Culture and Confidence Post COVID-19
- AuthorDavid Gilroy
COVID-19 has been an uncertain, persistent and intense roller coaster for every one of us, professionally and personally. But as we start to see a ‘new normal’ on the horizon, it’s important to think about what happens next.
There is no doubt that this pandemic has re-shaped day to day life in every company. From daily practises to job roles. A ‘new normal’ really is the perfect term and everyone’s transition back to work can be expected to be different. Some easier than others, some quicker than others.
In this article three members of our team speak out about what they think their return to the ‘new normal’ will feel like and look like. The team, both those on furlough leave leaving them feeling like they cannot help and those who have powered through work from their dining table for the last three months, know that there will be changes ahead.
The Past; The Highs, Lows and Outright Confusing
Talking about the future without reflecting on the past is pointless. Below our team dig into what direct effect COVID-19 has had on them. From the minute to the life-altering.
Team Member 1
I wasn’t quite prepared for how I would feel when COVID-19 hit us all in March. Everything changed so quickly. Everything we took for granted was suddenly pulled from under us and we plummeted into a world of uncertainty. The office closed and everyone worked from home. Then came the call to say I was being furloughed along with 16 others. The luxury of time at home - it was going to be a gift, wasn’t it? But the worry at times was just quite overwhelming. I actually wasn’t “OK”. I listened to the news (too much) and worried about everyone. I buried myself in a routine that resembled my working week - just to keep the structure of a normal day. The contrast between the furlough team and the working team was painful at times - everyone just wanting to do their bit to make sure we got through this and I could see it on their faces. I’d never experienced anything like it before. No-one had.
Home became a safe haven. Outside my sanctuary, the world seemed somewhat daunting, so I kept busy. You tell yourself; this time is precious and to make the most of it and yes, it is great to have the time for the things you never normally get around to. But it’s hard to fill that gap that is your work and one of the things that make you ‘you’. What you yourself get a sense of pride and satisfaction doing. Take that away and some of us may feel a little lost. I certainly did.
Team Member 2
As I write this, it’s Tuesday 23 June, which makes this my 98th day in lockdown...definitely one to tell the grandkids, eh? During this time, I have battled with finding an exercise routine which suits me (and I’m not much of an exerciser, so this has been tricky), many days of snacking when I really shouldn’t have been, and varying levels of productivity and energy. There have been highs and there have been lows, but what’s next?
Worry 1 - As someone with asthma, who would normally catch the bus into work, there are varying worries for me. My main issue is tackling the anxiety of travelling to work safely, as well as the question of when this will be. I’m sure I’m not alone with this one, and this makes me questions how long this feeling of uncertainty will pervade our lives.
Worry 2 - What’s more, if people are going back to work soon, and others aren't, I wonder if this will affect the overall culture at Conscious. We have a real culture of family and open communication, and I wonder if FOMO, and paranoia about the security of my job, will kick in if I’m not heading in each day.
Team Member 3
When looking back over the lockdown period it’s been a rather strange and surreal experience. My partner had given birth just before we went into lockdown and coming out of hospital to have 20 mins to dash around the local supermarket for essentials was a crazy experience. The whole experience has caused all of us to adapt to different ways of communicating with one another.
We have had to learn things on our own whilst developing our daughter with no help from friends or our parents due to the restrictions put in place. If it wasn’t for the Internet or various developmental apps we probably would have struggled a lot more without our parents help, their only way of getting to know their granddaughter or any sort of bond with her via WhatsApp. So technology has been a nice medium to fall back on. I know every parenting experience is different, but this is 'next level’.
Then for me comes a bad experience during the lockdown. A few weeks ago, I lost my Uncle which came as a shock. He died having an aneurysm walking back to the clubhouse after finishing a round of golf. He was a great influence on my life, teaching me and my cousin to play golf from an early age being able to hit a load of golf balls across the field at his farm or about hard labour when helping out during lambing season. What was worse for me was that his aneurysm could have been prevented, but mistakes were made in his treatment. I was unable to attend the funeral due to restrictions which was hard to swallow for someone who’d been a huge influence on me growing up.
The Present; Where Am I Now?
Nearly four months on, countless Zoom calls, quizzes and endless lockdown jingles later. Here we are. The Present. After all of this time, experience and difficulty. Where are our team now?
Team Member 1
The good news is, it looks like the whole team will be back to fight the next phase together. Balance restored - but in a different way. Time will tell.
Pre-COVID-19, the word ‘culture’ was a buzz word around the office. We’d worked hard to create a positive working environment and it was making a difference to our levels of ‘happy’. Our aim was to communicate better, show we care, listen, support, share ideas and generally be there for each other. Simple but effective. And not just for our staff but for our customers too. Meetings in person built up good working relationships so that clients also felt part of a bigger team. One of the many casualties of this pandemic is that all of that could be lost. We’ll have to work hard to keep that level of communication.
