|  Leadership & HR   |  Quarantine: An Emotional Response

Quarantine: An Emotional Response


11pm sitting in bed in our motorhome near La Rochelle. The kids, fast asleep, had been full of plans for canoeing the next day. My husband and I were praising ourselves for pulling ourselves away from the warm evening and wine to get a much needed earlier night. And then the announcement was made… we had 30 hours to get out of France or be quarantined.


For us it was clear we needed to move, fast. We’d already enjoyed 2 weeks travel and were only going to sacrifice a couple of days. Finding a means of crossing the channel was more challenging due to demand and it soon became apparent we weren’t going to be escaping from Calais. Our initial thought at that point, driven by high emotional arousal, was the typical black-and-white response of

It’s not going to be possible.

It was surprising how quickly that kicked in. But then taking a step back and thinking outside the usual box of travel options, we managed to book a ferry from Dunkirk. Other travellers took a creative approach by hopping over the border into nearby countries such as Switzerland and Germany so they could travel back from there, merely passing through France, which avoided the quarantine restrictions. It’s impressive how people can find solutions to problems when they create mental space to engage their problem-solving, cognitive brain.


So after packing up camp, 3.5 hours sleep, and a long drive, we made it onto the ferry feeling incredibly exhausted but pleased. What was really interesting was to find UK travellers entering France for their holidays or deciding to stay in the country to complete their trip, despite the 2 week restrictions on their return home. Rewind to March when lock-down was imposed and many people were up in arms. But given the choice and more information, it is easier to make an informed decision. There are a whole range of factors coming into play here including the fact we already have a sense of what social isolation feels like, we’re making a choice that has direct personal consequences and we’re all unique in terms of our beliefs and values.


Change Process Lessons

When faced with impending change, having a sense of control is of paramount importance. Of course, some travellers wanted to return home and weren’t able to, many of whom are left with a sense of injustice. But when presented with information and options that mean we can make decisions based on how we’re personally impacted, we’re more likely to accommodate the new-way.

So what can we learn from the reaction to the situation so many people find themselves in? This example might only be travel-related but the emotional responses parallel those we experience transitioning through the Change Cycle in any situation:


LOSS – Recognising the sense of leaving something behind or missing out on an opportunity; the loss of control and not knowing what is going to happen next. Cutting short our holiday, being unable to book a train/ ferry initially, missing most of a night’s sleep.


DOUBT – Often associated with feelings of resentment or anger; a time for questioning and attempting to gather information. Is quarantine really necessary? Why 4am on a Saturday morning?


DISCOMFORT – Knowing what’s going on yet feeling stuck as we try to make sense of the change and our feelings that can appear overwhelming. Difficulty finding a way to get back to the UK, what it’s going to mean for us in terms of the next 24 hours, tiredness.


DISCOVERY – An injection of energy and control that comes with anticipation about moving forward towards the end goal that has now become clear. Ferry booked, head-torches on packing up our camp, alarm set for 5am.


UNDERSTANDING – Feelings of confidence, competence and productivity increase as our acceptance of the change increases, whether we like it or not. Driving through France on Friday knowing that we will avoid quarantine.


INTEGRATION – The insight into the consequences and rewards of the change enables clear assessment of the process and ideally, a sense of satisfaction. Relief sitting on the ferry and finally getting home.


Take a moment to consider the change your team has experienced over the last 6 months, changes to come, and how well you engage them with the process. Change may be inevitable but the journey is one that you have an element of control over and that directly impacts outcomes.


Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do you respond to the emotional response of loss, and support your team through it?
  2. How do you support your colleagues’ increased emotional arousal, for example anxiety or anger?
  3. How do you provide information and reassurance about what the change will entail and what it will mean for them?
  4. How do you plan the end point, involving all those people involved in the change process, so that they share ownership of the tourney and outcomes?
  5. How do you nurture confidence and competence as people make the transition towards a place of acceptance, if not excitement?
  6. How do you enable people to learn from the process so that they feel empowered to engage with future changes successfully and with positivity?


Do you know how to support people through the change process, keeping your team on board? Give me a shout and I’ll help you break down each step into the detail that makes a difference, supporting you to move people through each stage of the change cycle to achieve the outcomes you’re aiming for.