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A new pandemic language has emerged in this last year, in the supermarket, on social media and in the news.

We are all on the same ship but not on the same journey’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘new normal’, ‘stay safe’, ‘essential and non-essential’, ‘daily number of deaths’, ‘don’t go out’, ‘wash your hands’ and now… ‘Have you had your jab?’ Meanwhile, hospitals have at times been full, supermarket shelves have at times been empty, we have been warned not to touch anything, we have been required not to see our loved ones for long periods, much less hug anyone. And everybody has been forever Zooming.

After a year of not seeing people, of feeling unsafe in what were previously safe places, of washing our hands red raw, of unusual sleep patterns, perhaps of feeling that we were being held prisoner in our own homes, and even experiencing the loss of loved ones, we are being encouraged to go back to work. For some people, this is ok. We hear their indignant cry of ‘We have been working all along!’

New Start has supported young people and adults throughout the pandemic, offering a therapeutic service to schools and businesses.

Pre-COVID, our service predominantly focused on supporting young people. Over this past year, we have undergone many transitions as both the business and our clients have successively adjusted to the ups, downs and sideways shifts of the pandemic.

What we are now seeing are people who have been living for over a year through their screens on Teams, Zoom and Facetime being asked to adjust to a changing world yet again. Many haven’t seen ‘A real person’ since the first lockdown, many who have lived through a very real period of isolation, many of whom have been lonely and scared.

Our Staff Wellbeing and Support Plan offers a safe place to talk about how people are feeling. As we transition out of the pandemic and begin to return to the workplace, we need to be respectful of how the experience during the pandemic has affected people, in so many unique ways.

We are talking to many people for whom going back to work is a huge and daunting prospect. People who are feeling embarrassed about the way they are feeling, too uncomfortable to tell anyone. People are genuinely surprised again by the new form of anxieties that they are feeling as the country slowly re-emerges from multiple lockdowns and exhortations to remain at home. All humans find comfort in routine. We do not do well as a species continually adjusting to dynamic change. Now, once again, we face the prospect of adjusting to new routines. In our experience, this is likely to take time – despite it being thought in simple terms as ‘a return to normal.

If your staff are feeling unsure about returning to work, encourage them to take a look back at the last year; the uncertainties they have successfully navigated, the challenges that they have overcome and the daily changes that they have successfully established.

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