22 May 2020

The current coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered daily lives for people across the world. 

Offices and workplaces have emptied as people have stayed at home to work remotely. Within the NHS, there are many roles that cannot be done from home, or are much more difficult when not based on site.

This has meant that some staff needing to temporarily self-isolate or shield longer-term have had to alter their usual job role to support the organisation during COVID-19. 

We all deal with periods of huge change in different ways and there is no ‘correct’ reaction. 

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week – this year’s theme is kindness - we caught up with a few of our staff and found out what techniques they have been using to cope with the dramatic changes in their professional lives.

Aman Coonar, Thoracic Surgeon 

After a week back in March with three days operating and several days on call, I was informed that I needed to isolate. This left me with a sense of guilt and it was a wrench not to be in work. 

This is what I have done to help:

• Stick to a routine.
• Use group video calls as a way of keeping in touch and a sense of togetherness.
• Find a way to try and make a difference where you can. For example I am supporting a daily email bulletin that gets sent round to clinical staff by reading a lot of research and setting up the COVIDSURG-CANCER study, which is looking into cancer surgery during the coronavirus outbreak.  
• Take breaks.

Anna Pearman, Risk Manager

My concentration and enthusiasm has swung back and forth. I have set up my new garden (including painting my shed) and walk around it every couple of hours. 

I downloaded the ‘Calm’ app, which has extremely useful techniques such as meditation, sleep stories, and calm music. I have also got an app called ‘Map My Walk’. I have been walking before and after work to reduce my tension. 

I keep in regular contact with my team including sharing with them how I feel. 

Then there is making sure I have the correct working environment, so I have bought an office chair to ensure that I sit correctly and I also put the radio on so it’s not so quiet. 

Julie Quigley, Nurse Consultant – Advanced Practice

I have been working from home since the beginning of March and so it has been a huge change and one that I have taken a bit of time to master. 

Things that have worked for me are;

• Have a routine. I get up and ready for work and aim to be in front of the computer with a cup of tea at 09:00.
• I have clearly listed the things I need to do and given them a priority.
• I have kept a list of tasks I have completed.
• I have kept in touch with my line manager on a weekly basis so that I have the opportunity to discuss things and any concerns I might have but also to hear what is going on within the hospital.
• I have read all of the emails and daily updates to keep me informed of issues.
• I try to ensure I have regular breaks from the computer. This has been the biggest difficulty as time just goes when you are busy doing work.  
• It is really important to structure your days including when you will have a break and when you will finish. Having a finish time is very important and be strict with yourself; it can be hard to switch off when your work is your home.
• I try to get out in the garden each day and on one of my work days I walk the dog at lunch time which is really nice and helps to enforce a proper break at lunch.
• The isolation is quite difficult so I have organised regular calls with colleagues with whom I work. This ensures a friendly voice, reassurance and also someone to discuss things with.
• I have found that I can be very productive and can work very effectively at home.  I have used a range of software to keep in touch and discuss work related projects.
• I have even found out how to share and work on documents within Microsoft Teams which has been brilliant; it minimises duplication and allows the ability to discuss and create shared documents.

Ultimately, be kind to yourself.

It is strange and sometimes hard working from home and isolated from all your colleagues but I have tried to enjoy the benefits: flexibility; autonomy; personal governance; a lie in (no traffic queues on the A14!); refillable cups of tea; and the ability to actually make sure I stop for lunch each day. 

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