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What next for our working lives?

We hear from Susan for the final time, sharing her final reflections on adjusting and adapting, both in the workplace and personally
Do you know the two things that stayed with me throughout all of this? Apart from how completely unreal all of this has felt. When my manager called me and I told her that she needed to speak to all of us as a group, staff group more. And over hearing my mum planning on what she was going to do, how she was going to get back to her social club after all of this was over, she really put me to shame.
A friend, the one that she was talking to on the phone, was on her own. Well, she died.
It really puts things into perspective when you hear that. The numbers, the deaths is one thing, but, even when it’s only one person that you actually know, it just makes it weird. Work is work and will remain as such. But I’ve decided, I’m going to start an evening class in psychology. I know it’s only a small thing, but, realising that my manager listened to me and that I had something to say, made me feel really good.
I’ve always wanted that.
Now it would just be my luck, that there won’t be any more courses until 2022. But hey, let’s just wait and see, and see what happens.

In the last few steps, we’ve heard about different models of behaviour change and psychotherapeutic change. In relation to Susan’s story, we can examine some social and environmental factors that seem to have altered her motivations and intentions.

Pause for thought

Have there been times that you have been full of motivation, ability, and intention, but been prevented from doing something by your environment or social factors?

It is likely that your answer was yes. Social dynamics and our environment are key factors thought about by researchers and clinicians when working with clients and service-users to implement change. Let’s see how these played out in Susan’s story.

Susan refers back to one of her actions from Week 2: speaking up to her manager. Recalling the COM-B model, we can see that her Opportunity was provided by the meeting or call (environmental opportunity) and openness or permission from her manager or workplace (relational or social opportunity).

Further, though we wouldn’t call this conversation with her manager therapy, it did contain a therapeutic element in that emotional support was provided. And, while the aim at the time might not have been behaviour change, something about the validation of being heard has empowered her. This happens often in psychotherapy and other supportive relationships. Recall our discussion around containment last week? Well, something about a reliable, validating environment can facilitate meaningful changes in behaviour without this change necessarily being the focus.

Susan also drew inspiration from her mum’s planning – there was a role model in her environment. And unexpectedly, a loss, the death of her mum’s friend, has shifted what she values. These internal and external elements of her situation have come together to alter her path in a way that many of us may experience in the coming months.

Opportunity can be an important consideration for leaders, teams, and organisations, and we will link back to this in subsequent steps.

Finally, Susan raises two more important considerations that sit alongside behaviour and intention.

  1. When referring to her intended behaviour of attending evening classes in Psychology, Susan acknowledges that the Opportunity depends on classes being provided, and her being able to access them. She has reflected on the fact that she may not be able to start evening classes immediately and that it may not be easy. This demonstrates the importance of considering barriers, having realistic optimism, and being able to show self-compassion when intentions don’t translate straight to behaviour.

  2. Susan shows some uncertainty about work, stating that she’ll have to “wait and see” how things turn out. This serves as a useful reminder that while we’ve talked a lot about behaviour change; it isn’t always possible, appropriate, or within our control, and many of us will continue to manage uncertainty, feelings of disempowerment, or a loss of control as we emerge from COVID-19.

How does Susan’s experience of intention and behaviour during COVID-19 compare to your own?
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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