On the 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street:

“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home. You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No. You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home”. Reading those words catapults me back to watching Boris crammed on the sofa with my immediate family. As Boris spoke, I experienced a feeling I had never felt in my lifetime, a feeling of inner panic, of utter fear for our present and future lives. My sons aged 18, 14 and 4 were all due to start in September; University, boarding school and reception respectively, but before I could even process the conveyer belt of questions that kept coming, the immediate issue of how to source and stockpile enough loo roll, pasta and Mini Magnum’s, required a priority solution. I had experienced working from home before, but only for days when the plumber or Sky TV man was due, necessity rather than well-being. Those days were so much calmer than the daily commute into the city.  The house would be blissfully quiet, and I could even put the washing on, and listen to the radio whilst working. I recall standing in the kitchen, exhausted, with tears flowing feeling utterly helpless and devoid of answers as to how we would plan, organise and function as a family. My eldest son, clearly of a generation where nothing is a big deal, stood and delivered words of comfort and wisdom way ahead of his years, in that we would be totally fine. That ‘we’ as a family would deal with it together, we would all muck in with keeping our 4yr old learning and entertained and that worrying would only make me sick.  Quite the grown-up. An extra layer of complexity was that I had started my new role with TCfIL in February before lockdown was announced, so my onboarding experience was cut short, and as a business we quickly moved to daily morning meetings, crafting our plan to keep trading through, what-ever this was and for how-ever it lasted. As the year progressed, the sun shone pulling everyone up and keeping us all smiling.  We watched the virus cases increase; the world being gradually engulfed with Covid, and we stood outside the house every Thursday with a pan and wooden spoon. More tears…

On reflection, juggling home schooling, the well-being of the boys and my work was the most challenging of times I believe I have ever experienced. I began to feel I was moving to the fringes of exclusion within my work, being the only team member with young children, I edited myself to appease all. Longer working hours, working weekends, another non-working day given up, saying yes, I can take that, no problem (all the time), it went on and on. Considering we are a company whose mission is to support workplace inclusion; the irony was palpable.  I had a choice, and that was to exercise everything I was learning from my incredible team-mates and manage my own inclusion.  To trust others with sharing the reality of my situation, and to stress test that I truly worked in a psychologically safe environment, thus enabling me to say, “I need to raise my hand here, and press pause”. (Whilst trying to control the almost daily tears!) Life moves on.  19 months after Boris addressed the nation, I am still to meet my “new” team colleagues in person.  Daily, hourly Zooms calls are as normal now as sending text messages and using hand sanitiser. We can almost see, smell and taste ‘Freedom Day’, but I am sure I am not alone in feeling trepidation and anxiety as to how that will realistically look.  My children are fine, better than fine, happy, un-scathed and looking forward to their school holidays. Being truly honest with myself (now that was hard and still is), being able to communicate openly my fears and anxieties and to discuss our personal boundaries with people who genuinely want to listen and care, gave me the strength to get up every morning and think with positive intent. We have all had to learn to listen(cleanly!), agree to disagree and pick ourselves up when we made the wrong decisions. Laughing till my sides ache, being able to cry when I felt exposed, and many days not wanting to smile at all let alone on a zoom call but then feeling appreciated are why I feel so very blessed to have the most incredible (at present) ‘remote’ team colleagues.