My 14 Days in Isolation and What I Have Learned

With just 30 mins to go in self-isolation (day 13.99 of 14) after cutting my business trip to the UK short, it’s given me time to do a lot of self-reflection!

As I write these words this isn’t a call out for help, nor a call out for sympathy; this is merely a true account of the mistakes I’ve made over the last few weeks and to also empathise with what everyone is going through at the moment.

Having arrived in London on 8th March, I was excited about the prospect of meeting old and new clients to promote the Ayers Group to the UK. The start of the week went well with clients seemingly interested in what we had to offer.

As the week went on I could start to see the change in people’s attitude in London, the streets seemed quieter, the rules were changing and on Thursday I saw the news that Scott Morrison had made a rule that anyone travelling back into Australia was to stay in self-isolation for 14 days… at that point, I started to take the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

A couple of days later I called my business partner and we spoke about the staff in Australia working from home, the day after we told everyone to ‘pack what they needed’ and work from home…

I continued my trip in the UK as I was looking forward to seeing my mum, my brother and mates. The seriousness of COVID-19 hadn’t seemed to hit my hometown, however, within a couple of days when a few of my mates said they couldn’t come out as one was in self-isolation (having potentially contracted the virus) and others panicked this really heightened my senses… I for one felt I was immune, but I quickly realised that this was coming.

Not only was I concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see my wife and kids for at least 14 days upon my return, but I was also worried for my mum, my brother, my mates in the UK and all the staff and my family back in Australia which seemed so far away…

Having watched the ever-changing rules, not only in the UK and the new legislation being broadcast about what was happening back in Australia (and of course the rest of the world). I then received a text from a mate which basically read “you know the borders are about to be shut down over there don’t you”… I freaked out for obvious reasons and quickly contacted the travel agent to change my flight.

Within the space of 24 hours, I’d changed my original flight back to Oz from Sunday to Friday, to Thursday, to Wednesday… finally settling on Tuesday as I wanted to get home.

I apologised to my mum, my brother and my mates for cutting my trip short but they understood why.

With emotions running high and just a wave to my mum and brother at the airport – Social distancing was of highest priority!

A deserted airport with the only people be-grudgingly checking in (me included) to fly home and very empty flights it was a very surreal and lonely trip home.

I spoke with one of the flight attendants, initially, it was just small talk but after seeing the fear in her eyes she began to open up about of what was happening around her. The empty flight, people wearing masks and the fear of losing her job and being stuck in Abu Dhabi all on her own. Her mum had apparently told her to come back home to Australia … at the end of the flight after much more conversation I said ‘mums are often right’ she smiled and said ‘they often are I think I’ll listen this time’…

I arrived back at 7 am knowing that I was going into self-isolation for 14 days and unable to give my wife and kids a much-needed cuddle and my mind going into what seemed supersonic overdrive!

I started fearing the worst, what was happening in the UK, the flight attendant, was my mum going to listen to the staying at home rules Boris Johnson had put in place for the over 70’s, our staff, the business we’d built up and having to cope on my own for 14 days in isolation. I’m normally pretty level-headed but I went into meltdown mode.

Tired and jet-lagged I called my business partner along with the team leaders to make some quick decisions, we made an action plan and I began making calls!

Later that day I received a call from the sales manager to ask if I still wanted to follow through on my request. My demand was ‘yes’ nothing has changed since this morning (she knew I wasn’t feeling right)… my behaviour had become irrational as I was fearing the worst.

After two days of trying to recover from jet lag and some much-needed sleep I was beginning to think straight and started to realise the power of my knee jerk reactions… and the concern and worry that I’d put into other people.

I quickly realised that it wasn’t just me that was being affected by COVID-19 and its effect on the economy but it hit me that we are all in this one together.

Over the last 13 days in isolation, it’s given me a deeper understanding of the importance of mental health, after all, what good is having a loving family and a successful business if my headspace can’t recognise how fortunate I am. 

I felt like the world was closing in on me for those 48 hours and it terrified me. To think that some people live like this for long periods of time, even prior to all the distress COVID-19 has brought into our lives must be awful.

So today my message is this… how glad I am that this happened to me so early on in this transition to our new norm and that it only lasted a short time as I will now have a bigger appreciation of the pressure that some of our clients, contractors and staff may be under and I’m happy to help them through to the other side.

This current state is out of our control, in so many ways, so I’ve chosen, and I encourage you to do the same; take one day at a time, avoid too much negative news and social media and soak up all the simple pleasures around you… kids innocent laughter, the barrage of memes, the positive impact the reduced travel is having to the environment, the extra time to speak to friends and family near and far and overall your health.

I have committed to our team and our clients that through this we will communicate better than ever so expect to hear a lot more from me and the rest of the team, but it won’t a typical sales call, we are genuinely interested in how you and your business is coping and continually looking for ways we can assist you through these trying times. Our motto is ‘making your working life simple’ and right now I’ve learnt this is more important than ever.

My sincere apologies for my initial ‘knee jerk reactions’ 14 days ago to any of our staff or clients – you know who you are. If you go through a similar experience, please reach out I’m happy to help you out.

We’re in this one together and my thoughts go out to you all.