificially to help us all.
I’m not here to offer any sector or service specific advice, but I’m just writing as I encounter life, and want to share my insights, learning and encouragements with you.
In the UK, we are under Government Lockdown apart from certain ‘exemptions’. We should stay at home unless it’s absolutely essential to do otherwise. However, not all employers take this seriously or seriously enough. Some managers allow their pride to dictate how they are going to present things to their staff. And if you are finding yourself feeling stressed because your employer is asking you to do things you feel uncomfortable about, or that make you feel unsafe or that you are going against governmental advice or putting yourself or others at risk in this pandemic, then take a step back and remind yourself that your boss isn’t the ultimate authority in this situation, or in any situation.
It will be difficult for some of you where in the employment setting the buck does stop with your boss. I’ve been in those difficult situations in the past when I was a young, fresh graduate and didn’t know much about the world of work and found myself working in an organisation that didn’t have an HR team, or HR officer….. at all. It turned out the boss bent certain rules to his advantage, and being timid, shy, scared and not knowing my rights I was a bit of a walk over and I wasn’t treated or paid well. Said boss turned out to be a bit let’s just say ‘bossy’ towards the end, and with him being the head of the organisation that was a tough place to be. However, as an employee you do have rights and perhaps depending on the part of the world you are in and the sector you work for joining a union might help.
Since then, I’ve been blessed to work in an organisation that despite its faults does have a proper HR structure, therefore no boss can call all the shots. It took a good few years for me to realise this. My first couple of bosses in this organisation were lovely, kind women. My bosses changed due to changing structures in teams and so the second lovely boss with whom I’m still friends never caused me any issues. We got on great and she didn’t ‘lord it over’ other people. She was merely first among equals and treated us with respect.
After that she retired and my next boss was a bully, and someone I don’t want to spend many sentences writing about. It caused a lot of distress to myself and others and I thought I had no alternative but to just try to suffer through things myself. Everything went through her, even things she should have and said would go to HR through. I suffered and others around me suffered until one day I was having a coffee after work with my boss / friend who retired and she told me that what my new boss was doing was out of order, unethical and that I should join a union.
I realise that this is not for everyone, but it has been such a blessing in my working life, especially as I needed to get reasonable adjustments for health conditions, and was being made to suffer, jump through hoops and denied fair treatment until I did join a union. Even after joining a union the amount of bureaucracy with the employers was just plain sad. For people asking for the smallest, simplest of things, the bosses with their egos wanted to put up so many obstacles and make their employees miserable. I am thankful that my True Boss, My King of kings and Lord of lords Whose servant I am is Jesus Christ – The Servant King who Loves and cares for those who are His.
I found a couple of great advocates and representatives with my union and even this week I’ve been able to reach out to one of them to ask advice because of things I feel I’m being called upon to do in terms of work that I don’t feel comfortable with in light of the government stay at home order.
So whatever situation you find yourself in if you are employed externally, remind yourself that you deserve to be heard, treated with respect and that you have employee responsibilities, but you also have rights. Especially with everything going on with the coronavirus you may be more likely to find information and advocacy support as there will be others in the same boat as you. Know that you’re not alone, and that there are options, even if it takes a bit of hard work, perseverance and researching information for you to get to a better and safer place.
I think back to my coffee with my lovely retired boss and the chance conversation that actually was a game changer for me. Join the union, she advised, and I did and it has helped me so much.
Maybe that’s not the right route for you, but perhaps think of this blog post as a coffee and cake with a friend (me 🙂 ) who is telling you, reminding you that you have options, you have every right not to be bullied or to be made to go against government safety advice in the pandemic and that there are people out there who will advocate for you and support you.
Maybe there is a citizens advice bureau or similar that you can talk to if you don’t want to go down the union route, or if it’s not for you in your personal situation, your sector or industry.
Maybe there is a trusted friend or family member that you can bounce ideas off.
Maybe there are advice and information pages you can read up on online.
Just know that you are not trapped, and that there are options for you as you move forwards. It can be hard to stand up for ourselves sometimes, so don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of advocacy and support and help if you need to.
I’ve written about managing our news intake in the pandemic, before. I remember writing a post around March 2020 on this, and perhaps I’ve also mentioned it in subsequent posts. I think it is actually helpful for us to be reminded of key themes as we continue on this journey, especially at key points in the calendar.
