The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives in many different ways. People have been forced to change the way they work, socialise and function. Remote work has been normalised but this has led to a loss of daily social interaction.
At HCSA we have eight national officers who support, represent and negotiate on behalf of members and provide advice and guidance to the union. They have all had to adapt to not meeting members in person and operating almost exclusively online.
Pauline Paxton, national officer for Scotland and Northern Ireland talks about how using technology to communicate is effective, but is no replacement for personal contact with members.
Regular visitors to the HCSA website will be well aware of our stance on the impacts of the pandemic on our members. The tag on all our signature blocks clearly states that we are continuing to provide a full service, while being mindful of health and safety.
There has, of course, been an impact on how we work (we’re not alone in that!). The world of work has changed, possibly forever.
So, how have things changed for National Officers? You may think ‘not much’ since we’re already home based. What I’ve realised – especially looking at friends and relatives working at home for the first time – is that there is an enormous difference between working at home and working from home.
Working from home is different. With a bit of routine, our work and work/life balance are structured. And we get out of the home office as well…usually.
We’ve all had to get used to the virtual world. In some ways it’s great. For joint meetings with employers and other staff organisations, it works well and there’s no travelling time to get there.
But, for me, the thing that hurts is being unable to meet our members in person. Unlike other organisations, we didn’t apply a blanket ban on face to face meetings and relied on common sense risk assessment to enable us to represent our members. That changed with the new wave and tighter lockdown. Trade union officials are sociable beings and we all miss the contact with our members.
There’s no substitute for a supportive physical presence when you’re under pressure at a meeting with your employer and you need someone to – figuratively – hold your hand. Zoom and Teams just don’t cut it.
Sadly, the pandemic and the current legal restrictions prevented that for a while.
And the future? Many employers forced to allow home working will by now have got over their (mistaken) belief that it’s an excuse to slack off. National Officers at HCSA will continue to work with technology but I hope that I’ll be able to see you in person soon.