"I’m trying to embrace the new normal and work in a way that allows me to give the best I can to our clients and my team"

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Homelessness and Mental Health Support

Support Workers have been working hard from home to support clients to access new technology and become confident with using online and video calling apps

I’m Gareth, one of the Team Managers for the Housing Support Services in Brighton and Hove. I’ve worked with Southdown for seven years as a frontline worker and a Team Manager.

As has been the case for most people, my role, along with almost every other aspect of life, has changed a lot since we’ve been in lockdown. 

Our Southdown Homelessness Prevention and Mental Health Support service has moved to online and phone support. Support Workers have been working hard from home to support clients to access new technology and become confident with using online and video calling apps. We continue to provide tailored one-to-one support and have been supporting clients to complete budgeting sheets, engaging in reducing hoarding, helping them search for new accommodation, and manage their mental health through access to other services and planning daily routines.

Each day I have meetings with my Manager and other Team Managers in the service to discuss any concerns, worries, positive news, or changes to government advice. We spend time as a team considering how best to continue to provide good quality support to our clients and any new or innovative ways we can work.

One of the big changes has been how my team communicates. Conversations that would have once taken place in the kitchen or in a meeting room now need to be planned. My time management skills have been tested as I ensure I am available for my team and colleagues as much as possible. Supervisions and team meetings take place via WhatsApp calls or Zoom. We are spending time having fun as a team during lockdown too, taking part in weekly quizzes and virtual coffee breaks hosted by our Gateway Officer.

Work days filled with rushing from one meeting to the next and sitting together with friends and colleagues, have been replaced with a multitude of phone calls and Zoom chats! Hastily eaten lunches have become an opportunity to catch up with my children and squeeze in a few cuddles and maybe even a sandwich. My day looks different. I work more flexibly, taking longer for lunch so I can put my daughter down for a nap and then catching back up with work after my children have gone to bed in the evening.

Previously my day consisted of an early morning wake up and a hectic morning routine getting both my young children ready for school and nursery with my wife, before a quick bike ride to the local train station and a busy train ride to the office. Work was a mixture of meetings, admin, and talking with colleagues and clients. The evenings were another flurry of family hustle and bustle getting the children fed and ready for bed.

In the new lockdown era, life looks very different. I’m no less tired by the end of the day but my day runs very differently. Rushed morning routines have changed to accommodate a run or a bike ride. As a family we get ready for the day by about 8:30am and then we take some time to relax together. Sometimes I’ll take a look through my son’s home schooling work list and we agree together what seems achievable for him whilst I work.

I have commandeered my son’s bedroom for my new office space and sometimes my son will do his school work next to me. This often goes one of two ways! Option one where he works quietly and asks for help when needed, he completes his work, and we have a lovely bit of time together. Or option two where at some point one of us has a meltdown (not always him), usually resulting in one of us ‘strategically exiting’ the space to complain to my wife!

 

WFH

I am extremely fortunate that my wife has been off work so she has shouldered most of the childcare responsibilities, but that hasn’t stopped the occasional ‘guest appearance’ from an inquiring two year old or a whispered, “Is it time for my TV shows?” from my hopeful seven year old!

Being a manager, staff member, friend, husband, and dad all at the same time isn’t always easy. It’s taken me a long time to find a rhythm that works for me, my team, and my family. I’m trying to embrace the new normal and work in a way that allows me to give the best I can to our clients and my team.

I don’t think there’s any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of working from home and juggling childcare. Talking through my experiences with my manager, including what is working well and what isn’t, has really helped me. Creating time boundaries with work and home life to protect my time and allowing myself to enjoy time away from work without feeling ‘guilty’ has been important. It’s ok not to feel ok and lots of parents are going through the same thing. If you’re struggling, reach out to other parents, the school or nursery, and your colleagues.

 

Southdown Homelessness Prevention & Mental Health Support Service (Brighton & Hove) provides short-term, flexible support to prevent homelessness and improve people's mental health and wellbeing. During these uncertain times we will be adhering to the social distancing advice set out by the government. This means that we will be offering telephone support rather than face-to-face support until further notice.