I’m revisiting the idea of managing news intake so that we stay informed but don’t become overwhelmed by it all, because we’ve crossed over from the Christmas holiday and new year festive season to being in that ‘new year, new start’ mode.
Some of you may not have had a break from work. My special thanks, gratitude and appreciation goes out to all of you who are front line workers. Some of you may be full time bloggers so perhaps you’ve not had to shift gears or mindsets so much. I personally blog as a ‘hobby’ (although, who knows in pandemic times it may be something I’ll have to look into at some point in making it a ‘side hustle’ but for the moment it’s all done in my own time and I don’t earn anything from it). I have a full time job wherein in ‘normal’ times I’d be heading back to the office, but for the time being I’m (thankfully) working from home.
Yet, at this time of year I need to keep on top of what is going on in the news at least on a local level. I may need to pick up a work laptop soon, I may need to travel in and make arrangements for that, and there had been talk previously of working part time in the office, which I am not keen on myself, but I still need to stay informed with what my employer and what the government are saying.
Perhaps you also are shifting gears mentally as we make our way through the first month of this new year. It always takes a bit of getting used to. Maybe at this time you will have to engage a bit more with the outside world for your job, or if you need to take your kids to school and so forth. Maybe you’ve started upping your news intake.
It’s good and important and perhaps vital in times like this to stay informed of what the pandemic situation is, however, we need to maintain a healthy balance between that and protecting our mental and emotional health.
It can become all too easy to become caught up in things and to jump from one news story to another, allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed and emotionally burdened by it all.
So this is just a friendly reminder to you to hold things in a balance. Keep informed but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into over checking the news because it does impact you whether you realise it or not.
Take care of yourself, remember your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, and seek to be informed in a healthy, balanced and productive way. x
Well, I’ve made it to lunchtime! And I am so glad that I decided to come back to work today, with it being a Friday. A one day working week is the perfect way to ease back into things, and although there are a few people in, it feels like one of the quietest days at work I’ve seen….definitely the quietest day of the year and of the decade so far! 😉
I think the build up and anticipation and taking the first steps into a routine after the holiday season are usually the hardest part of the whole process of going back to work, and once that’s out of the way, everything else seems more ‘doable’ and manageable.
I struggled through the night with this cough, sore throat and cold, but other than a brief ‘coughing fit’ on the train here this morning, I have had quite a pleasant start back to work, especially as things are so quiet. Quiet not just at work, but the streets and train were also void of the usual hustle and bustle of working commuters. Lovely! 🙂
I expect that this will be quite a different scene come Monday, with those who took the extra day off coming in all at once, which is why I and the others who have come in today will be appreciating this much gentler start to the new working year. With it being so quiet, people have pretty much just kept to themselves, and I’ve had a couple of chats to colleagues who I hadn’t seen in a while, but a quiet day allows everyone to get the tiredness, grumpiness and adjustments out of the way with as little fuss as possible, to have an easy start as we go through our inboxes, remind ourselves of our tasks and begin preparing for the next full week ahead, without all the ‘new year’ madness that will likely ensue when there will be far more people in, most likely grumbling about being back at work.
I’m pleased to say that I remembered my password, and that my ‘Welcome back’ email from my 2019 self was extremely helpful, and will probably be even more so next week when I really get into work as I have given myself detailed instructions as to what I’ll be taking forward. I can’t recommend this highly enough; ok, so maybe you don’t have to write to yourself in a ‘Back to the Future’ kind of way, but at least leave yourself helpful notes and instructions as you will inevitably have forgotten the minute details of what you were doing pre-holiday season.
A one day week really does feel like a nice ‘stretch and a warm up’ before the real exercise begins. I don’t envy people who will be starting back on the Monday with the stretch of a whole week ahead and little quiet time to properly adjust. I’d much rather have this gentler start than the extra day at home.
However, on the bright side, for anyone who is starting back to work on Monday, at least you’re ‘in the same boat’ as almost everyone else, and you’ll all be experiencing similar feelings, and so you’ll all be going through the post holiday adjustment at the same time, which may bring about a sense of camaraderie.
This morning I remembered a day years ago when I was sick the day before a job interview (for a job I didn’t get, and probably wouldn’t have been happy in anyway), and it gave me a sense of gratitude and relief that I have a job I enjoy, that I feel settled in, and that gives me a sense of stability in my life. I’m glad to be far from those days post-graduation of job-hunting, interviews, and doing volunteer work and temping in ‘dead end’ unfulfilling jobs to tide me over, while not knowing where I would end up.
