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#UoRWay: One year on... Supporting staff through lockdown

Julie Farwell

In our series of stories on working under lockdown, a volunteer from our Wellbeing Peer Support Network describes some of the most common concerns that have been reported since lockdown began.

A year has now passed since the UK went into the first lockdown in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of us have had to make changes to the way we work and live, both on and off campus. In this series, colleagues from across the University share their stories of working under lockdown over the past 12 months.

Here, we hear from Julie Farwell, Executive Administration Officer and Wellbeing Peer Support Network volunteer.


 

As a member of our Wellbeing Peer Support Network, I act as an informal point of contact for colleagues to reach out to if they are looking for wellbeing support. I'm part of a team of volunteers who have been trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, and can guide colleagues to the most appropriate support services. Everything we do is completely confidential.

Biggest challenges

One of the most common topics I have been approached about has been around productivity. By this I mean either struggling to maintain a normal workload or becoming paranoid about being productive enough. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety also seem to play a significant part in shaping how confident we feel about our work output.  

For some, working from home has actively encouraged negative thoughts about productivity. The biggest reason is that when you're working on your own at home, it becomes much harder to measure your own performance against your colleagues - not in a competitive way, but when you're in regular contact with fellow co-workers, you naturally get a sense of how you measure within your team at any given time.

Another common concern has been around coming back to campus after being away for such a long time. Most of the colleagues I have spoken to during lockdown have reported anxiety about things like adjusting back into office life, being around other people and the general safety of campus while the virus is still out there. Some can't wait to come back, but others have enjoyed the flexibility of home working and so feel apprehensive about ‘returning to normal'.  

Talking through concerns

For colleagues feeling anxious, I recommended setting up a Teams meeting with your line manager or supervisor to talk through your concerns. It can feel a bit scary speaking up at first, but being open and upfront about your concerns is important in finding a way forward. 

If you're not already in touch with the Wellbeing Peer Support Network please do reach out to us. The benefit of the network is that with all being University employees, we ‘get' the culture and so will do our best to relate to your specific situation.

There are also many brilliant resources on the Health and Wellbeing pages, including links to our independent Employee Assistance Programme. 

How could things be better

I am hoping the University will recognise that students and staff are going to find coming back to campus challenging after being away for such a long time. It's going to be really important to offer support and flexibility, and to demonstrate genuine compassion to make people feel better about coming back. Some colleagues may need particular adjustments, and it's important that those needs are respectfully listened to and explored.


 

Share your story

If you'd like to share your own story, please contact studentcomms@reading.ac.uk

You can also share your thoughts on our Padlet board - say a few words to describe your lockdown experience and read reflections from our staff and student communities. 

For more 'One year on...' stories, please visit our #UoRWay page.

If you have been affected by the past year, talk to a friend or take a look at the Student Wellbeing or Staff Wellbeing resources available to you. It's a difficult time and its important to know there is support to help you get through it.

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