When we first began working from home in mid-March last year, we thought it would last a week or two. One week later, the UK declared a national lockdown. Even then, many of us thought it would only be for a couple of weeks or a few months at most. One year later, we’re still working from home. Things definitely turned out differently than expected.
The initial shift to working from home full-time took some adjustment. It made us all realise the importance of a good internet connection, a proper workspace (that isn’t your bed), and peace and quiet. More importantly, it highlighted how vital it was to communicate clearly with and trust in your colleagues as we were no longer all in the same space.
This past year has been challenging to say the least, but it has also provided an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-focus. We’ve all had to learn to work, operate and communicate differently, so here are some of my key takeaways of the past year since working from home full-time.
Technology really is the future
We’ve been saying for a long time that technology is important in our day-to-day lives and that it is the future. The pandemic has certainly emphasised this. Being able to continue meetings with colleagues and clients over video calls, as well as access work anytime and anywhere, have been vital in keeping business continuity.
Working with clients in the tech space, it’s been incredible to see first-hand how they are playing a part in the technology revolution that’s been spurred on by the pandemic. From creating more options for contactless payments, better online ordering capabilities, to ensuring a secure and seamless cloud and remote working systems.
Of course, healthcare technology has taken on a new form during this time. Health secretary Matt Hancock spoke about how the pandemic has seen an uptake of technology in healthcare “like never before”. Med-tech companies have completely reworked their supply chains to keep up with increased demand for medical supplies and support healthcare professionals – from delivering vaccines, testing, medication management systems, to providing pumps to hospitals. We’ve also seen new innovations emerge, such as fridges that can be at -70 degrees for the Pfizer vaccine, or the acceleration of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare systems.
Maintaining your health and wellbeing
A key lesson that the past year has taught us is the importance of health and wellbeing. The online workout videos, virtual Pilates or yoga sessions, or even a nice countryside walk have almost become essential to keep up our fitness… and sanity. While mental health has been on the agenda for quite some time, this unprecedented time shed new light on just how important it is. People are reaching out more; taking more time to listen. It’s become normalised to take some time to recharge and regroup.
Keeping up morale in the workforce is no easy feat even in the best of times. It’s been great to see how creative our London office has been in coming up with activities for virtual socials. The classic pub quiz, a chatty wine night on a Thursday, at-home cocktail making, and (my personal favourite) disco bingos!
Communication is key
The mass shift to remote working has tested how well we communicate. Video conferencing apps have been vital in maintaining some level of human contact, but in an effort to minimise “Zoom fatigue”, or being in a “call vacuum”, a lot of communication takes place over email. Things that would be typically done by going over to someone to speak to them, or picking up the phone, are now exchanged over messages. Suddenly you have to be more conscious about not flooding people’s inboxes. Giving feedback to colleagues or clients that is often best communicated in person is now mainly done in writing. Making sure the messaging is clear, and the tone is appropriate, has become paramount. But this shift has also made us more conscious about how we communicate things and take more time to write things out to convey what we want to say.
Remote working is likely going to continue even when offices can reopen again. It’ll be interesting to see how we take these lessons forward as we navigate the challenges posed by the current pandemic and potential ones that may arise in the future.
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