It is a good perspective to have to be grateful for the jobs we have when facing those ‘first day back nerves’, or if we feel negative about leaving the holidays behind – because, really many of us are very blessed in having regular employment with fair working conditions and I am thankful for that as I begin a new working year.
Coming back to work also reminds me that there are a lot of ‘niggly’ things that we face on a day to day basis that we need to be careful to keep in perspective and not let them spoil our attitude.
For example, our department pre-Christmas released an organisational structure with everyone’s job titles and grades on it, and of course with me being on holiday today is the first chance for me to see it. Often in my team, because I work well and efficiently, I am given a lot of work to do, and sometimes I am given responsibility to take over work from other colleagues who may have let things slip, and have completed pieces of work for other managers because I am industrious, efficient and work to a high standard. However, the new structure clearly reveals that even though I am often doing more work or being asked to pick up other colleagues work, I am being paid less that those team members. There is a organisational-wide review happening, however, the point I am trying to make is that back at work we may be faced with issues that we had forgotten about, not had to deal with, or been able to take a break from while on holiday.
These issues may not necessarily be to do with working more and to a higher standard while being paid less than colleagues, they may be to do with other things such as team dynamics, communication with managers or staff, who controls the temperature on the heating / air conditioning / thermostat, or whether there is enough space for your lunch in the fridge! It could be anything, and my point is that we need to be careful not to let either these significant or smaller issues take away our peace of mind, or nudge us into having a negative perspective.
It is important to take a step back, take in a deep breath, and remind ourselves that we are more than our work, we are more than what we do or don’t do when we rest, and we can’t live our best lives in 2020 if we allow ourselves to fall into the comparison trap.
I’m reminded of how Jesus said to Peter, ‘what is it to you?’ when he was concerned with John’s situation in comparison with his, as they talked and ate after Christ’s resurrection. And it is good to remind myself that I am working for The LORD and not for man, and that humility and gratitude is a good starting point for continuing on this walk with Him, knowing that He will grant wisdom in every circumstance that I will face.
So no matter what you believe, remember that you will be stepping into an environment where your inner responses will be challenged. Be mindful of this and gird yourself with the determination to walk through 2020 with gratitude, grace, dignity, respect, diligence, positivity, good humour and excellence.
As they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.
So go out there, and make a difference for the better, and remember just to take it one step at a time! 🙂 x
It’s 2020, and this sounds like it should be the year of perfect vision, it has a sense of wholeness when we say it, and seems even a bit ‘futuristic’.
That aside, any New Year brings with it a sense of new expectations and this can be both exciting and challenging.
In this blog post, I’m going to explore some of the expectations we place upon ourselves, and walk you through some of the ways we could approach a new year in a more gentle way that helps us adjust to life with the changing of the seasons and in a way that is better for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Different cultures may celebrate new year at different points, however, in a globalised world we generally note the 1st of January as the start of the new calendar.
And yet, at least in my part of the world, we are still in that period of winter well before spring has begun to show, and so our bodies and minds may continue to be more inclined to the state of hibernation than to that of springing up with new ideas, plans and activities. However, there remains the external and internal ‘pressures’ that now is the time to make a change, to be new, to start afresh, to be better, to get those goals, dreams and plans in motion and to live our best lives.
Some people say that January is a month where a couple of weeks in, people begin to feel low, depressed and to experience the ‘January blues’, when the festive celebrations of Christmas and New Year have passed, the new year resolutions have dwindled away after 2 weeks of trying to make a sudden change and when the weather is still gloomy and spring and summer are just a little too far out of reach to be excited about. We’re mostly all back at work or back in a routine of some sort, and the big and exciting changes haven’t really happened and so we are left with an anti-climax and perhaps even the seasonal low moods of wintertime.
January 2nd for me:
As I write, I have returned back to my own flat after time away during December. I finished work on the evening of Friday 6th December (see that post for ideas of ‘wrapping up’ at work before a holiday), spent the next few days tidying, organising and decorating my flat to make it lovely and cosy for Christmas, after which I packed for a trip to Germany’s Black Forest and to France to see the Strasbourg Christmas markets. On return, I unpacked, washed my clothes, reorganised, tidied etc, had a bit of cosy time at home, went to church to celebrate the Birth of Christ with my church ‘family’, and then packed all over again to spend the next week and a half at my parents’ house with my family for Christmas and New Year.
