Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020, many people have been working differently to normal. Replacing face-to-face meetings, travelling, and office working are makeshift desks in living rooms, Zoom calls and a more virtual way of working. With the recent Government guidance advising office workers to work from home over the winter if they are able to, it looks as though for many of us, this will be the ‘new normal’ until at least spring 2021.
We decided to speak to some of the staff at Dementia UK to find out more about their role, how they have adjusted to this new way of working over the past six months, and what they see the future of office working to be. We spoke to Laura Weeks, Professional and Practice Development Coordinator.
How long have you been working at Dementia UK?
Since 30th March this year.
What is a typical working day for you like?
Setting up a lot of virtual Practice Development sessions! Now all face-to-face meetings have moved to virtual, I have become a tech wizard with video calling.
What is your favourite part about working for Dementia UK?
The people! Everyone is incredibly knowledgeable, and I’m always blown away by the amount and quality of work they produce. My team is really supportive, welcoming, and empowering and I feel so lucky to be part of it.
Before coronavirus, how often were you working in the office?
I didn’t actually make it to the office! I went into the office for my interview in February, then by the time it came to my start date the country was in full lockdown. I’m convinced I just work with a bunch of floating heads…
How are you working now? (e.g. from home, part-office, part-home, out in the community?)
Full time from home. With local restrictions ever-changing and no real need for me to work from the office, I probably won’t step foot in the office until next year (when I will have worked for Dementia UK for a whole year and not have met anyone in the flesh!)
What do you enjoy about working from home?
The work/life balance! I never really feel like I had a healthy balance until now. I’m less tired and stressed not having to commute five days a week, and get to spend more time with friends and family and have more energy to do things in the evenings and weekends. And most importantly – now I can get a dog!
How do you stay motivated while working from home?
Lunch time walks help me to clear my head and the exercise means I don’t turn into a complete sloth. I find putting my headphones on and shutting out the world helps me to concentrate. I also ensure I work in rooms separate from those that I relax in in the evening to have a clear physical distinction between work and home time. I also benefit from working in different rooms for a change of scenery – I loved working from the garden when the weather was warmer.
Do you live with anyone else and does this impact you working from home?
I live with my boyfriend. We are in a routine now where he works upstairs and I work downstairs, so we don’t distract each other and also don’t get sick of each other!
What do you miss most about working in the office?
I haven’t met anyone other than my manager and one other colleague who I was lucky to meet in my ‘real-life’ interview. I feel like I’ve missed out on getting to know people informally over the kettle, and seeing the daily activities different departments do to gain a deeper understanding of all the inner workings of the charity.
How has your team worked together throughout the pandemic? Have you had to make any major adjustments?
Regular video calls. Open and honest conversations about how we’re coping personally and professionally. Suggesting ways of sustainably working in an environment that has gone from a mix of face-to-face and digital communication (emails etc.) to a complete switch to the virtual world where there is a surge in emails and screen time. We actually created an agreement as a team and shared it with other teams on how we are committed to look after ourselves whilst working from home, such as not filling our diaries with back-to-back meetings so we have regular breaks from the screen and going for walks to clear our heads (and not feeling guilty for it!)
Do you have any tips or funny stories about working from home?
Don’t do any major refurbishments during lockdown! Me and my boyfriend started work on our living room and kitchen in early February and by the time the country went into lockdown we had half a kitchen and no living room. The hardest part of lockdown for me was probably not having a sofa! Hindsight and all that…
What do you see the future of office working being?
Much more flexible. The pandemic may have forced us into working fully online and the lack of physical human interaction has been hard, but we’ve realised so many benefits of working from home both professionally and personally. I think a healthy balance is the way forward – as an employee I feel more motivated to work as I am trusted to work from home, and as I get a better work/life balance I am much more happier in myself with more energy and therefore more productive.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain