By Caitlan Kerr, Buying Assistant
I’ve had a stammer my whole life. From living with it, I know it’s affected by socialisation, self-confidence and the ability to push myself. Over the last year I’ve been in lockdown at home with my partner Matthew, and as I’m comfortable talking with him, I barely stammer at all.
Before the pandemic, I had lots of interactions with others. Commuting daily meant I’d have to speak to train conductors, while working in the office, sometimes with people I’d not met before, gave me the chance to push myself and improve my confidence.
But once lockdown began and I couldn’t go out, it caused a build-up of anxiety about speaking to people I don’t know. Things like speaking to people on the phone or asking someone where something was in the supermarket, especially whilst wearing a face mask, all felt much more challenging.
Whilst I’ve been working from home, Co-op have been great. My manager knew the lack of face-to-face communication was contributing to my heightened stammer. Because of this, we found ways to help me feel more comfortable communicating.
In meetings I typed my contributions as notes, and I used Zoom to keep an element of face to face. I found that things improved further when I began working on a laptop. Using the built-in camera to attend meetings on Microsoft Teams was a huge help. As I could see people’s faces as they were speaking, it removed a barrier for me as eye contact is important for fluency.
As lockdown is now easing and many restrictions are being lifted, it’s brought me a new level of anxiety. I’m starting go back into the world again and find the confidence to speak to others which took me my whole life to build. Luckily, I’ve got a great network of supportive friends and family around me. They allow me to push myself, but I know they’re there when I need a bit of extra support. I’ve also learned if I’m having a bad day with my voice I can rely on technology, making the transition back to normal life a bit easier. I’m confident that in a few months I’ll be back to where I was pre-pandemic.
Thanks to all the support from the business, and the measures they put in place for me, I’m now happier than ever at work. In fact, I’ve even secured myself a new role within Co-op. Despite the fact I’ve not yet met my new team in person, I already feel well connected and have fitted in perfectly.
I’d encourage everyone to have honest conversations with their managers. If they know about any barriers which make work more challenging for you than it should be, they can help. There’s also lots of information and support available on Lifeworks for all colleagues. I’m proof that with the right tools, technology and support in place, you can progress your career and achieve all that you want to.