Kathryn Thomas: 'I think I probably could have had' Covid-19

Kathryn Thomas tells Helen O'Callaghan how the pandemic upended her work life, how she finally got on top of working from home and how much she treasures the time spent with her daughter Ellie on their 2020 road trip.
Kathryn Thomas: 'I think I probably could have had' Covid-19

Kathryn Thomas says she’ll forever treasure the time spent with daughter Ellie on the No Place Like Home road trip.

A Thursday morning, mid-October, and TV star Kathryn Thomas has spent it with her toddler, Ellie, making pancakes, taking the cat to the vet and – following her interview with me – mum and two-year-old will be off to get the shopping in.

“I’ve been surprisingly good,” says the Operation Transformation presenter as she muses on the strange old year we’ve been having. The 41-year-old thinks she “probably could have had Covid-19” back in March when she and Ellie were very sick.

“We did self-isolation, kept in our own bubble for four to six weeks. We never got tested. I think I probably could have had it. I was wiped out, had a cough, didn’t have the temperature, felt very lethargic – an odd, odd feeling,” she recalls, adding that whatever it was, it was nothing like the flu she got in 2019 that knocked her for six.

Like everyone else, she can’t believe how life has changed – and so quickly. A year ago, she was MC at the National Women’s Enterprise Day. “Three thousand women up in Blanchardstown, all hugging and chatting – yesterday we had the event online!”

With lockdown, her Pure Results health and fitness business took a massive hit. “We had retreats sold for the whole summer, a fitness camp happening in Spain. It all just stopped.”

But on the flip side, she was busy with TV work, with Operation Transformation: Keeping Well Apart, which aired in April and gave people “a bit of positivity around how to stay well at home”, and with No Place Like Home, her staycation travel series that saw her and Ellie head off in a campervan to some of Ireland’s best holiday spots.

Tomorrow, Kathryn’s hosting a ‘Working Well at Home’ virtual event, a fundraiser for Irish Cancer Society to support breast cancer patients and their families. 

Along with her Pure Results team, she’ll help people address the challenges of remote working and give tips on fitness, nutrition, self-care. “I think what Covid has taught me is that you can adapt your way of working to suit you. You can prioritise what’s important,” she says.

She wants tomorrow’s workshop to help people set themselves up for success by “recognising boundaries needed to create a successful work-life balance within the four walls of your home”. She admits it took her and restaurateur husband Padraig McLoughlin a while to figure out the whole working from home thing.

Kathryn Thomas
Kathryn Thomas

“We were killing each other, not performing – it was stressful. There was a real sense of everything being out of place – I was doing Zoom while stacking the dishwasher.”

Living in an open plan house with no home office was challenging. “There was no place to go when working. I think everybody struggled – that’s ok. It took us a couple of weeks to figure out a system.

“We turned our spare bedroom into an office, cleared out all the clutter and crap to create an environment that’d promote positive, constructive work. We got the right lighting, a proper chair, the correct desk – so no crouching over a table.”

Always having lunch and dinner together (with Ellie), realising one person’s job isn’t more important than the other’s and mapping out the week – “knowing what calls he has, what meetings I have and scheduling them” – are key elements in the couple’s current successful home-working arrangement. 

“I work best in two hour blocks, then taking a 20-minute break. I dedicate some time to household chores. I never let the two cross over – if I’m on the phone, I’m not folding the clothes.”

And while at the beginning, work/home lines blurred and Kathryn often had fired off four emails before putting a foot out of bed, she now starts the morning with firm dedication to self-care. “I’ve cleared the mornings. I get up early and set my intention for the day. I do a 10-minute stretch on the yoga mat or a 10-minute meditation. That way I feel I’m coming at the day strong, resilient and fresh.”

She’s currently working three days a week fulltime and spending two days with Ellie. “It’s about prioritising her as much as work,” she says, adding that she’ll forever treasure the time spent with Ellie on the No Place Like Home road trip. 

“There were moments during a three-hour drive when she’d be chatting away or asleep beside me, and it was lovely. She’s an easy-going child – nothing much phases her. But there were days when I thought ‘this is mental’ – when we were trying to do a piece to camera and she had a dirty nappy and was screaming because she’d had no nap.”

But sitting up front in the campervan, Kathryn says Ellie “had a different perspective than looking at the back of Mummy’s head – she could see cows over stone walls, wave at tractors. She could see it all and everything was so sensory”. There was, she says, this feeling of being out and about, “this really special mother-and-daughter bonding”.

Kathryn’s top five tips for staying well while working from home

  • Meditate
  • Get outdoors daily; exercise three times weekly
  • Map out your working day
  • Set up a separate, functioning workspace
  • Plan & prep healthy wholesome lunches

Working Well at Home virtual event is open to everyone – whether working remotely or not! 

It takes place tomorrow, Friday, October 23, 10am-11.15am. Register at https://pureresultsbootcamp.com/workingwell/ 

After making your donation – a minimum of €10 is invited with all proceeds going to Irish Cancer Society – you’ll receive a Zoom link tonight. 

If you’d like to participate but can’t attend live event, recorded session will be available afterwards.

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