Monday marked the first day of Level 2 and most of the Network team returned to the office, to the luxury of twin screens, meeting rooms that don’t double as bedrooms and filing systems. But as we know, this isn’t a return to normal just yet – rather a venture into a new normal. And an opportunity not just to breathe a sigh of relief, but to do things differently. Better. So we asked the team to name one thing from working through seven weeks of lockdown, that they will take with them to be even better at what they do. Our silver linings playbook, so to speak.
The last seven weeks taught me the importance of being present and working in the now. Normally there is a little bit of my brain working on all aspects of my life at all time – ‘what’s the deadline for this’, ‘what’s for dinner tonight’, ‘did I remember to make an appointment for child 1’, ‘when can I brief the team about x?’. Working from home, and with the benefit of teenage children, I was able to be really focused on the task at hand and it was quite liberating. Despite being at home where I thought the boundaries would be more blurred, when I was working, I was working and when I was with my family they had my full attention. I’ll definitely be trying to channel a bit more of this approach.
Firstly, I can definitively confirm that I am not one of those rare beasts suited to working from home. The lockdown also brought about an epiphany that I do not have the temperament of an introvert (I always considered myself a closet introvert), and a lot of my creative energy and motivation comes from being around other people. I will never again take for granted the pleasure of being able to shoot the proverbial – to bounce ideas around and joke and laugh and loudly seek advice. So, life lesson thanks to COVID-19: my internal monologue offers cruddy chat, and I am thankful for the patience of my colleagues in putting up with my talking utter nonsense for my own entertainment.
By being physically separated from colleagues and clients, I actually feel I’ve got to know them better. A Zoom background in week 1 more often than not provided a glimpse of what we wanted the world to see; in week 7 it was a window directly into our souls – and brilliantly so. It definitely gave me a better appreciation of the people I work with – and therefore helped me understand how we can work better together. My ambition is now not to lose this sense of connectivity and collectivity as we transfer back to a less digitally-reliant way of working.
Seven weeks away from the office taught me how much I value face to face communication (AND highspeed fibre broadband!!). It can be very easy to hide behind an email, but I’ve learnt to never underestimate the power of a quick team’s video call or zoom meeting to get the job done. Now that we are all back under one roof, I will replace the video call with a desk pow wow, and happily give up the rural Wi-Fi for high sped connectivity.
As the newest addition to the team, I had only spent 8 weeks getting up to speed with office life before we were packing up our things and heading home to the mysterious virtual work-world. Initially concerned with the sudden barrier in getting to know my new colleagues, there’s nothing like the power of a quick Teams DM for moral support in times of struggle or success. Now back in the office, I have a newfound appreciation for the collaborative nature of what we do at Network.
Working remotely doesn’t just demand more from our computer apps and Wi-Fi connection, it forces us to approach our working day in a different way. We are a very chatty and collaborative team, so I was challenged to find ways around our usual shout outs across the office and quick desk check-ins. I thought I was already pretty seasoned at working from home - it was already part of my ‘normal’ working week, but this stint has taught me a lot about what motivates me, and my colleagues. I think we’ve all emerged more resilient and adaptable, and tapped into how we can keep the momentum going even when things are a bit upside down.
Working from home, I was able to see my team mates in their natural habitat. And it wasn’t just my teammates, clients too. I have always felt like I was an extension of my clients team, and in times of old i.e. pre-March 2020, everyday informal communication with clients would mostly be via email or phone. But during levels 3 and 4, Zoom-ing became the default and I went from feeling like a valued extension to being officially, yet digitally, adopted into work bubbles all over the country, and across the ditch too.