“Here we are again, adjusting to the ever mutating and evolving ‘new normal’. This January YG found ourselves working from home, where possible, to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. I work as a mental health youth worker, supporting young people from 14-25 years old. My role is to support their practical needs, advocate for their best interests and promote positivity and self-care. Working from home would not be my ideal choice as I like to be in the office to get myself in a work headspace but it has its benefits and negatives; I can chill with my cat all day: benefit, he sometimes walks on my keyboard muting me or turning off my camera: negative. I don’t have to walk into work in the cold: benefit, I don’t get to chat in person with the delightful YG staff: negative. Overall it’s not the way that I prefer to be working. But it was a challenge that I rose to in order to make sure that the young people I work with wouldn’t suffer even more than they already have through this pandemic.

“The service I offer typically works face-to-face but in a bid to limit the number of staff working in our offices we had to run sessions on Zoom. Luckily over the last couple of years this is something we have become used to. Now for formal discussions and presentations Zoom is probably the perfect solution. But how does it affect more emotive conversations; talking about mental health, your future, tricky personal decisions…can all this be covered on Zoom in the same way as when I work with a young person face-to-face?

“For some purposes Zoom is actually preferable. The distance can make opening up easier and can make certain tasks run smother if they are online, the conversations can be really productive and task driven. However I would say that most of my young people prefer in person sessions, especially given that I love a good arty or creative session. It’s a bit harder when we can’t paint, draw or write in the same room. Although I do try to be as creative as I can while online. I know some young people chose to postpone their sessions preferring to wait until face-to-face became available again. So unless their needs were critical, in which case we found ways to meet face-to-face, then our caseloads have started to build up.

“I feel the pandemic has offered different challenges for us all. Some of the young people I support have struggled to re-socialise after each lockdown. Some have suffered loss and heartache due to the pandemic and others just miss the normality that was taken for granted in ‘the before times’. Surprisingly, some have thrived. As one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Some people have relished the ability to stay at home and hone a skill, avoid social anxiety or just work on themselves. It’s a topsy turvy world I guess. I personally have found it hard as I am a people person and I get a lot of positive energy from being with people. But it makes the time we do spend with other all the more cherished and wonderful.

“To help me cope with the changes while working from home I committed to my usual work routine of waking up at 7am, reading a little, getting dressed into my proper work attire and having a decent breakfast. I also tried to avoid using my phone as a loading screen between activities. By which I mean if I was having a busy day and had a lull, or was waiting for something to cook, I made a conscious effort to pick up a book instead of my phone to pass the time.

“But here we are now starting to return to the office again, I feel happy and relieved that this last period of work from home is now starting to pass. My first job will be to make sure I can offer support to those who had chosen to wait. I don’t like to boast but I feel what we offer is a pretty glorious service. We are open, welcoming, helpful and we care. I am proud to work for a charity that has been able to change the way we work throughout the pandemic so that we can still offer help. I have no idea what weird and wonderful things we will be doing two or three years from now but I know that YG will continue to help people and that’s a beautiful thing.  I had a session with a young person today who had a bit of a rant about what she’s currently dealing with, but said that she likes coming to YG because we can offer her a place where we listen. And I think that’s my favourite thing about YG, we listen and we care.”