Here at MMC, we are beginning to re-open our office space. Risk assessments have been completed, COVID measures are in place, rotas and schedules have been agreed. We are looking forward to interaction outside of 2D Teams meetings, Zoom yoga classes, collaborative software.
It has made us reflective. We have been lucky enough to be able to continue with a degree of normality. We have also taken any positive chances to bond further through our own playlist, we have tried to keep a balance by embracing tips about how to manage remote working. We have stayed together as a group, and are thankful of our ability to learn new ways of interacting.
We have practical challenges as a business in our office space. We needed to spend time figuring out the flow of people around a converted barn that was not designed to have a ‘give way’ system in the corridor. We are not all in every day, and so everyone now has two workstations and two machines – one at the office and one at home. We are ready to pivot again, we have a watchful eye on others and on the news.
It is all part of our collective and personal challenges, and we have enjoyed reading the stories and analysis across social and business media. It has been a unique moment in all our lives.
As our own contribution to the conversation, one thing we have talked a lot about over recent days is the role of our Office Manager, Janet.
The challenge for an Office Manager in a digital business, is unique. Beyond the buzz of flexible working in desk-based industries, there has remained the question – what if your job and your career are rooted in you and your colleagues being together? What if your daily role could not be transformed by digital tools, even when you work at a digital agency?
Our Office Manager, Janet, has experienced this. What is an Office Manager without an office?
In the office, everything passes through Janet. Our invoicing, our fire escapes, our First Aid, our refreshments, our cleaning resources, our buffet lunches and bacon sandwiches. Our counsel in times of stress and our cards and gifts in times of celebration. Our batteries. Our SSLs. Our AWS.
At the very heart of our own routines, is Janet’s routine itself.
For this week’s studio diaries, Janet has provided a unique insight into home-working at a time when being in the office or not, has not been an optional or flexible choice.
Janet has also reflected on how the role has changed now that we are back in the office. Because who makes sure hand sanitisers are stocked up? Who makes sure door handles are cleaned and the doors wedged open at the start of the day?
We thought it was a really interesting perspective, as the discussion over flexible working and the power of digital to transform business intensifies.
Over to you, Janet …!
“For many years working from home was always unheard of in any office role. As we moved forward over the years and moving from working on manual typewriters, to electric typewriters, to computers it was still quite rare for office staff to work from home when their files and paperwork were in the office.
I also think there are lots of job around like mine, or a lot of industries around where a workplace is not as much of a choice. I was a bit nervous about how I would manage when we went into lockdown and we all had to work from home.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I found a whole new way of working opened up, it became clear I could do a lot of my work at home. I also filled my notebook with lists and jobs that could not be done remotely, and caught up during a scheduled trip into the office.
But I also missed the social interaction with everyone, and this is where digital really helped. To start with, I used to send little check in messages just to have that contact. After a few days of being at home, we started having social Teams meetings every few mornings, and this was helpful as it not only connected the full office, you could see each other and that initial feeling of isolation vanished.
I created new routines, and created new habits to each work day. I found it important to also keep the standards you set yourself in the office to have at home too. You won’t find me sitting in PJ’s ..!!
After 5 months of working at home and only going into the office solo once a week to complete tasks that couldn’t be undertaken at home, we’ve decided to get back to the office on a gradual basis, for me that means 4 mornings a week and it feels great.
Being in the office means any issues within the building can be rectified on the spot. But it’s the little things like interacting with people in person and being asked lots more questions, plus also actually getting up and physically helping people (socially distanced of course) with their queries which can’t be done when working from home.
I think we have all found these ‘watercooler’ moments hard over recent months. We didn’t notice them until they were not there anymore.
We believe in digital, and we believe in the power of digital in our business as well as our clients’ business. Digital is awesome, it creates flexibility and had got us through.
But we also believe that everyone is different, and we wish everyone trying to find a new normality over coming months strength and support, where and when you need it most.
By Janet Salvin, Office Manager