23 March 2020. Coronavirus causes lockdown in the UK. A date everyone will surely remember for a long time to come.
For me I was nine months into maternity leave and at home with an eight month old baby. So, I followed suit with the rest of the country - I watched Tiger King on Netflix, I baked banana bread, I discovered Zoom and went for more walks than I have ever been on before.
Fast forward to the 2 July 2020 and it’s time to return to work. Gulp. Getting back to work after a year out is hard at the best of times. Add to that the inevitable mum guilt for leaving your tiny human. Throw a global pandemic into the mix too and matters are further complicated.
When returning to work after some time out, you psych yourself up over all sorts of things you think will be an issue. Well I did anyway. Could I actually remember how to do my job? Was I still a functioning adult and not just Matilda’s mum? Would it even be possible to get myself and a baby up and dressed and out the door ready for an 8.00am start in the office?
What I hadn’t prepared myself for was returning to an office that looked like it had been looted. OK, so that might be a slight exaggeration but, of course, whilst I was (for the most part) not hating my lockdown life, I had forgotten that there was still a business to be run here. People needed to be set up to work from home. Equipment which had previously been shared couldn’t be any more. Everything that could be used to help someone work from home had been utilised.
I should point out the majority of the team is still working from home and there are just a handful of us actually in the building. Social distancing measures are in place. The office is littered with sanitiser and Dettol wipes everywhere you turn.
I am lucky; I have a room to myself, so social distancing isn’t hard. But it does mean the job I left last year has changed drastically. A once full and busy office is now incredibly quiet; clients and visitors popping in and out all day has stopped. Sitting alone in my office on my first morning back, wondering what my computer password was, wondering what I was supposed to be doing, wondering if anyone else was going to come in that day, was odd to say the least.
Whilst we are all sick of the phrase ‘the new normal’, it is appropriate. There is a new normal. For people who have been working throughout, set up from home or the office, it has been a time of very quick adaption and working it out as they go along. And they have been amazing. The office is functioning as it always has. People are still moving house, deals are still going through, advice is still being given. But for those of us returning after a break, it is like being in day one of lockdown. The ways of working have had to change completely and, in some ways, it feels like starting an entirely new job.
With all of that being said, I have LOVED being back, although I feel slightly guilty admitting that. I realise the severity of the virus and the financial difficulties it has caused for so many. I also feel bad because it triggers mum anxiety that I should be with my baby and not enjoying time away quite so much. Of course I miss her. But I love my job.
I’m not saying it has taken having a baby, taking a year out of work and a global pandemic for me to realise that. However, it is so nice to engage my brain again. Do something for me. Have a new focus. And like all working mums, I hope it makes me a better mum. It is already making me treasure time with my baby even more and I make the most of every second with her.
Lastly, with regard to my back to work concerns; I can remember how to do my job. I can still function as an adult. And as long as you have the morning routine planned with military precision it is possible. If all else fails (and if the baby keeps you up all night before your first day back) then at least there are three coffee shops at the end of the road open again.