A collective breath out

A few weeks ago I was struck by a comment from a nurse working in the NHS who said:

‘I haven’t breathed out yet’

It’s stayed with me vividly since and I often think about it, wondering what it will be like for those in health and social care when they finally get a chance to breathe out. How will they transition back to a more everyday kind of work life – will it be with a huge sense of relief; a sense that things have changed so much, there can’t be a return to a pre-covid way; or any number of iterations inbetween?

What about those outside of healthcare – who’s work and life has been directly or indirectly affected by Covid? Can we neatly step back into a more normal version of our working life or has too much happened to do that? For something that has been a rare collective event, our experience of it and its effect on us will have been intensely personal and individual.

What about if in organisations we had a metaphorical decompression chamber – a transition space where people can re-settle, re-orientate and take a collective breath out. For some people it may just be a short visit, for others they may need to spend a little longer in there, but its recognised as an important and valuable part of the return.

I think the space in between transitions aren’t talked about enough in our eagerness to leave behind, get somewhere new or return somewhere familiar.

I really encourage organisations and leaders to think about this space, especially when the push to move back to a more recognisable way of working builds momentum.

To think about how we might we need to support those who have experienced traumatic events during Covid.

To actively and purposefully explore how to balance the needs of those who welcome the return and feel excited about it, with those who have little desire to return to ‘what was before’ because they’ve experienced something different.

To encourage conversations around these things and to listen to the responses not just hope it will resolve itself.

There’s so much opportunity for reflection, conversation and growth. I hope we have the courage to create a moment of pause and to allow others to do that too, in whatever way feels right for them.