May 2020

During the course of lock down it has been fascinating to watch how companies have reacted differently to the Covid crisis and how corporate culture is being tested to the max under the spotlight of working-from-home technology. A new etiquette is emerging as we all quickly adapt to new ways of working together. The unwritten rules around Zoom calls vary enormously, from clients that prefer their spokespeople to wear a jacket and tie to those who have positively embraced the ‘kitchen casual’ look.

We all have our challenges with the new remote working. Who needs a video call at 9am? For those juggling home schooling with little ones or having to negotiate on which partner gets the best backdrop it can be a logistical nightmare. Perhaps there is an elderly relative who insists at having day-time TV on at full volume – we all have our challenges.

Obviously there are times when only a Zoom or Microsoft teams call (why did Skype lose out so badly by the way?) will do, but ironically we have found using the good old fashioned, and reliable telephonic device extremely efficient when talking to both clients and journalists. Some find themselves at home alone and really missing the office buzz and seem grateful for a familiar voice on the end of the phone.

There are also those that insist on group video calls – a real pain for us ladies considering the big dilemma of face of make up on or off? Trust me, “digging the land girl look” on an unexpected video call did not go down well!

If anything, video calls come with inevitable distractions. Who else finds themselves scanning others reading choices in the carefully curated bookcase behind them? You could try book bingo - how many copies of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ have you spotted? Shock, horror - some have even colour coded their libraries. Perhaps you find yourself wondering if their art is real or fake, worrying about their interior design choices or realising that in normal times hairdressers really are a master of their art! A good old-fashioned conversation down the phone really can often work better.

There is no doubt that the novelty of WFH is waning for many, you will have noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of funny memes doing the rounds...

Another creeping trend, especially as boredom truly sets in as for many we are fast heading into our third month in lock down, is 24/7 working. People are sending e-mails day and night. Maybe this is symptomatic of juggling home-schooling or other domestic challenges, it is difficult to say, but it could equally be an opportunity for people to prove to their partner how busy and indispensable they are. Nonetheless it is increasingly difficult to switch off. Don’t get me started around the new ‘rules’ for being OOO. Most of us are now OOO and quite possibly for some time yet. But when people are allegedly ‘on holiday’, or as we now refer to it, taking a few days ‘homecation’, it’s a minefield.

There is no doubt that the novelty of WFH is waning for many, you will have noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of funny memes doing the rounds now. There is a weariness and collective malaise setting in – thank goodness this didn’t happen in October so we do at least have lighter evenings and warmer weather to look forward to. We may even get to hug our family and friends soon albeit it in a ‘bubble’ which will be similar to choosing a netball team at school - now that’s going to be interesting!

So, whichever device you use, communication is key. Keep talking and engage with all your stakeholders and colleagues and don’t forget that a little humour goes a long way. We WILL get through this and come out of it closer and stronger as working teams, hopefully more tolerant and if nothing else with greater insight into each other’s lives – choices in books, art and dodgy curtains!

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