Unprecedented. Pandemic. Lockdown. Hands. Face. Space. Words that we didn’t expect to use in our normal everyday vocabulary at the beginning of the year. Nor did we expect to see history being made. Have so many people ever been as invested in a common global scientific effort such as producing a vaccine? Lockdown hair and ‘maskne’ aside, we have all had to adapt to living and working in a different world. In this article, transformational coach, Rowena Wood, discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on coaching and how it can continue helping people grow despite the difficulties and challenges posed by the pandemic.
Learning to live without expressing our emotions through physical contact, we feel bereft at the loss of that connecting thread. We yearn to meet a friend, colleague or loved one for a coffee and be able to give a hug or handshake. Our environment, the people in it and how we connect are an essential part of positive wellbeing. The role our environment plays on our wellbeing isn’t a new concept. Wellbeing pioneer Michael J. Arloski talks about it in his 10 Tenets of Wellness, it’s important to be mindful of its effects on us, now more than ever before. How we connect, and who and what we connect with have all been impacted in 2020, resulting in potential long-term changes to how we live and work.
Online and Eyes Only
As we switched from our normal everyday habits and became part of the ‘Zoom boom’, the way in which we communicated changed almost overnight. Whilst there’s no doubt that most of us have adapted and some of us have flourished online, it’s also brought with it the more negative impacts of no face to face communication.
From a coaching perspective, that has meant developing strategies to ease people’s concerns over online security and making sure online audio and visual is crystal clear. As a coach, it’s brought with it its own challenge in being able to assess the finer points of body language that are important in understanding what a client is trying to communicate. Eye contact and the sound of our voices have become even more important, as we all find a route through this new world where facial expressions aren’t readily evident and where smiles are defined by our eyes.
The great (social) divide
The social scale is widening in terms of “haves” and “have nots”. The financial, emotional, and physical impacts of Covid-19 have been felt particularly by those who lost loved ones, lost their job, or lost their home.
For those with the means to do so, there’s a surge in seeking homes in the country or by the coast and embracing working from home. But for others, there is a long journey back to any kind of normality. Counselling, coaching and wider support will be critical for many people not just now, but in the years that follow the Covid-19 crisis.
The work we do and how we do it
Whether you’re exhausted from being on the front line in the NHS, a frazzled parent from months of homeschooling, or someone who is in an unexpected career transition, this year has left its mark on us all.
Change in how we live and work is here. What’s driving these changes? Opportunity (no matter whether it is enforced or otherwise) is certainly one of the main drivers of change and one that comes as a result of the impacts and outcomes of Covid-19. But running parallel to that is fear. A fear perhaps of returning to a different workplace, of being stuck somewhere that doesn’t feel right anymore, or a fear that your job role won’t be around much longer.
Whatever the change is, and whatever is driving it, change also brings with it a sense of loss even when it is a positive change.
Change, particularly in your working life, can also feel worse just by virtue of age and experience, with people at either end of working age for whom the pressure to find a role may be challenging emotionally, financially, and physically.
If you’re younger there’s the uncertainty of finding that first step on the ladder and having to potentially reconsider your career plans. And, for those of you who are much later in working life and perhaps already considering retirement, it can feel like a very steep learning curve.
Going back into the job market or considering an alternative career at any time is demanding of time and effort, let alone presenting your best self to an employer who may find it difficult to see the positive benefits of age, experience and transferable skills.
Coaching and how it can help
Such a rapid and unexpected change in working life across the globe has brought change for many coaches and how they work. Not least because most coaches have had to rapidly transition to online-only arrangements during lockdown!
At the start of the pandemic, some coaches who worked in corporate life found their coaching contracts put on hold or cancelled. But equally, many coaches have found their work increase as companies start to invest in the longer-term programmes, aimed at improving resilience and mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Looking at search engine statistics as a coach, I’ve seen a change in what people are searching for with “career coaching”, “wellbeing coaching” and “transformational coaching” showing an upturn through 2020.
Maybe you’ve experienced the benefits of working with a transformational coach or with another type of coach or maybe you’re not sure what it’s all about. Essentially, coaching is a structured conversation that helps you to reframe your view of your world, helping you to move forward to where you want to be in your life.
Importantly, coaching is objective and non-judgemental. In other words, your coach helps you to discover a way forward that’s right for you, not influenced by the desires or opinions of well-meaning friends, colleagues and loved ones.
So, when might coaching help? Do an internet search for ‘life coach’ or ‘transformational coach’ and you might at first be overwhelmed with the results! You’ll find career coaches, wellbeing coaches, financial coaches, relationship coaches and the list goes on.
Working with a coach isn’t an instant results process, although you can often feel the benefits quite quickly. But because coaching is a very personal process it’s worth spending time finding the right coach for you. There are three essentials that I find help clients in choosing the right coach. These are:
- Define what you want from working with a coach – Do you need help with strategies for improving your health if you’re managing a long-term condition? Or do you want to work with a coach to help you to figure out the next steps for your career? Maybe you’re starting a new business, or want to build your confidence?
- Look at the coach profile and credentials – What coaching experience and skills does the coach have? Many coaches specialise in different areas and have undertaken extra training to do that type of coaching and have significant experience in that area. So, for example, I can reassure my wellbeing coaching clients that I have extensive experience in health and wellbeing as well as qualifications to support that. Membership of professional associations such as the Association for Coaching can also provide reassurance in terms of professional standards and reliability.
- And finally, do you like the coach? It’s important that you’re able to develop a rapport with the coach that you’re working with. Feeling comfortable with them and confident to share your personal thoughts, feelings and fears is essential!
Rowena Wood, the author of this article, is a trained transformational coach, specialising in later life career transition and women’s health. Find more details here.