A year away from the office

Chiumento team-2

We are very quickly approaching the first anniversary of the first lockdown back in March 2020.  For many, this also means a year away from the office, a year without seeing any colleagues and a year of working from home.

I am sure I am not alone in the fact that I was highly optimistic/naive back in March last year and was convinced this would all be over by the summer, I certainly did not envisage us all still being locked down and working at home a year later.

It got me thinking, what impact has that year had, what lessons have been learned, what challenges have people faced and how has worked changed.  We asked our network and got an array of different responses as you’ll see below, but there is an underlying theme of the daily interaction with people that the office brings.

 ‘One of the biggest challenges for our firm is finding a way to facilitate informal or unplanned conversations between people. They are an important part of learning and knowledge exchange but are not happening as much now that we’re all at home. How do you recreate those moments when you bump into someone at the tea point and find out some useful piece of information, or ask them a question about something you’re working on? We’re also aware that junior members of staff are missing out on learning by osmosis – picking up on things just by, for example, hearing your colleague talking to a client on the phone.’ Legal Sector

 ‘Informal and unplanned conversations are not often happening. We’ve not really resolved this yet. For me, meeting deadlines and getting a good amount of quiet time to focus without distraction is much easier at home than in the office. It’s the communication that suffers. It’s swings and roundabouts really. In the office, we communicate really well and effectively informally, but can’t get a decent amount of focus and concentration time. However the environment has benefitted as COVID has forced us to be paperless!, Finance Manager

‘My job pre-covid was very much based around meetings and travelling to meet clients. Working from home or the suggestion of virtual meetings wasn’t ruled out but wasn’t really encouraged.  But the past year has been one of our best and it has shown that face-to-face meetings aren’t always necessary. I am sure they will return once we’re allowed but I can’t see my diary being quite as full as it used to be.  Without the need to travel from place to place I can see 1 if not 2 more clients each day I am much more productive’ Insurance sector

 ‘I’ve realised more than ever how important my team and wider colleagues are for support. When you can’t just pop out together for an informal coffee. While I have to some extent enjoyed not having the interruption of people arriving at my desk, collaborating via Teams just can’t beat those in-person off-the-cuff discussions. I will enjoy going back to a more hybrid home/office balance when this is all over and hope I will continue to have the same appreciation for those things I’ve missed about the office environment.’ Technology Sector

Here at Chiumento, we have been working remotely for over 4 years, so the whole working from home scenario, was for us, very much business as usual. We didn’t have to make any major changes to our systems or processes as they were already in place.  If anything, this confirmed that we made the right move when investing in becoming a remote working company.  However, asking the team what they miss, and this answer is each other. Despite not working in the same place, we understood the importance of seeing people in person, we met up regularly at company days (every 2 months), project meetings as well as purely social events such as Christmas and Summer parties. It’s these events that covid has obviously stopped.

We have not had one since December 2019 and one colleague couldn’t make that, so we’ve not seen him in person since September 2019.  Making it highly likely that by the time we can all safely meet again it could have been two years since we were last in the same room.

While we can but hope that June 21st marks the end of the restrictions, we just don’t know but one thing I am sure about is that working life and the office has changed for good.

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