This morning I had a chat with my son about how his company will weather the coronavirus pandemic.
Lots to discuss, lots to consider.
But one of the upsides in his view is just how productive they’ve all been working from home. He wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised. It positioned him really well to argue for handing in their notice on their expensive West End office. The formal letter went off to their landlord last week. Their notice period clock is now running down.
This gives the company a real chance to change how they work as well as where they work. He wants to be able to capitalize on their newly accelerated productivity, whilst at the same time recognizing that people need to come together to bounce around ideas, keep in touch, share space, life stories and just chat. His thoughts for their future swirl around the abundance of interesting empty property in cheaper parts of the city, that could house teams as they ebb and flow within a project’s dynamic. Space when they need to meet, but no-one is proscribed to be there. Space to hold interesting events, discussions, cultural or community support.
So as National Working from Home Day approaches, what will you take away from this enforced working from home period? Here are some of my top thoughts…
Appreciating essential workers
I’ve been able to work from home, alternating it with working from shared spaces, for some years. It has been a choice for me. During this time many essential workers have not had that choice. I am determined to continue showing my appreciation for how their work allows me to have that choice beyond lockdown. A conversation, a small thank-you gift, a joke – these small interactions matter.
My desk to the world
Whether on Teams/Hangouts/Skype/Zoom, being able to invite people into my space, rather than having to arrange a meeting in person has helped me realise how much more widely I can cast my business net. Yes, I love meeting people in order to read their expressions/body language, but wow, I love working with people in different places with other experiences. The world is going to be my oyster but from my desk. And this will ensure my determination to reduce flights to less than two a year is achievable.
Many people rely on others to feed their creativity, inspiration, output – Myers Briggs character analysis labels this type of person ‘extravert’, whereas those who pull it out of their own core ‘introvert’. I fall into the latter type. But more than ever during this time, I’ve realized that I can only do this if I’ve shaped my physical, practical workspace to suit me.
Over the last three months I’ve been staying with incredibly kind family members – lockdown happening after I’d moved out of one home and having delayed my move into the next. Three of us are working from here, so we take it week and week about working in different spaces around the house. I’ve learned how to create an instant ‘my workspace’ – my notebooks, clear line of sight, fresh flowers/greenery collected on early morning walks together with my ‘lockdown treat’ of a full set of Kurotake watercolour brush pens. These little things anchor me into ‘work’ mode wherever I sit.
I’ve sorted my schedule out for each day, for the week too during lockdown. Tea/end of breakfast at my desk by 9am after a long walk+plank+squats+sit-ups. Coffee happens mid-morning, big meetings start at 10am or 2pm. I finish at 5.30pm. A marketing plan for the week ahead is a Tuesday task, all admin a Friday morning one. Job done.
But then… if it’s a lovely day, I’ll break the mould by heading outside to daydream and shoot the breeze with friends on the phone. Play with the dog. Because what’s the point of working at home if you can’t enjoy being at home too? Oddly it has taken lockdown to make me understand this.
These are just a few of my WFH learnings. As increasing amounts of us will be allowed to work from home more in the future – what will you build into your future WFH landscape? And is it the same for friends, for partners and colleagues? We will all have to navigate this both as teams but also on our own to ensure we can deliver what our roles require of us.
Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP. Referred to by Forbes.com as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’, finalist in the Business Book Awards 2020. It’s full of easy-to-use advice on innovative ways to grow your business and is available from Foyles, Amazon and all other good bookshops.
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