Just over a year ago, I finished up work for a year’s maternity leave.
As I hugged my colleagues goodbye in the office, we all had no idea that it would be at least a year before any of us would see each other again.
There were lots of emotions around coming back to work – from excitement about getting stuck back into digital projects to nervousness about what’s new in the industry and if I was going to be able to keep up. Funnily enough, I hadn’t given much thought to what it would be like working from home. I had been on loads of Zoom classes and playdates during lockdown so I knew how to work the tech, so apart from meetings being done virtually, not much else would be different. Well, I can tell you now that I was very wrong about that one!
If you’ve been in this working-from-home world for the past year, the enormity of the changes may have been diluted over time. Here are my top 5 thoughts about this new world after missing out on the first year:
- Have I missed out on the greatest opportunity to show how adaptive and responsive I can be?
Having a baby just before a national lockdown had its challenges (especially with a high energy toddler in tow!) but I couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous of everyone at work. Yes, I know it must have been hugely stressful to totally change our working habits whilst still committing to client deadlines, but what an experience it must have been!
- The team are incredible.
Coming back to work and hearing everyone’s stories and experiences working during the last year has really highlighted to me that we do have an incredible team here at The Union. Passion for our clients and the industry has meant that the team have been able to work as one to help deliver some amazing client projects. In one week, the digital team managed to deliver 4 websites!
- Infrastructure has changed.
Technology and the home-office set up is way more than just downloading Zoom. It’s completely different in every way. I was amazed about how much things had changed, folders moving to cloud-based solutions, chatting through instant messengers, working collaboratively on shared documents. It has changed so much, I didn’t even know how to set up a meeting – it made me feel like I was a fresh-faced university grad working out what I had to do.
- Communications have changed.
The biggest change that I hadn’t anticipated was the way that we all communicate with each other. We don’t get the time for the coffee-making chit chat that we used to have with our colleagues and clients. Life seems much more focused on the meeting in hand. I’ve found myself having to remind myself what day of the week it is – is it a Friday? Have you asked everyone what they are planning to do this weekend? Coming back to work after a year meant it was time for a good catch up with my clients, setting aside some time to have a natter with them. Almost all of them had the same remark – they couldn’t remember the last time someone called them at work for a chat.
- Digital is the real winner.
I’ve always been a proud member of the digital industry – I love how quickly the industry evolves and how human behaviour changes with it. I’ve worked with many businesses over my career who have shown some hesitancy to invest in the latest digital technologies, often with financial stakeholders feeling that new shiny websites or search marketing investments don’t offer a valuable ROI. The pandemic has now totally turned this conversation on its head. With big retailers such as Topshop and Debenhams falling into administration, every business journal cited a lack of digital presence and digital offering as a contributing factor to the closure. It is now a necessity for businesses to seriously consider their digital output and investing in this channel to ensure their online competitors don’t outgrow them.
Emily Hall, Digital Account Director