Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity

Since the UK government advised that “non-essential” retailers could reopen their stores from 15 June after almost three months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s no surprise that a multitude of companies – big and small – jumped at the chance to get back to business. This means that most non-essential workers have returned – or will return – to work after being furloughed and warned to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of the cruel disease: myself included. As a non-essential worker, I can wholeheartedly say that I am so thankful to all our key workers for continuing to work – and especially hard, that is – and risking their lives during such an unprecedented time. Also as a non-essential worker, I can honestly claim that I understand the impact of COVID-19 on smaller businesses who had no choice but to quickly transition and adapt to remote operations; my fiancé Daniel brought his office home not long before the whole country quarantined. And, as a non-essential worker, I can openly admit that I experienced my fair share of emotions throughout my time on furlough, predominantly uselessness, anxiety and even envy. Uselessness due to the inability to make my contribution to society. Anxiety due to the uncertainty surrounding the global situation. Envy due to the reality that those who could work from home at least remained occupied. Nonetheless, for us non-essential workers, the time to imperatively stay at home provided an opportunity to explore, utilise and perhaps even master our creativity. For some, that creativity is cooking. For others, that creativity is drawing. For me, that creativity is writing. It was during this pandemic that I finally took the plunge to set up this blog to fulfil my passion for writing not only as a pastime, but also a necessary outlet. Although my usual position is store-based, I was considerately offered by my employer the opportunity to temporarily work from home within a different department given my exceptional circumstances of living with Daniel who has a severe case of Crohn’s disease; of course, I gratefully accepted such an offer and am therefore – though not in my usual position – back to work.

Though I’ve only been back to work for five days, I’m knackered. That’s right: I’ve been back to work for just five days and I’m knackered. Don’t judge me. Or do. I probably would. My first week back consisted of day-long online training sessions for my new provisional role. Given that the company I work for is global, the sessions were conducted by leaders from several countries; my group included colleagues from an array of European locations. Hence, while the sessions ran from 9am to 5pm for most, they ran from 8am to 4pm for those of us in the UK. Yep, us Brits were the ones ~blessed~ with the ~beautiful~ 8am starts. Nevertheless, my overly-organised instincts drove me to set my alarm for 06:55 each day to provide me enough time to wake up, make an extra-strong coffee and log on for an intense day of learning new information, systems and processes, intaking more caffeine than I had during the entirety of lockdown and resisting the urge to fall asleep in the midst of a live 8-hour session on Microsoft Teams (don’t get me wrong, the trainers were fantastic, but it’s easy to lose concentration when you’re tired and instructed to watch a screen for so long). While I endeavoured to maintain a regular routine throughout my time on furlough by waking up at around 08:30 daily, dressing in standard everyday outfits like a band tee and jeans (yep, I was that person who opted to lounge in jeans as opposed to joggers or leggings) and trying to accomplish something, like walking my fur baby Diesel, hosting a virtual pub quiz or writing these blogs, I wasn’t doing anything that drained me of energy per se. Namely, I wasn’t waking up at 06:55 to acquire overabundant knowledge. Better yet, I wasn’t working. I have therefore concluded that it’s okay to be knackered after just five days of being back to work. It’s going to take time for me to adjust to this “new normal”, and that’s perfectly fine.

Immediately after sharing my first introductory post upon creating this blog in the beginning of May, I jotted a further ten potential blog titles down and proceeded to post a blog almost daily. That first post, although short and sweet, ignited a spark in me that had been fuelling for years. To reiterate said post, I’d been wanting to create a blog for ages because I have always enjoyed writing. From September 2015 to September 2019, however, all I’d written were more academic assignments than one can fathom for my bachelor’s and master’s studies. For four whole years, I’d never written anything for me; the rationale for creating this blog was to remedy that. Now that I’m back to work, however (again, I know it’s only been five days – forgive me), I’ve been wondering if I’ll be able to keep my blog going; “what can I write about now my life has restored its mundanity?”, “how can I write a blog when I’m this tried?”, “when can I write these blogs now?”. That said, here I am, writing a blog whilst feeling knackered in my spare time.

I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t want to feel deprived of time after being fortunate enough to just enjoy my time at home whilst key and office-based workers strenuously carried on with their duties. I don’t want to fall back into the routine of “eat, sleep, work, repeat” which I guiltily found myself trapped in once I’d started working full-time after completing my studies last September; leaving the house at 7am, getting home at 7pm and feeling too exhausted to do anything else – feeling like the only times I ever saw Daniel were when we got into bed at night and woke up in the mornings. But, you know what? I don’t think I will. I don’t think I will stop writing. I don’t think will feel time deprived. I don’t think I will find myself trapped in the eat-sleep-work-repeat routine again. Though I might not have as much time to write as frequently as I did during lockdown, I won’t let that stop me from writing altogether.

Luckily for me, I now get to experience the official “work from home” life for the first time which I believe will not only ease me back into a balanced routine, but also encourage me to make more time outside of work for myself, my friends and my loved ones. Then, once I return to the more familiar normality, I’ll use my commute time to write or even pick up another new hobby like reading books (as I’ve intended to for a really, really long time), I’ll make more of an effort to see my friends after work (even if I am exhausted) and, most importantly, I’ll make the most of my time out of work with my family and Daniel (even more so than I do now).

To my fellow non-essential and long-lasting furloughed workers returning to work, don’t forget to continue to utilise, explore and master the creativity you executed throughout your time at home. I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has certainly enhanced my realisation that work isn’t worth the stress that it often causes us. Yes, it’s important to take work seriously in more demanding situations. Yes, it’s important to work hard in order to progress in your career. Yes, it’s important to fight until you secure a job you love. But, when you come home, make sure to brush it off by doing something for you. Whether that’s cooking, drawing, writing, reading, painting, exercising, playing video games, experimenting with makeup or simply chatting with your loved ones, after witnessing the worst across the world, I hope you feel inspired to set aside the time to do more of what you love. Not only is it so fundamental for your mental health, but it will always be worth it because – as the saying goes – life’s too short. Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity.

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