There’s no place like home

Sarah Henchoz

Arguably one of the most iconic lines in movie history, and a sentiment that after 6 months of remote-working I can wholeheartedly endorse. I certainly don’t mean to downplay the significant challenges and upset many people have suffered as a result of COVID, whether due to physical illness, the logistical frustrations of turning your personal space into a work space, juggling the demands of work alongside being a teacher, cook and cleaner, the difficulties of putting parameters around the working day, or the mental health impact of feeling isolated, overwhelmed or anxious when not working physically with colleagues.

Despite having experienced so many of those challenges myself (turns out my alternative career is most definitely not as a teacher), I have viewed the last 6 months as a gift. I have spent more time with my family and been more involved in home life than I ever expected my career would enable me to be. I have been better connected with clients and colleagues, defaulting to video conferencing and having more meaningful discussions than used to be the case. I have certainly been more efficient; the hours saved by not being on public transport each day, unable to speak to clients/work on confidential documents, has been a game-changer, while my multitasking has grown to epic proportions – turns out you can cook a roast dinner while on a VC and while researching how whales use echoes to communicate for your child’s science project.

But it’s time now to ditch the athleisure and follow the Yellow Brick Road back to the City and, like Dorothy, I am both excited and daunted by the prospect. We all know it won’t be the same as it was before, but I genuinely believe we can take the positives from the experiences we have had to shape how we want the workplace of the future to look. I’ve visited the office already for meetings and it is so uplifting and energising to be back with colleagues amongst familiar surroundings.

There has been a significant change in mindset. So many of our discussions have turned to how often we will attend the office in the future, how we will continue to engage with our team as we all continue to blend more readily and more frequently between the office and home, how we will continue to support and grow the talented people with whom we work and how we will maintain and develop our relationships with our clients. We are being more creative, braver and more honest about what we need, and for that I think we have to look on this chapter as a gift – our eyes have been opened to what is possible, how we can all better manage to achieve what “balance” means to us, and how we can create the workplace of the future that creates a more inclusive environment by opening up job opportunities for those who may never have previously considered traditional office-based/city-based roles.

We are already working with a number of clients on transformational projects both domestically and globally and it’s exciting to see the legacy this will create. I have often said that MeToo has done more for gender diversity in the last 3 years than legislation has done in the last 40+ years; hopefully one day we will say a similar thing about how this pandemic has driven change in the workplace for the better.

For now, as much as I am looking forward to getting back to see colleagues face to face again, I know that when it is time for the commute home on Monday night I shall be wishing I had sparkly red Dorothy shoes so I could click my heels together 3 times and miraculously transport myself back home.