Throughout the last 19 months working as a Workplace Consultant I have always chose where I work based on what I was doing (let’s face it, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t). I’d be in an office, a coffee shop, a hotel, at a customer site or in my home office. I have a great team around me and feel trusted and empowered by my boss. Even before the pandemic, I knew I was in a privileged position.
At the end of February I was stood at Sheffield Train Station at 4.30am wearing lots of layers and grasping a coffee in an attempt to stay warm (and wake up!). Little did I know that would be the last London commute of the year.
When lockdown v1 arrived, despite the worrying situation, as an introvert I enjoyed the first 2 weeks of lockdown. The weight of balancing life, work, exercise, family, socialising had been lifted; I could stay home with my wife and dog, read books, empty the dishwasher when I needed a 5 minute break during the working day and in general just get some headspace. I was eating better (Pret, I do miss your jam croissants), drinking better (ok, it was mainly gin at the beginning) and sleeping better (thanks to no more early get ups).
I spent the initial few weeks supporting customers with the immediate turmoil; business continuity plans thrown out of the proverbial window and reworked seemingly over night. It was strange working purely in the virtual world and I missed the buzz (the noisy frother!) of a coffee shop, the banter with my colleagues and seeing my customers and their workplaces.
As virtual working continued, I started to wonder if it was necessary to continue to wear shirts, whether a background was needed and as spring arrived, even whether my customer could hear my neighbour cutting their grass. People asked me what I thought was going to happen next; I told them that if the situation continued for much longer it was likely that the world of work would never be the same again.
I am resilient and thrive off a challenge but this time was different, I had so many unanswered questions and so did my customers. What made me panic most was that customers were looking to me for answers. A situation I previously would have embraced, thrived off and gone all out to resolve.
I was walking my dog on a Saturday morning and began to ponder about what I had been experiencing and what my friends and family had been experiencing and feeling, what I had read and simply what my gut was telling me. I also questioned and reflected on everything I knew about the world of work pre-pandemic. When I got home, I turned the laptop on, got pens and paper out and ultimately began a design sprint; a sprint based on everything I knew and what business challenges were before and during the pandemic and what they could be in the future.
I was on a mission to understand what the new world of work could look like; I wanted to take everything that was wrong and drive positive change, the world of work needed to be better for us all. After lots of evenings and weekends, by the end of March, my concept of what the future world of work could look like was finely tuned; I sighed with relief that I may have some answers after all.
Throughout the year I’ve been working on a number of projects across a range of sectors on a global scale:
- Reimagining workplace strategies.
- Fit-out projects.
- Redesigning of spaces and new furniture.
- Tenders for future works.
- Space booking platforms.
- Reviewing visitor management journeys.
- Ensuring Covid secure workplaces.
300+ different spaces. Over 10,000 people.
In addition, I’ve done a number of webinars, spoke at virtual conferences, wrote articles, ran roundtables and chaired the IWFM Workspace SIG.
I had days where I felt good and in full flow and I had days where I felt like I was trying to run on ice in thick fog wearing my slippers. I have been on the brink of burnout a number of times, the feelings of imposter syndrome and feeling overwhelmed and discombobulated were (and still are) a regular occurrence.
I haven’t quite got the right work life balance, I definitely don’t sleep enough or drink enough water and I miss people. I struggle to switch off from work, I miss my friends, family, colleagues, customers, like many, my home and work life have merged. I just miss normal; a pub quiz, a football match, an ice hockey game, a music gig, a coffee with a friend, a hug, a holiday, a haircut.
But, where there are challenges, there are opportunities. As 2020 comes to an end, I have more awareness, resilience and gratitude. I understand myself more and respect my values more than ever. I know what I want from the world of work and I know what positives I need to drive for the benefit of us all. Me, my family and friends are all safe. I have a home. I have a job. I have a great manager and team. I have hope.
Here are the things which I’ve tried to keep going to give myself the best chance of being in the flow each day:
- On a Sunday, I complete a prioritisation grid of tasks for the coming week (Eisenhower style).
- I block out my diary from having early morning meetings (It’s not when I’m at my best) , I try to ensure I have time between meetings to catch a breath and I try to work in sprints throughout the day.
- At the end of every working day I walk my dog for an hour whilst listening to audiobooks/music/podcasts.
- I have remembered the importance of supporting local businesses and in turn I’ve received lots of nice deliveries which have picked me up.
- After exhausting Netflix (Prime, NowTV and Disney Player!), I have tried some new hobbies: pottery, painting, board games and scrapbooking. I also bought a drill and have really enjoyed DIY!
- I continue to learn; I read for at least half an hour each day and have been doing a diploma in coaching.
- I virtually meet with my coach and spend the time working through challenges, reflecting and refocusing.
- I confide in those around me and trust them to straighten me back out again when I need it.
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of my team throughout the last 9 months. We are close knit anyway, but we really have pulled together and supported each other like nothing I expected.
Stay socially distant but emotionally connected. Check in on those around you and have a wonderful and restful break. I wish you a healthy and happy 2021, you’ve got this and remember, we’re all in this together.