Stepping Out Into The New Normal – A Colleague Perspective

Submitted by Amelia O'Hanlon | 05/08/2020

It’s been over three months since the doors of our offices closed and many colleagues began working from home. The moment our Government announced on 17 July 2020 that businesses could decide on whether colleagues could return to the workplace, we were ready to bring non-furloughed colleagues into offices safely as a phrased return.

Whilst many of our colleagues will be eager to finally get out of their house, a good number of people will be feeling anxious. We heard from Karen Burrowes, Associate Director – Operations, on her time away from the office, how she felt about returning and what her first day back in the office was like.

“So this week I stepped out of my isolation bubble… (Now just to be clear, I’m not talking an isolation bubble due to shielding or due to anything of major concern), but more so a mental bubble that I hadn’t realised existed after three months of working at home.

These last three months WFH have been busy, fast-paced and a huge learning curve, as we have all navigated our way towards consistently putting our people first and focussing on new solutions within ever-changing guidelines that ensure our colleagues stay safe, whilst our clients have continuity in service in the safest way possible each and every day.

Daily calls with the board, our senior team, and the wider leadership team have left me in awe that we are part of a business whom truly wants to safely make a difference and it’s been so incredibly inspiring. Whilst every single day of working from home has been as fast-paced as ever and has involved speaking with my awesome colleagues daily on teams and video chats, I also hadn’t realised that as somebody who lives alone I was potentially becoming quite reliant on my ‘at home bubble’ and becoming quite distanced from the ‘real’ world outside of the faces and voices I saw and heard each day on my laptop.

I found myself realising that the less you physically see people the harder it can be to step back out into the real world and confidently interact. The four walls of the office in my spare room had inadvertently begun to feel like a safe place from all of the craziness happening outside in the real world.

Every day my amazing colleagues would ask me how I’m doing, “how are you getting on?” and I always said “yep, I’m good” and I always meant it; I was excited about making a difference with our teams.

But.. it was only when the announcement from the government regarding returning to work safely in August was aired that I realised I was apprehensive. Not because I didn’t feel safe; I’ve been lucky enough to hear and see everything that our incredible HSQE team has done to not only meet the guidelines around returning to work safely, but to massively exceed them, and have watched them provide so much reassurance to our staff around everything in place ensuring safety always comes first.

My apprehension came from the realisation that I hadn’t physically interacted in my professional world with people for three months. For three whole months.

I had thoughts of how will my commute be? How will it feel seeing people again? Will I seem different? Amongst many others.

So.. I sat and I reflected.. and I decided to take the leap. I knew I needed to pop my ‘at home bubble’. I needed to just try and see.

So, my alarm went off this week after deciding to go into HQ.. I woke up half an hour before it, with a feeling I can only relate to that of which I felt when I started ‘big school’ (too many) decades ago!

My commute.. well it was more than fine.. ! Driving in, and listening to my usual radio station, started to pluck at the heartstrings of my happy pre-covid-19 routine.. and it felt good.. exciting actually.. a reminder of normal life before the last few months unfolded.

I parked up, and entered the office, stopping off at all of the designated cleaning stations before each new set of doors, to sanitise my hands and to ensure I was doing my part to keep myself safe and those too that I was about to see. (This whole process in itself was hugely comforting, a constant reminder of the lengths our business has gone to, to be safe and ensure we all stay healthy).

I then stepped into the office, (our office which is currently only open for staff via a controlled pre-book in register to ensure social distancing can always be achieved and that we don’t exceed staff capacity to ensure safe working).

I went straight to my assigned desk, got set up.. And finally looked up..

Immediately, my apprehension turned into a new feeling of happiness, of massive relief and genuine admiration, for each and every smiley face that I had not seen since March, looking back at me and waving. Within an instant, I felt like the old me again, I’d so missed this environment, my colleagues, these awesome people who have been a part of my weekday life for so long.

The point of this incredibly long story, (thank you for reading thus far if you have stayed with me), is for those of you whom may be feeling anxious about your return to work, for those of you who have created a bubble of security at home or who are nervous about a new normal, I just needed to share with you; it’s so very normal to feel that very way, so please don’t be hard on yourself as a result.

That first step out of the door when the time comes to start your return may feel daunting, but equally, I promise you, you have the opportunity to feel like you again, and to enjoy all that you have been without these last few months.

It will be ok.

Find the old you, in this new normal. because It feels pretty bloomin’ awesome actually 😊”.

We’re thrilled to have welcomed Karen back. The safety of our colleagues and clients is our number one priority. We’ve made sure that any changes to our offices are made in line with Government guidelines. You can read about Vertas Group Limited’s safety commitment here.

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