Coach Judith Wardell talks about what she has learned from her free lockdown webinars for older workers and the kind of challenges they have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Coach Judith Wardell, founder of Time of Your Life, has been holding free online webinars on the issues raised for older workers by lockdown and our emergence from it. In part one of an interview with her on helping older workers face the challenges presented by Covid-19, she talks about how the sessions came about, the kinds of things participants have faced during the pandemic and what the future might hold. In part two Judith addresses the issue of forced early retirement.
workingwise.co.uk: What prompted you to put on the Life after lockdown sessions?
Judith Wardell: The lockdown scenario of coronavirus has brought about change for all of us and I wanted to be able to help people find a way through this and to think positively about life beyond the pandemic.
Normally people who work with me on my Time of your life programme are triggered into making life changes either by midlife issues or thinking about retirement. Maybe the children have grown up and left home, work has lost its shine, divorce or bereavement have caused relationships to change. Or people have reached an age when they are beginning to think about retirement and what that might mean.
In lockdown, I could see that people were asking the ‘what next’ questions for many more reasons. Once the pause button had been pressed, there was time and opportunity to think about what really matters, what life is really about and what you want more or less of going forward. Working differently, working from home and online, puts a focus on what you enjoy about your job, what you miss and how you work best. We have all had a taste of how life could be lived differently and now need to decide how we want our future to be.
I put together the free seminar to provide support and a structure that would help people organise their thoughts and feelings and be able to take practical steps towards planning that future.
workingwise.co.uk: What has the response been?
Judith Wardell: The response has been amazing and over 100 people have now attended the session at different times. I think the timing has just been right to capture that need for moving forward, taking the learnings from lockdown and adapting to change.
The feedback has been very positive with people saying that it has given them lots of food for thought. Attendees have found the content relevant and timely, inspiring them to look ahead and make the most of this opportunity for change.
workingwise.co.uk: What have participants’ experience of Covid-19 been work-wise?
Judith Wardell: I think everyone’s experience has been quite different. Some people have been working from home, full on and are absolutely exhausted with juggling home and work life. Others have been furloughed and not working at all. For some people this has enabled them to discover new interests and skills; for others they have felt very lost without work and a purpose to get up in the morning. Some employers have handled the situation well, been very supportive and kept communication flowing. Others not so.
It’s similar for volunteers. I know many people have felt angry and depressed by not being able to do the things they love that give them a sense of purpose and social connections.
workingwise.co.uk: Have many been able to work from home for the first time? Do they anticipate/want this to continue?
Judith Wardell: Working from home has advantages and disadvantages and I think this is one of the key dilemmas that people are wrestling with. Some people have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and this has made them think they may be able to adopt more of portfolio life or part-time working. Others are desperate to connect with people in a face to face way and get back to the structure of work. Some people are being told that they will be working from home permanently and this has led them to want to find another role.
workingwise.co.uk: Have any had to also manage caring responsibilities?
Judith Wardell: I think this has been a serious issue for many midlife and older people. The so-called ‘sandwich generation’ have been asked to work from home whilst juggling home schooling or looking after young adults who have returned home for lockdown and caring for the over 70s who have been shielding. I am beginning to see a type of burnout and which is leading people to realise they must make some changes or get help.
workingwise.co.uk: Has the experience made people reconsider their priorities and look at changing the way they work/what they do?
Judith Wardell: I see that lockdown has made people question their priorities; in terms of how they spend their time, who they want to spend time with and how they spend their money. Midlife is often a time when people question their values and purpose and lockdown has brought this into sharp focus. Once you get off the hamster wheel of work and step out of the consumer society, you begin to see that you can live with less resources and have a better quality of life. I think people have more confidence that they can cope with change and that they are more prepared to take a chance on doing something different.
*Judith will be running more Life after Lockdown seminars in September. To register your free place just follow this link. For more information on Judith’s Time of your life coaching programme and her new online group programme, visit her website www.timeofyourlife.me.uk