The changes I’m making because of Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed our lives both in the short and the long term. It feels like things were very different in the time before the pandemic. Although it’s a very rubbish silver lining, the changes in how we live and work offer an amazing opportunity to learn. As Paul Taylor noted in his post on black swans, if we go back to business as usual, we’ve let ourselves down.

It’s really interesting to think about how we can capture the changes within our organisations — whatsthepont has written a great post on deploying innovation and learning people alongside COVID-19 response teams, John Burgoyne has shared how the Centre for Public Impact is gathering stories, and Collaborate CIC have been asking questions to gather learning about change and adaptation.

This situation also offers us the opportunity to look at what we do as individuals. My attempts to work out loud are quite sporadic, or occur at set times — the end of each year feels like a natural endpoint for reflection. But because things have changed so abruptly, this feels like a good time to reflect on what I do.

Making the most of the time I get back from commuting

My colleague Rebecca Godar shared her (amazing) thoughts with us on working remotely on our Teams, which turned into this excellent post on the Research in Practice blog. The point that really stuck with me was around getting up in the morning and doing something for yourself with the time you would have been commuting.

I’ve made my commute a good thing — it gives me time to reflect and also do some exercise. As my commuting has stopped, the written reflection has fallen by the wayside. But sitting next to Kelly Doonan everyday is amazing. I don’t think I’ve annoyed her too much (yet). It’s interesting to contrast your work with someone who’s working in a different organisation and who has a different viewpoint, particularly someone as clever as she is (I may be biased, but its still true). I can see why Indycube’s co-working spaces are so important, and why Satori Lab’s Jellys are so helpful.

Despite the reduction in commuting, I’m getting on the bike first thing every day. Cycling is weirdly sociable for a sport that’s essentially one person on a bike. I miss the coffee and chats. And the cake.

A GIF of a cycling team eating noodles and pizza whilst cycling

Meetings

To begin with I was juggling childcare and work, although my step-daughter was absolutely amazing. Chuck in some meetings as well, and it left very little time to keep the show on the road. A week later and I’m just about on top of things — re-organising everything whilst re-imagining what events look like.

So it’s become really obvious that meetings can make it difficult to get any work done.

There’s been a lot of learning. From now on, I’m thinking that we should all be online in any meeting that involves people outside of our head office in Dartington so that we’re all on the same footing. We need to change how we work with people who are working remotely. If we have virtual meetings, this Mozilla post has reminded me that we really should be using collaborative documents to capture what we’re discussing in meetings so that everyone can contribute.

As ever, Basecamp are sharing some really useful resources:

“This isn’t a time to try to simulate the office. Working from home is not working from the office. Working remotely is not working locally. Don’t try to make one the other. If you have meetings all day at the office, don’t simply simulate those meetings via video.”

Despite it’s bad press, email is really useful for one to one asynchronous communication, and Teams works a treat for sharing things across the organisation. Both of these communication methods can work really well when we don’t need instantaneous decision making.

All of this has got me thinking about how I can really make my work time count. I’m starting each day with tasks that I need to complete before moving into other work. I’m also consciously thinking about the time I have available each day and looking at alternatives to meetings. There is a balance here — I also need to think about what my colleagues need. But there’s no harm in asking questions about working differently and prompting discussion about how we do what we do. If changing how I work helps me, it might help my colleagues too.

Lee Waters AM shared this really helpful guide on working remotely from Ogilvy with his constituents. I’ve found it really helpful and I’ve been referring back to it every now and again. I’ve been thinking about applying a version of the Team Check-in guide for our twice weekly catch-ups in a way that doesn’t feel quite so checklisty.

A guide for check-ins with with helpful questions for for staff. p.7 of the Ogilvy guide
p. 7 of the Ogilvy Guide https://www.ogilvy.com/uploads/Ogilvy%20on%20Managed%20Remote%20Working.pdf

I love the focus on supporting people within the guide:

“Do something for your colleagues. Keep in touch. Keep each others’ spirits up. If anyone has a problem, share it. Stay connected.”

Emotional labour

This is something that I‘ve looked at before. I’ve found that working from home has massively helped with balancing the emotional labour in our household. I can proactively get involved and easily pick up more of the slack when it’s needed.

I was thinking about working 4 days a week last year, but I didn’t follow through with it because money inevitably became an issue. We’re currently able to work at home for a couple of days a month, but I wonder if this is something that might change. It’s certainly something I want to pick up and discuss when we get back to working collectively in an office. I want to think about how I can better support my family when things clear up.

Doing something for myself

This is the one part of the Ogilvy guide I’m not quite on board with.

“Finally do something for yourself. Something you’ve been meaning to do for ages, but have never had the time to do. Write. Lose weight (my own personal goal). Read Proust. Learn Spanish. You’ll never have this chance again.”

When I first saw this I started thinking about what I might be able to do — look after myself, improve my drumming and do a headstand.

A GIF of Animal from the Muppets playing the drums

But in reality I don’t have any extra time. My step-daughter’s gone to her dad’s for Monday to Thursday and I miss her. I’m working longer hours so that I can have Friday off to look after her. Essentially, the only way you’re gonna get any extra time in all this is if you’re avoiding all care responsibilities. This piece in the New Republic made me feel a bit better:

“As millions of us are trying to practice home isolation while also attending to the needs of our families and communities, the obscenity of pretending that work and “the self” are the only things that matter — or even exist — becomes harder to ignore.”

I hope you’re all looking after yourselves and that you’re all a-ok. Stay safe everyone.

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