Our culture has given us a good foundation on which to build a new way of working post-COVID-19. Working from home will continue to challenge us to communicate regularly and be efficient with our time. It won’t replace the subtle interactions, collaboration and support you experience in an office environment. We’ll all miss the gentle banter in the kitchen, the bad jokes and the happy birthdays that office life brings. A knowing look of understanding is so easily missed on a screen. Mostly we’ll just miss each other!
Team Member 2
With my asthma and lack of professional and social interaction in mind, and with the aim of putting my mental health first – which we should all be doing right now – I’ve come up with a solution. My main idea for tackling this problem, as well as sorting out my exercise routine, is to get on the Cycle to Work Scheme.
Getting this sorted makes me feel a lot more positive about my situation, particularly the future of my mental health. Not only should this motivate me to get out of the house more, but it will also provide me with the freedom to socialise, and head to the office every so often too.
Team Member 3
I know the whole COVID-19 situation is a bad, no, a horrendous thing, but to be able to spend more time with my newborn daughter to help her develop in the early stages has been a blessing in disguise for which I am thankful - I get to have so much more time with her than I normally would have been able to. It has also helped me with my personal development, spending more time developing weaker aspects of my expertise giving me time to focus on these which has been a really enjoyable experience.
The Future; One Step at a Time
It has never been more important that everyone puts their best foot forward in order to move on as a team. But to assume it will be the same process for everyone would be wrong, below the team open up about what they need to start moving towards normality.
Team Member 1
There is a positive side to this though. Many of the team are enjoying working from home - especially those with a long commute every day and if you have a cat (or a dog haha) then you are onto a winner! With more time and less travel, we’ll be time to explore, ponder, challenge and reflect - all conducive to being more creative and more productive. Those precious hours that top and tail our working day are valuable and can give you that ‘buffer’ on a busy day. A time to exercise, catchup, spend time with loved ones and give yourself the opportunity to switch off, relax and just slow down. Hopefully, we’ll feel we have a better balance and can take life as it comes and at a more considered pace rather than a clock-watching rush and panic.
This has been, undeniably, one of the toughest years for many of us but when we are faced with such challenges on such a great scale, it can also bring out the best in us and help us to appreciate all we have. So here’s to a world that has shaken us to our core. A situation that made us look at our lives and reassess what is important to us. And here’s to the day when we are all back together in our orange office lifting a glass and celebrating being together.
Team Member 2
With the limited space in our workplace, it’s strange to think that we have no real clue when we’ll all be back in the building together. Social distancing with desks means this won’t be for a very long time. It really begs the question of when things will go back to "normal", or really if they ever will?
Will this be how things are from now? Will constant anxiety and uncertainty be the pervasive feelings for the foreseeable future? Will we ever know life as we once knew it before? I'm curious to find out.
On the bright side, I ultimately feel like this may be better for the overall company culture in the long run. We've all learnt so much and grown together in the process. When we can all finally go back, we will have all been through something together that has really bonded us. Perhaps this is a new future for workplaces across the globe; the understanding that culture and loyalty is one of the most important elements of any workplace.
Team Member 3
So what to take away from all of this and how I see it panning out. I feel that I’ve created stronger bonds with our respective parents who can’t wait to help out more when restrictions loosen as it has been tough, but I feel my partner and I have worked better as a team sharing the responsibility.
I feel that the hi-tech communication tools have really helped and will allow me to use this in other areas at work where we will still likely rely on email and video conferencing as I don’t see transport situations improving until the new year as this will still be a heavy risk factor. It's allowed me to appreciate the smaller things in life getting things planned out better to maximise efficiency on getting stuff done. But also helped me to strengthen weaker areas of me as a person.
Once in a Lifetime
This has been a once in a lifetime experience (we most definitely hope). To say ‘let’s ignore the negatives for a minute’ is impossible, 40,000+ deaths, the impact on the economy. But there have most definitely been positives due to the position this pandemic has put businesses in.
Speaking for Conscious, there is no doubt that our culture looks different, but that doesn’t mean worse. As many of our team have said, this situation has only allowed them to get even more support from their colleagues. Although there won’t be Friday drinks for a while, we still have Zoom events as a team (Drag Queen Bingo anyone?), and more of us are picking up the phone to have one-on-one conversations with people in the office.
Some team member's confidence has been shaken as they re-enter their role after prolonged furlough leave. Whereas others feel more confident after all of the training they’ve had the chance to do, thanks to our amazing furlough leave training budget. Each person on furlough leave was given £200 to spend on whatever training they wanted.
The main takeaway from this is that although our team always had a strong bond, it’s now even stronger.