A guest blog by Sara Bradbury
This week, we’re delighted to share a guest blog written for Incendo by Sara Bradbury, Director of Operations at Enham Trust. As a charity, Enham Trust has been supporting disabled people for 100 years, pioneering care, housing and employment opportunities; they believe in creating a world where disabled people are given the same choices and access as everybody else. www.enhamtrust.org.uk
The last few weeks have been some of the hardest of my working career so far and believe me I’ve had some stressful ones in the past. I’m normally someone who thrives on stress and pressure, often working at my best in those times and enjoy leading and supporting others through challenging situations, but boy I’ve never faced anything like what COVID-19 has thrown at me and my colleagues.
The speed at which this hit us was unreal, it feels like only yesterday I was joking with a colleague about having to order in some face masks… if only we knew what we would soon be facing. It wasn’t long before the reality dawned that we would have to start shutting down some of our services, most of which fall within my remit. I was forced to face decisions which were tough – really tough -knowing that our actions would have an immeasurable impact on many vulnerable people, their everyday lives, their livelihoods, their friends, their finances and their mental health. These were decisions that made me feel pressure and anxiety like I’d never felt before. I’ve never been someone who suffers with anxiety and I’ve even struggled to relate to anyone who did. Well, now I most certainly can. I found myself on virtual meetings unable to think, unable to talk, with emotions bubbling up inside, not knowing what the right thing was to do and feeling completely powerless and out of control. Those that know me know that I like to be in control; I like to work in a planned, organised and measured way… everything that this was not.
On top of those feelings, I faced a situation that I’d normally be quite happy with. Being an introvert, working from home is normally my favourite day of the week, yet now it was my worst. Initially I felt alone, but quickly realised that just because I wasn’t in the same office as my colleagues it didn’t mean I was alone. I’ve come to notice that I am actually a people person, when I always tell others that I’m not. I might be an introvert but give me a smiley face virtually on my screen or a friendly voice and I’m happy. I’ve found myself stepping away from my emails and favouring a conversation; that said, virtual meetings one after the other are tiring… really tiring! So, being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t need to be surrounded by people, I clearly do (well… sometimes anyway).
On top of all of this, the schools closed and we went into lockdown, and suddenly I’m faced with a new job, that of being a teacher too. This was – and remains – a daunting challenge, but one which we’ve embraced as a family in the only way we know – with a list! We’ve drawn up a timetable, the children know what to expect when, they have workbooks, education apps, even PE slots and home economics (aka cooking dinner!). Thankfully I’m one of the lucky ones, my children are academic and love to learn, and are happy with self-learning whilst Daddy and I work away at our desks. But juggling virtual meetings and work, between listening to reading, helping with maths and setting up virtual piano lessons is a challenge and will remain so. But it’s one that I’m determined to make fun.
Now we are into a flow of this temporary normal, my mind switches to the future, with questions like: “What is going to happen at the end of this?” and “Is it OK to feel excited?”. I promise myself I will use this time to plan, think about change, invest time into strategy and all the things I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.
Let’s look forward to this crisis being over and focus on the good that can come from it. For me personally, it’s been yet another development opportunity; I’ve learnt about myself and others, all positives which will make me a better director, leader, mother, wife and friend.