Holly Pullan, Environmental Health Officer, Scottish Borders Council has recently become Chair of HASCOG. She discusses how the pandemic has affected her work life and also her personal life.

1.         Describe you work before the pandemic? 

2 years ago, I moved from the North East and began working at Scottish Borders Council in the Food & Health and Safety team.  I worked on district as an EHO working with commercial premises in the Tweedale area. I did a range of routine and reactive food law visits along with health and safety. I really wish that someone had told me that Ken isn’t a person my first few months were spent wondering is Ken a local celebrity. 

I had put my name forward to chair HASCOG as it was our liaison groups turn to hold the torch. Thankfully my wonderful liaison group were very supportive of this idea and didn’t think I would be too horrendous! So, in the second week of March I was mentally preparing myself for my first meeting, to then have the realisation that everything was being cancelled from choir, inspections to HASCOG.

One of my favourite things about working in Scotland before the pandemic was the amazing network of EHOs from liaison groups to update events. I vividly remember the last training course that I was on in January up at Dundee (which is a super cool town.) I had completed my OCV and had met some lovely people. I feel very lucky that when there is a room of EHOs you can guarantee you’ll always have interesting conversations and even better see friends that you haven’t seen in a while.

2.         What have you been doing since the pandemic started? 

Wow that is a huge question! At first, I couldn’t think of anything but when I reflect my career landscape feels different. I guess a good place to start is HASCOG at one point in the summer when sectors started to reopen we held meetings fortnightly. To say that we didn’t have a clue what Teams was this time last year I think we have done very well.

A large portion of my day to day role has been helping businesses with their Covid-19 control measures and responding to complaints from the public about where they felt unsafe. However, I think overall I have been reading legislation and guidance documents over and over again to get my head around the statutory framework that businesses need to adhere to. I’m probably on the Scottish Government guidance website at least once a day….

I’ve also started to learn German as post pandemic steins, lederhosen and Currywurst are calling my fiancé and I. Additionally I have read a ridiculous amount of books as I have found that I really need the escapism from 2020 life.

3.         What are/were the challenges? 

Working through stage fright with HASCOG but in reality, it’s the amazing people involved that helped me through. Especially all the members of the Lothian and Borders Liaison Group. I’ve learnt how to control my nerves and blast some hype tunes before a meeting which I definitely couldn’t do that and do some crazy dancing in the REHIS offices…

On a more practical note businesses based in Scottish Borders any change in legislation or guidance between Scotland and England really impacts them on an operational level so that has been challenging explaining why our businesses needed to do certain things differently to other places in Northumberland. 

I found it hard trying to manage my mental health whilst supporting the various wonderful people in my life. Especially the day to day work on the front line it can be challenging to always find a positive outlook as it can be all consuming and slightly scary at times. However, I have found solace in regular walks in local woods and to keep up my wild swimming means that I have time in my week where I can recharge by batteries like the Duracel bunny.

In the first lockdown working alongside my fiancé who is a teacher was difficult in a small flat where we shared a dining room table. I heard too many arguments about spelling tests and interestingly got very attached to the descriptions of their pets. You’ll be pleased to know that he is back in the classroom and we have moved from a small flat to a house….

4.         Do you think any of these changes will last beyond the pandemic period? 

I genuinely think that the wider conversation about mental health will stay as we have all learnt what non-negotiable self-care routines we need in our lives to survive throughout this year. I love Clear Your Head Scotland and I hope this is always going to be available to us all. 

We have demonstrated that home working works on a large scale and I really hope this becomes normalised as the work life balance has really had an impact on my life. I have gained about 6 hours a week where I would have been commuting and I can now spend this doing my hobbies and activities which is really amazing. 

However, I do hope that in the future I can be in a room with EHOs from around Scotland catching up on life and laughing about the Coronacoaster of 2020. 

My final point to you, is to look after yourself. You can’t keep on giving from an empty cup. Whatever activities make you feel good, make sure that you commit time in your week for them. Finally know your boundaries and remember that life is meant to be treasured. Its normal to have bad days associated with work but we can’t let that make us feel like we have a bad life.