Frontlines: The challenges for the year ahead

“Coming back to work for a rest” has seemed a common complaint of colleagues for the past couple of weeks, after a holiday which is traditionally anything but restful. But it doesn’t seem long  before we’re running ourselves ragged again and counting the time till the next break. If you’re based in school that’ll be four and a bit weeks until half-term! This year I have decided that I really will slow down, make myself relax more and – heaven forbid – have a life outside of work.

In the end, if we rush around all the time, we do no one any favours, least of all ourselves. A friend was telling me that her local authority has now stopped car allowance and parking permits and issues only travelcards, even to “essential car users”. What a release! Now you can only make one appointment for the morning and one for the afternoon and so you can take your time, give your full attention, really listen to people. A bit of a shock to start with and it will take time to get used to the new (old?) way of working, but surely a more healthy and productive route to follow.

I have been reflecting this new year on the irony that we spend our working lives talking up the importance of maintaining children in their families if at all possible, and then subject ourselves yearly to a high-intensity family experience complete with unattainable goals from which we rarely emerge unscathed. The trick, I have decided, is to keep a sense of perspective and to be prepared to smile a lot; but there will always be some principles we are not prepared to compromise, whatever the company. How to be gracious in communicating these and sometimes insisting on them is the challenge for the year ahead.

A challenge which could well translate from home to workplace with opportunities to speak up for others less powerful, to campaign for change or to support new and exciting initiatives.

If we believe that something is important then we must take responsibility ourselves for working to make it happen. This is more than “what’s your dream, how can you work towards it” stuff. That was last year. This year it’s “change the world one person at a time”! So that depends on everyone sharing my idea of how the world should be. I can live with that!

Helen Bonnick is a supervisor of school-home support workers and a social worker

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