The next ten days were spent with my family, cosied up inside, enjoying celebrations of Christmas, birthdays, New Year and an anniversary. This involved being looked after by my lovely mum, eating good food, playing music on my violin, family time playing games, quizzes, and even having fun with balloons, napping in the afternoons, reading my Bible, decorating my room, chilling out, laughing, relaxing, a couple of walks in the garden, a short and chilly new year’s eve walk at the beach, board games, films, Christmas and birthday cake, and only one day venturing out to see a friend.
The usual routine of work was completely forgotten about, and all in all it was a good time to be indoors and forget about the cold and chilly weather outside and enjoy some family togetherness and the blessings of having a roof over our heads, warm food, a place to sleep, and all the cosy things of the winter season and being at home with loved ones.
Having returned to my flat last night, I have returned, not quite with the energy and enthusiasm to start a new year, but instead with a bad cold, sneezes, a cough and sore throat. This has meant having to get a lot of rest, sleep and to try to look after myself so that I am as fit and healthy as I can be in time for starting back at work tomorrow! It is a good thing that it is a Friday and that I won’t have an entire week as a shock to the system.
Out of hibernation?
At my parents’ home, they have quite a big back garden, and most evenings a little (although much chubbier this winter 🙂 ) fox visits to receive its ‘daily bread’ 🙂 .
Often times there are also squirrels that scamper around the garden. However, while I was there I didn’t see a single squirrel until yesterday or the day before. It seems that they were hibernating for winter, and then all of a sudden two arrived at the same time, bright and breezy, and in a terrible hurry, before disappearing as quick as a flash.
It was an uncommon sight from the past two weeks as it seems that the squirrels had hidden themselves away with the cold and wintery weather.
Can you imagine a little squirrel popping its head tentatively out from behind a tree, wondering whether or not it is time to venture further into the light of day?
I think sometimes we can have that feeling in January, when we know it is time to get back into the routine of things, back to work, back to going out and about, but we’re not quite sure we are ready for it after so much time spent cosying up indoors, and knowing that spring won’t fully spring for at least another month or two.
A gentler pace:
The first month of a new year can be a difficult one to get into our stride. It seems that everyone around us feels the need to hurry up and put the old away and bring in the new. Christmas trees come down, decorations are put away, lists of goals and new year’s resolutions are made, diets and exercise routines are planned, habits are expected to change and we expect that we should be able to charge full steam ahead.
Yet the reality may be that our bodies and minds are still adjusting to the seasonal changes, the circumstantial changes of our lives, and we may be still trying to shake off the wintery coughs and colds that we have picked up.
So, what can we do to ease the transitions? To find a healthier and gentler pace with which to approach change?
One more step along the world I go:
Goals and Resolutions:
Personally, I find that ‘goal setting’ throughout the year (for me, on a monthly basis) to be much more helpful than new year’s resolutions in January, although I love the chance that a new year brings to reflect, to be thankful and to focus on valuable priorities in my life.
Rather than everything having to be a sudden change, I find that I am building upon goals that I have been steadily working upon and refreshing these and maybe incorporating new ones from the lessons I have learned over the past year.
‘Tis (still) the season to be cosy:
Perhaps you live in a sunnier part of the world, but here in Scotland, it is still cold and wintery in January. While many people may be taking their Christmas decorations down and packing them away, I feel no hurry to do so – for me, it’s one of the things that makes the season cosy while the weather is bleak outside. Living in a flat on the 10th floor means that I don’t really need to worry about what other people think, and so I plan to keep my tree and decorations and cosy lighting up for as long into January as my heart desires, to allow me to gradually move from one ‘season’ to the next.
Health and fitness is often at the top of people’s lists at the start of a new calendar year. However, try to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself so that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment. After possibly being indoors for an extended period of time, with potentially lessened activity levels, is it really helpful for your body to go full steam ahead into a brand new exercise routine, or would steady, gradual and committed changes be more beneficial in the long run?
Another thing we have to think about, as I am having to right now, is our bodies’ natural recovery time from seasonal illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. We need to get back into a rhythm of healthier sleep, eating and activity, of drinking plenty of healthy fluids, and giving us time to rest and recover from any sicknesses. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t seem to be able to move full steam ahead into your new year goals. Change can be more effective if it is gradual and consistent – slow and steady can win the race.
