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https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/31/why-self-isolating-should-not-mean-cut-off/

Why 'self-isolating' should not mean 'cut off'

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A great place to work, Health & Wellbeing
Georgia Wood
Georgia Wood

By unfortunate coincidence, I started self-isolating on the day I started a partial secondment at Defra, working on their coronavirus response.

I’m normally quite fit and healthy. I cycle most places, I have two gym memberships and I eat well. I tend to survive winter without having a cold or a cough. So it was a bit of a surprise when I started developing a sore throat and earache on Monday evening, which soon turned into a dry, chesty cough.

I followed the government’s advice and self-isolated immediately. I contacted my significant other, who I’d seen that afternoon, to let him know. I sent messages to my friends that I’d seen over the weekend. I’d been in the office too, so I alerted my line manager via WhatsApp that evening, telling her who I had been in close contact with over the last few working days. 

Once I had got all the practicalities out of the way, it started to hit me that I would not be able to leave the house for seven days. I haven’t been stockpiling food as I tend to have things delivered, like milk from the milkman and organic vegetable boxes from the local greengrocers. I just wish I had kept a small stash of chocolate! 

I am well enough to work, and I do want to work, though I do get tired quite quickly. All of my meetings are now via Google Hangouts and Zoom, meaning I can take part as normal. Both of my teams have check-ins first thing in the morning, where we all share how we’re feeling. My managers also check in with me several times a day to make sure I’m still feeling okay. 

I have had a couple of bad nights' sleep, due to coughing, and everyone has been flexible in moving meetings so that I can have a quick power nap, when needed. I work flexible hours anyway, but it was straight forward to agree to work an augmented working pattern that suits both of my teams.

I am conscious that I can cough a lot when I am on group calls, so I try to go on mute where I can. Sometimes, it has been easier to switch to instant messaging and text messages instead, and a colleague will read my comments out on my behalf. There are definitely ways to make things work so that I can still take part and feel included.

I love how both of my teams are taking the time to make sure that we still socialise with each other and replicate online the interactions we would normally have in the office. There have been several email chains where people have sent words of encouragement to one another, and I’m working with some colleagues to set up a virtual book club – meeting new people and sharing ideas doesn’t have to take place face to face.

When my illness is over and I feel better, I want to be able to pay a lot of the kindness I have received forward. Though it is unpleasant to be ill, I hope that I will be able to help those who have been so kind to me and others.

It’s times like this when I realise that we are more than just the sum of our parts.

If you experience the symptoms of coronavirus Covid-19, be sure to follow the official advice and immediately self-isolate. 

For all those who are working from home there are, as Georgia shows, a variety of ways to keep in touch. And, as she says, this is good not just for keeping you in the loop with your teams, and enabling you to carry on working effectively if you can. It is vital for bolstering a sense of wellbeing and community, and sharing with colleagues, friends and family – by phone and a variety of apps – how you feel.

There’s no reason why self-isolation or working from home should mean being cut off, even if you can’t physically be in the same space with your others. And you will find a wealth of advice and information on your departmental intranets.

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5 comments

  1. Comment by Lesley Harvie posted on

    Great to hear from Georgia whilst dealing with the virus and keeping in contact with her colleagues as well as working. An honest appraisal of the ups as well as the downs. Hope you feel better soon, Georgia.

  2. Comment by AMDear posted on

    Thank you Georgia. You are spot on with not letting yourself be cut-off even when 'isolated', which must be hard when feeling really unwell. I really appreciate my team's positive efforts to keep up their engagement, together and with me, and keep a mental tally of at least one chat every day. Some of our colleagues are really struggling with less-than-ideal workstations conditions at home, often with overlapping pressures of schooling and caring as well.

    • Replies to AMDear>

      Comment by Georgia Wood posted on

      Thank you! It was really important for me to keep in touch with my teams as they really do provide an external life-line. It was my choice to keep going, mainly because I really love my job, but I know that not everyone will be able to do that.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Georgina for sharing with us your experience. I am really glad that you have been able to retain a positive outlook during a time of uncertainty and concern for many.

    Having never previously WFH and someone who has strived to keep my work / home life separate, the first week was mentally challenging. I was was not able to feel settled and I felt that I had broken my promise never to WFH.

    It took me time to draw up a plan and in keeping with the suggestion from Stephen Fry, look not to put too much focus on time. I have used my dog walking duties and TV and radio programmes as my way of having some sort daily routine in place. I always take my lunch break on or around 12 but have tried to keep it natural by aiming to watch Bargain Hunt.

    The IT has been brilliant and my Manager and colleagues are able to communicate with me via Teams and Skype.

    The regular messaging from Senior Management has been useful in being able to retain some sense of connection with the organisation.

    It has also been beneficial in that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a highly active Wellbeing Network.

  4. Comment by Terry Wiggins posted on

    Great blog Georgia. I have been fortunate that I work for the GPA who have been developing methods for smarter working including working from home. I have to agree that the technology we have has been key to making sure we all still feel connected. I have been able to regularly meet with my team and continue to feel linked up although all my team is across the UK.