Aude’s story

Staying connected in social isolation and the power of mindfulness​​​​​

In my role, I’m responsible for providing operational and strategic support to Dave Munton, Head of UK Markets and Client Services, where I assist him with the delivery of his priorities and key projects for the firm.

I live on my own in a two-bedroom flat and love having my own space. I’ve lived in my East London flat for three years now and living alone has never meant being lonely.

When the country was first locked down, I thought it would only last a couple of months and that we'd resume our lives as normal in the summer. I rarely worked from home before lockdown, but have adapted quite well and tried to make the most of the situation.

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I had to self-isolate last March after I lost my sense of smell and taste, which was unsettling. As these weren’t official symptoms of the virus at the time, I couldn’t get tested, but luckily I quickly recovered.

To my surprise,I felt more anxious once the restrictions were first eased last July, as I realised that things weren’t going back to normal and that I couldn’t travel home to France to see my family.

Social isolation has been the biggest challenge and a real emotional rollercoaster for me. Before lockdown, I led a busy social life and travelled abroad regularly, so being stuck at home alone constantly was a big adjustment.

Some weeks, my only human contact would be from the supermarket cashier asking me if I had a loyalty card to use! I missed the colleagues I saw in the office every day – the chats, the laughs and advice they’d give after a difficult conversation or when I was stuck on a task.

I’ve stayed connected with others over virtual coffee catchups to prevent feelings of isolation. I joined Coffee Break, a firm-wide initiative to help us all stay connected, and have also taken part in the Boost wellbeing project. I’ve found that talking with friends and family regularly helps to keep loneliness and boredom at bay.

Regular exercise has really improved my physical and mental health. I go for socially distanced walks with friends and am lucky enough to have the forest on my doorstep where I’ve been discovering new walking trails.

I’m proud to have completed the NHS ‘Couch to 5km’ challenge during the first lockdown and I joined the firm’s Walkaround Challenge last year, which really helped me getting into a routine. I now aim to walk five kilometres daily.

"I missed the colleagues I saw in the office every day – the chats, the laughs and advice they’d give after a difficult conversation or when I was stuck on a task."

Seeing the benefits of mindfulness practices has been a real positive for me. Gratitude exercises, breathing techniques and mindful walks are activities I’ve practiced for years now, which have helped me navigate the anxiety of lockdown and let me appreciate the little things more.

I also have a newfound love for puzzles and paint-by-numbers, which I find are great ways to stay focused, relaxed and away from screens.

Something I wouldn’t have done without lockdown is tutoring a friend’s daughter to learn French. She’s 11 years old and very engaged, which is great to see as a tutor. It’s been really rewarding seeing her progress week on week.  

 It was a relief when I first went into the office. It gave me that change of scenery I needed. Not only did this break up the monotony of a week of homeworking, but it gave me a chance to catch up with colleagues in person. It’s great that the option to work from an office has been available to those who need it the most.

"I’m proud to have completed the NHS ‘Couch to 5km’ challenge during the first lockdown and I joined the firm’s Walkaround Challenge last year, which really helped me getting into a routine."

My tips for continued home working are:

  • Build structure into your routine with regular breaks, allowing time away from a screen and creating boundaries with work
  • Change your scenery during the day, even if it just means moving between rooms to prevent boredom
  • Go outside and get some fresh air every day, preferably on a walk. This has helped me stay sane during the various lockdowns and has kept me healthy and energised
  • Stay connected, talk to others and ask for help when you need it. When things get tough, open up to your friends, colleagues or a health professional to help alleviate anxiety.

One thing I’ve learned from 2020 is to be more content with what I have. I’ve learnt to appreciate the little things and be grateful with what I have. I’m thankful that I have a safe place to live, a fulfilling job and a great network of people around me.

"When things get tough, open up to your friends, colleagues or a health professional to help alleviate anxiety."

Elle’s story

House sharing, relocating and readjusting

​​​I’m an assistant manager in audit currently living in a house share in Battersea with four other young working professionals.

My location and living dynamics have completely changed over the past year. In the first lockdown, I was living at home with my mum. Then, in October last year after qualifying, I moved to London with a friend from university and three other girls.

When the first lockdown was announced I thought it would last three weeks, not three lockdowns! I was concerned about the health and wellbeing of my loved ones and struggled not being able to see them.

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When I was living at my mum’s house, we didn’t have room for a separate office area so we both worked from our dining table. It was a challenge at first - one of us would move rooms when we were both on calls and we quickly found that there was no separation between work and home life being stuck in the same room 24/7.

Eventually, we changed our routine to pack away work equipment on Friday evenings so there was no reminder of work over the weekend!

I really struggled to find work-life balance while working from home at the beginning. With no daily commute, it was easy to replace those hours with work. I realised that my usual drive home helped me unwind from work, whereas now I was adding to my workload and stress levels.

I wasn’t taking proper lunch breaks, which meant that I wasn’t being productive in the afternoons and led to me feeling even more frustrated and stressed.

"My location and living dynamics have completely changed over the past year."

I started exercising during my lunch breaks and walking with my mum in the evenings. The fresh air really helps my wellbeing and exercising breaks up my day, making me feel more motivated and focused when I work. It was tough to maintain this during winter but I'm picking it up again now that evenings are warmer and lighter.

Not seeing my other friends and family was hard but I was grateful not to be completely alone. I made the most of technology to keep in touch with my friends over video calls, quizzes and the rest!

When the weekends became repetitive, I started to bake and cook to pass the time. I often delivered my home baked treats to friends and family during my daily walks. It was nice to be able to put a smile on their faces during hard times.

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With no daily office or client site commute I’ve had more time on my hands. I use this time to exercise or carry out household chores without impacting on my usual down-time.

I moved to London halfway through lockdown and I’m so happy I did. I found it easy to settle into the house share as I already knew my friend from uni. Due to restrictions at the time, two of my housemates weren’t living at the house when I first moved in, so for the first few months there were just three of us.

I spent a lot of time getting to know my new housemates during lockdowns and exploring London with them on our daily walks. It’s been great socialising during lunchbreaks and evenings with my housemates to take my mind off work. We’ve used this time to make a bucket list of things we want to do together when restrictions fully lift to make the most of our time living in the city.

I went into the office once last September to meet the rest of my engagement team. This was particularly important to welcome a new starter into the team. It made it easier for me to coach face-to-face and helped them meet everyone and integrate into the team properly.

" Try to only worry about the things you can control and don’t let those things out of your control hold you back."

I had planned to travel Australia after qualifying and was gutted to lose this opportunity. I had waited to complete my ACA before moving out of my family home but despite lockdowns and travel restrictions, I still needed to take the next step.

For anyone in a similar position to me, I’d advise you to take the leap even if the situation isn’t what you expected it to be. Life very rarely plays out exactly as you plan, so be willing to adapt and make the best out of any situation. Try to only worry about the things you can control and don’t let those things out of your control hold you back.

One thing I’ve learned from 2020 is to treasure time with loved ones and make as many memories as possible. Being in lockdown has reminded me that it's the people in our lives that matter the most.

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