The counselling profession, like so many others, was turned on its head seemingly overnight in March 2020, and thousands of therapists had to adjust to remote working with little warning. As an EAP, the service we provide is on hand for 12 million people across the UK and Ireland and more than ever our clients needed us to provide an outstanding 24-hour service, while we too balanced the uncertainty and fear created by the pandemic.
Although EAPs are technically classed as an essential service, we were able to work from home to ensure our safety as the lockdown was enforced and the COVID-19 crisis approached its peak. I couldn’t be more humbled by the level of care and commitment of my colleagues and for the integrity and resilience that they each showed as they carried their equipment out of the office to the confidential spaces they had created in their homes, where they jumped straight back in to offer immediate support to our clients, day and night as we wrestled with technology, our own anxieties and worries for our health and the health of those we care about during the pandemic.
After spending eight weeks remotely leading a team and supporting clients from home, I made the decision to return to the now COVID-secure office along with the other members of the management team, our CEO and colleagues who couldn’t work from home. It has always been my belief that I should not ask of others more than I am willing to do myself, so it felt important for me to be there to welcome the rest of the team back (from a two-metre social distance, of course) as they too began to return. Over the past six weeks the office is slowly and safely returning to a new version of normal. Returning to the office has made such a difference to my wellbeing and focus, and allows me to be better connected to the colleagues whom I had missed so that we can better support one another.
Our working lives have changed significantly, but we remain strong together. All affiliate counsellors are still working remotely by offering sessions online and over the phone with the full support of Health Assured. Our immediate support counsellors (excluding shielding members of staff) are joining me in the office one by one as we all adjust to the new health and safety guidelines that have been carefully considered to protect us. We sit further apart than before and wave to each other, we head off into single meeting rooms to attend our meetings online, we giggle and tell each other off when we forget which way we are going with the one-way system (clearly marked by arrows on the office floor). There is a socially-distanced queue for the hot tap, that we now clean before and after use, and we have to sit at separate tables at lunch, but most importantly, we are in this together, one team, taking things one day at a time to support ourselves, our clients and each other, and it’s good to be back.
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.