I used to regularly work from home one day a week. I’m currently working from home every day of the week, apart from the odd trip to one of the Involvement Centres to check post and the building. As with the majority of the country, I’m adhering to the social distancing guidelines and staying at home.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been amazed at how our team has just adapted to take the physical distance between us in our stride, we’ve quickly looked at how we can adapt to make sure that we’re still supporting services and volunteers as best we can, as well as adapting daily to the changing information and guidance from the “powers that be”. This wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant support that has been provided by our IT Services. As with many of our services, they’ve been working so hard in the background to make sure everything is up and running.

As a team, we’re looking at how we can support services in the short term, as well as the long term development of Involvement, Experience & Volunteering, very likely using slightly different methods to before.

Regarding our volunteering community, we’re creating weekly update newsletters to send out to volunteers which has in all the usual news that we’d include in the Volunteer Opportunity Meetings at the Involvement Centres. It can be difficult suddenly being distant from something that you’re usually quite involved in, and it’s important that they’re assured of what we’re doing and how our services are running. We’re still staffing the phones and have our mobiles and emails, so we’re pretty contactable and are keeping in touch with people as best we can.

We’ve been waiting to hear more about the national volunteer scheme announced by the Government and how they’re deploying volunteers to try and make sure our response is co-ordinated with them and no-one’s duplicating the work of the other. Their information was out this week, so we’re now working on how we can use our existing volunteers who are able to redeploy to roles within our Trust, being responsive to the requests from our services. I find I’m having to remind myself that this is a marathon, something that’s happening and will be impacting us for months, not for days. It’s important to make sure we’re preparing to see this through and taking some time to assess before acting is a sensible thing to do.

Meanwhile, my partner’s also working from home and from day one, we’ve set up a routine and working spaces to help us try and distinguish our “work time” from our “free time”. We’re trying to stay on top of chores to keep our communal spaces clear from the clutter that happens daily. Into our routine, we’ve also tried to build space for “play time” with our son. We’ve made cardboard boxes into pirate ships, built secret headquarters for his toy robots and have baked biscuits, to name a few activities. As I’m sure with how most people are feeling, it’s not easy, we’ve all had our anxious moments and our frustrated moments but thankfully quite a few funny moments too.

In the time I’ve saved on my daily commute, I’ve started to get out in the garden more. Although I’m not the most green fingered person, I’m hoping to do the Rosewood gardeners proud with some fruit and vegetables I’m growing, and I’m incredibly grateful for the advice they’re giving me by text on what I should (and mostly shouldn’t) be doing! My usual sports groups have moved over to video lessons, which has helped keep me active and I’m trying to get out for some fresh air and walk each day. I’ve also been keeping in touch with friends and family using video chats and have even successfully pulled off a board game night over video call by making a filming rig secured with a lot of gaffa tape!

I’ve found the last couple of weeks a little frustrating, if I’m honest. I’ve worked my entire career in the public sector and only the last three years in this role haven’t been on the “front line”. I’m used to running towards the crisis and being hands on, rather than being behind the scenes co-ordinating. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, as if I could do something more. I think it’s easy to forget about how small actions can make a big difference. I’m not making the sacrifices that many of our country’s front line workers are making, but I can support their efforts by making sure I follow the guidelines and by doing small things to help others. I can send messages to friends, family and colleagues to check in with how they’re doing to lift their spirits a little. I can help try and get our volunteers safely back into services to support what the staff are doing and improve the experiences of our patients. I can help adapt how we involve people in service change to make sure they’re still being heard.

We can all try and keep things running in the background so that when this settles down, we can resume, I would say back to normal, but I hope better than before. I hope that we keep the innovation and brilliant ideas that arise from this adversity. I think the next few weeks and months will bring challenges, some of which we probably can’t predict yet. I remain optimistic we’ll be able to overcome them and grow as a result.

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