Written By Cristina Campos and Rachel Lally
Almost two months into our third lockdown and we’re still yet to return to the office. Let’s rewind and see how we got here.
It’s March 2020. You are at home, the chair is uncomfortable, the neighbour’s kids are driving you crazy. There is no coffee machine, you have been wearing same pyjamas for the last 4 days, your desk is a tiny kitchen table. There’s no one to talk to, no one to ask a question, but also no one to distract you from work… maybe this isn’t so bad after all?
The outbreak of COVID-19 lead to many finding themselves working from home. Whether we found this good or bad, new or old, it was a reality that we all had to face and as the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So I decided to adapt. Introducing new IKEA (not sponsored) office chair – £30, desk – £40, and comfort that came with it – priceless.
Now I’m not saying that this adjustment was a painless process, of course there were some challenges and obstacles that had to be dealt with, calls replacing face to face meetings took some getting used to for one. The fading comfort of knowing that there is always someone more knowledgeable and experienced just a tap on the shoulder away was hard to let go of.
However I refused to let these circumstances get the better of me. Survive, adapt, overcome.
This was not to be a downfall, but an opportunity. Our chance to show some confidence, take our responsibilities up a notch, make that decision. It’s all well and good talking about stepping out of our comfort zones, but it’s actually doing it that will make the difference.
I would not blame you if the pandemic made you think that an office environment was the second best thing since sliced bread, and that working from home has brought nothing but struggles and complications to our lives.
However, that’s not how I feel (despite the challenges it’s bought!).
- 2 hours of travel time saved.
- 10 hours a week returned.
- 40 hours a month gained. That’s an additional week gifted to me.
Add a little bit of commitment and discipline, and 40 hours have turned into two online courses with respective upskilling certificates, which in turn translate into high performance, better output and an increased level of professionalism that benefits everyone across the board.
We have managed to deliver during what can only be described as one of the most challenging times in the last decade. By no means is it a one size fits all approach, there is much more to be talked about and considered as everyone’s circumstances will different. Yet we are able to acknowledge that despite all of the difficulties and complications, not being in the office does not have to hinder our productivity and performance.
Now lets hear the flip side.
Having read Cristina’s take on the past year, I admire her. The majority of my 2020 consisted of very different views on the (yup here it comes) “new normal” (one of us had to say it).
Now I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to do my job from home. Not only that but I work in the digital technology sector, an industry which has benefited from COVID-19 unlike the many that have suffered. Yet I still struggled with the new adjustments.
I live in a flat with a friend who also works in the digital sector. With limited living space our small dining table now had to house 4 screens and 2 keyboards, feng shui was required every day. Constant evaluations of who’s call was more important and required use of our new workstation, and who was therefore relegated to their bedroom when there was a clash in calls.
I personally missed the commutes. I’m lucky that I can walk to the office, albeit that takes me an hour, but that was two hours of walking, clearing my head, switching off from work, listening to a podcast, gone. Without a garden, instead I had to rely on doing laps of the same park over and over in our 1-hour daily allowance. Not only was there less outdoor movement, but the physical movement between meetings was gone, instead I found myself sat in the same seat for 7 hours most days.
Of course like most, I tried to put a positive spin on things. The lack of both commute and office distractions meant more productive hours in the day – woo! Initially I did struggle with the sheer volume of phone calls I was having (Zoom fatigue is very real), but as this plateaued to a manageable level, I was able to throw myself into work. Which boy did I do… to the extent where I wasn’t taking proper lunch breaks or exercising enough, I was letting my to do list get the better of me (I’m my own worst enemy in that I love a list) and worked later into the evenings. Well, what else was I going to do? Darker evenings, cancelled plans, lockdowns and social restrictions lead to work becoming my primary focus.
By the end of 2020 I acknowledged that I’d let the balance slip. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my job, but I recognised that 2021 was a chance to start fresh, despite the new lockdown. Say hello to a new desk in a different room to that of my flat mate, a coffee machine (why did I not purchase one sooner), time blocked out for daily walks, a new exercise routine, a journal, and a reignition of my love for cooking new recipes! As a result, I can so far say I’m finding this lockdown more pleasant than previous, however unpopular that view may be.
While we all have various approaches to working from home, with different methods of dealing with the challenges and opportunities it brings, one thing that is clear is that office life is unlikely to return to what it was in 2019.
Some prefer working from home, enjoying the benefits it brings such as commuting time becoming family time, less office distractions. Others miss the social interaction with colleagues, seeing people you work with face to face, having organic conversations over a coffee. It’s important as a company we recognise these differences and acknowledge that whatever decision is made about returning / not returning to the office will affect people’s mental health in different ways.
Station10 are currently canvassing all staff to gain their views on the preferences of home versa office and how the compromise is best met for the people and business needs.