A day in the lockdown life

NEA Cymru’s Gareth Thomas reflects on the first few weeks of providing training and advice in lockdown.

8.00am. Normally I would be walking into the centre of Cardiff. However, these are not normal times.

My morning starts around 6 when Stevie, my 8-month-old daughter, wakes up. I get up with her and we have breakfast together. Having this time is precious. I love watching her explore food and make a mess and we have a real laugh. It also gives India, my wife, an extra hour or so sleep.

For our household at least me working from home has come with a lot of benefits.

I fire up the kettle, make the second round of strong coffee and climb the stairs.

I’m using my loft as an office space glad that I insulated and decorated it this time last year. I know many people are having to work around each other at home or tackle space and technology issues as well as factor in a different approach to childcaring responsibilities so I feel very lucky to be able to go into a different space to switch into work mode.

After the second week India and I talked about how good this was, having a kind of structure in place, like we did when I would be out working. This has helped us adapt but retain some normality and I feel I have been able to keep my productivity up at such a challenging time.

As part of the training team the past four weeks have been incredibly busy. We have come together via video calls to redevelop our courses as interactive webinar learning. This means NEA can continue to reach and train delegates, improving outcomes for energy customers especially those made more vulnerable by the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Having quickly learned how to get the best out of Zoom modifying and improving our materials we delivered our first trial webinar yesterday to a group of colleagues. It went well and the feedback has given us the confidence we need to begin accepting expressions of interest from outside organisations. I feel we have really taken the ball and run with it with this approach and I am proud to have been able to be as involved with such a change despite being so new to the organisation.

Alongside the training work I have also begun receiving referrals through NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes Advice line. This has been challenging given the barriers that clients are facing in terms of accessing support organisations. Dealing with energy suppliers and payment methods currently also brings fresh challenges. There have been positive results this past week including arranging a remote top up for an ex-services client with Covid-19 symptoms. Listening to their situation put a lot of things in perspective and the gratitude they showed to us, well, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That and Stevie of course!

It’s not the same as seeing people face to face and so different to how we’re used to working. It has been a rollercoaster ride and I still feel like this is a strange dream. As time goes on and this different becomes the new normal it’s a comfort knowing that I work for such a supportive organisation alongside passionate people who adapt quickly and continue to make a difference.

As someone who was used to working remotely, despite us all being more isolated it seems that NEA and society are coming closer together.

Gareth Thomas
NEA Trainer/Project Co-ordinator

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