My Quarantine Routine: Liz, a former Paralympian working from home

Liz Johnson is a former Paralympic swimmer who won Gold in Beijing, Silver in Athens and Bronze in London.

The 34-year-old lives with cerebral palsy, and now no longer competing, she is working on her new venture – a disability employment consultancy called The Ability People (TAP) and as an Athlete Mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

She’s also planning her wedding, which is due to take place in Brazil in October.

Liz is used to working from home as all of TAP’s employees are disabled and work remotely but usually she travels a lot for work and is not used to being at home for such a long period of time.

For Liz, there is lots of work to be done to ensure employers are learning from lockdown, using it as an opportunity to trial new flexible working practices and focussing on the positives.

Many of us are discovering that working from home can be just as effective as working from an office, so Liz is working hard to encourage businesses to make positive changes and facilitate authentic inclusivity and accessibility. 

Liz treated the first couple of weeks of lockdown as an opportunity to recharge. Since then, she has established a routine that allows her to get plenty of work done, with enough flexibility to achieve a healthy work/life balance.

For My Quarantine Routine, Liz explains what she did on Friday 1 May.

7:15 am  

I try and set meetings early in the day so that it’s easier to wake up. If I don’t have any calls booked in until the afternoon, I’ll get my daily exercise done in the morning instead of the evening. Today, I have lots of calls so I am up early! 

I always make a smoothie in the morning with my Nutribullet. What it consists of depends on what’s in the fridge and freezer. Today, it’s mango and kale.

The milkman delivers my milk at 7:30am. Nothing beats milk from a glass bottle. I get through so much of it and always have, ever since I was little.

8 am 

At 8 am, I start working on a project for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust Foundation around session planning and content to deliver our strategy remotely.

I’m an Athlete Mentor and I’m passionate about encouraging people of all ages to get involved with sport and to get active whilst developing transferable life skills, to maximise their overall wellbeing.

I’m really pleased that we’re able to deliver our programmes remotely, to keep up the work we’re doing supporting young people and communities through physical activity, mental well being and engagement. 

10 am 

After my call I sit and have a coffee break. Two exciting things also arrive! The first is my landscape gardener who has been sorting out my garden for me (while social distancing, of course). The second is my engagement ring! I’m getting married in October and it was supposed to be delivered the last week of March but was hugely delayed in arriving due to Covid-19.

I’m so excited to finally have it though I was supposed to head out to Brazil for Easter so I’ve not actually been able to open it yet. My fiance Phelipe wants that honour. The suspense is testing me.

10:30 am

Mid-morning I record a podcast with Suzy Christoper at Untapped, which is really fun. Untapped is a disability inclusion champion and wants to drive positive social change for people living with disabilities.

The podcast focuses on sharing insights to inspire and engage new audiences around disability inclusion, and this episode is all about our collaboration to launch #InWithTheInCrowd – a new campaign that aims to shine a light on the fact that lockdown life is “normal” if you’re living with a disability or chronic illness, because you’re often faced with fewer options and/or difficult choices.

It will be available to listen on Tuesday 19th May, via www.weareuntapped.co.uk and on various podcast platforms so keep an eye out! 

12 pm 

I have a catch up with my Dame Kelly Holmes Trust Athlete Mentor partner, Claire Bennett, on Zoom at midday. We talk through everything that we’d been working on independently and firm up the details for the remote delivery programme. 

2 pm 

At 2pm I have a quick lunch. This is a wrap made up of yesterday evening’s leftovers – a spicy chicken filling coupled with salad and some cheese.

I’ve been doing that a lot in lockdown as it is making my shopping last longer and the food go further.

3:15 pm 

I have a call with my co-founder at The Ability People, Steve Carter, in the afternoon. We’re really busy helping big companies learn from lockdown and find ways to incorporate flexible and inclusive practices into their hiring and retention processes.

Managers are discovering that working from home can actually be a brilliant way to work; and what’s crucial is that allowing people to work more flexibly, instantly makes the workplace more accessible.

We have a huge opportunity to learn now; and if we can transform how we work off the back of lockdown, we will have created a positive outcome from a negative situation. 

4 pm 

Steve and I have a call with our team about Podium. Podium is a new jobs marketplace we’re launching at TAP any day now to connect skilled, disabled and or/impaired candidates to freelance roles and organisations who are keen to embrace authentic inclusion and diversity within the workplace.

5 pm 

I stop working at 5pm as it has been such a busy day and go for a bike ride. I love being able to go out on my bike during lockdown. It gives me so much freedom.

With fewer cars on the road I’m able to use it safely and it really clears my head. I’m not built for walking due to my cerebral palsy and don’t want to be in a car. It’s just not the same! So I’m really enjoying getting out and cycling. 

I cycle to my Auntie’s (my mum’s best friend) and pick up some Welsh cakes. Every three days I cycle via her house and she leaves something out for me to pick up. I always leave her something too so that she has something nice to eat. A socially distant swap shop and wellbeing check-in.

6:30 pm

One thing I appreciate about lockdown is that it gives me time to cook properly. Usually, I’m on the road a lot so I have to eat what’s available and I’m not in control of it.

In lockdown, I’ve been getting a Click & Collect delivery every three and a half weeks and have been enjoying having time to cook a little more creatively. Today I make paella.

7 pm 

As I said, in October this year I’m going to be getting married. Our wedding will be in Brazil, as that’s where my fiance is from.

I’ve only ever picked up the odd phrase in Portuguese and could always understand much more than I could speak so since lockdown I’ve been doing Duolingo every day to actually try and learn the language properly!

It’s been fun and I’m really enjoying it. I’m definitely improving and enjoy calling Phelipe afterwards to test what I’ve learned.

10:30 pm

I tried to stay up until midnight as this is when the supermarkets release slots for their online food deliveries, but I couldn’t. I’m in bed by 10:30 pm after a very busy Friday.

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