Something to look forward to:
Having something to look forward to can be a great incentive and motivation for us to get going. Maybe you have a summer holiday booked in that you can start thinking about, planning for and day dreaming of.
If like me, you don’t have anything planned yet, you could maybe have some things in January that you can schedule in to look forward to. Have things to look forward to but don’t over commit, and allow yourself the room to change your mind.
I have had to decline two separate invitations for tomorrow and the weekend, from friends, as I have only just come down with this cough, cold, and sore throat and know I will need time to rest and recover especially with starting back at work tomorrow.
However, there are things that ‘traditionally’ I know I have to look forward to in January each year – one of which is various music events in my city, and the other is going out for dinner with a couple of good friends, and these plans can be flexible.
Other things to look forward to could be setting time aside, or spontaneously making time to do things we enjoy such as self care, a ‘pamper evening’, watching a film at the weekend, playing an instrument, or getting back into hobbies, reading, or other things that can be done without venturing out into the cold weather.
A time of reflection:
I personally like to take time to reflect on my life, to be thankful, and to prayerfully consider what I have learned, and what I should be focusing on and putting my time into. Just because January the 1st has passed it doesn’t mean that we can’t spend an extended period of time, if so inclined, in personal reflection and preparing our minds and hearts for what is ahead – that way any changes we do set about making or resolving to make will be more personal and meaningful and likelier to last the changing of times and seasons as we progress through life.
Back to work:
Unless you have taken time off in January, it is likely that as with most of us, you will be getting back into some kind of a work routine, whether that involves leaving the comfort of your own home and going outside to your place of work, or working at home, for yourself in some capacity, or flexible working. In any case, it will involve a shift of gears, some changes to your routine, and a different mindset to your holiday mode.
How can we ease this transition? We might not have a lot of time to prepare. Personally, I start work tomorrow, and I hope that with it being a Friday, this in itself will ease the transition back into the routine.
If you have thought ahead, you will have done some preparation before the holidays to ease this transition. I wrote a ‘welcome back’ email to myself before I finished up for the Christmas break, so now although I have forgotten what exactly I was doing, I have a list of specific instructions to get me going and keep me up to speed.
Even if you haven’t been organised before the holidays, you can find ways of making your start back to work more bearable.
Try to get a good night’s sleep.
Know where your staff ID badge for getting into work is, if you use one.
Keep essential things in easy to get to places so that the first morning back at work isn’t chaotic, or one in which you have unnecessary panic. For example, think about things you will definitely need such as money / credit card, house keys, car keys, train or bus pass, etc.
If you are very prepared you might even give yourself a head start by planning your work outfit – I am always impressed with people who manage to do this on a regular basis!
Eat a healthy breakfast, or at least keep money with you so that you can buy something to eat during the day.
Remind yourself of when you need to leave, where you need to be (e.g. if you have any meetings – hopefully not for the first day back), and set an alarm to allow you plenty of time to get ready and be on time (this is something I definitely want and need to work on in the coming year 🙂 ).
If you take medication, put it somewhere easy to access so that you don’t forget in a morning rush.
Keep some positive and uplifting music at hand for you to listen to if you are commuting on public transport so that you can be in a good frame of mind to start your day.
Try to keep a supply of cough and cold remedies handy, because chances are you’re not the only one who has been sick, and at new year people tend to want to wish you a happy new year with a handshake or a hug, so don’t forget to do what you can to avoid falling sick again or passing on your own illnesses.
Remember that if you are starting back at work around the same time as everyone else, then you all will be in a similar situation, so try not to worry about the transition into your daily routine.
First days back are generally more gentle days, reacclimatising yourself, remembering your passwords, checking through emails, and preparing for what you will be working on.
Try not to schedule in too many meetings, if any on your first few days back at work, and as people always say, before you know it, it will feel like you’ve never been away.
Change with the seasons:
Nature has a way of telling us when to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to wake, to spring into action, to adventure. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, have a way of nudging us into action and into rest. So while society may be telling you to do this, that or the other, pay attention to the natural rhythms of life, listen to what your body is telling you, and take action at a pace that is comfortable for you to make long lasting, life affirming changes that will stand the test of time, and not just the first few weeks of January.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, blessed, and spiritually enlightened new year, and a 2020 filled with love, joy, peace, self discovery, Truth and meaning.
Take care, and take the time to live life at a pace that keeps you well and healthy. x