Adjusting to the new normal during lockdown
The workplace has changed beyond all recognition in the last couple of weeks. Here, a few of the Protrade team look at how the changes have impacted on the working day.
The drive to and from work – Craig Sanders – joint Managing Director
I’ve never been one for sitting in traffic jams, choosing to take the slightly longer alternative routes that at least keep moving along. My drive to work has always been problematic as pretty much every route has a bottleneck… whether it be Five Lamps, the Little Eaton roundabout… or any other route into Derby at rush hour for that matter. The journey home was no different, which is why I generally stayed in the office until the traffic had died down, more than halving my time at the wheel. Then Covid-19 came along, leading to self-isolation and remote working from home for many people. A daily commute that usually took thirty minutes or more, was suddenly reduced to just ten minutes! You might be thinking ‘that sounds great’ and that was my initial thought, but the unnerving quietness and knowing why the roads were so empty soon diminished this notion. After just a few days of ‘plain sailing’ to and from work, I cannot wait to get back to reality and sit in a traffic jam once again!
Social distancing at work – Des Duddy – joint Managing Director
I’ve done virtually every job there is at Protrade; goods in, counter sales, customer service, external sales and managing director. Regardless of the role or department one thing has always remained the same – the great people I’ve worked with and continue to work alongside. There’s an incredible team spirit and solidarity at Protrade – success and pain is shared by all of us.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 and despite the best efforts to encourage colleagues to remain positive in this uncertain and unprecedented situation I’ve witnessed the growing concern amongst the team and felt the surreal and sombre atmosphere hanging heavier in the working environment.
In normal circumstances we actively encourage everyone to communicate on a more personal level as it helps to build better working relationships between colleagues and limits possible misinterpretations that can so easily happen through emails which seem to have taken over conversation in recent years. Lunch times have become social meetings and are the heart of some world changing debates and banter. Now that we’re understandably forced to implement strict social distancing measures throughout the workplace, the closeness we have always enjoyed has become uncomfortable, it’s really unpleasant and emotionally draining. I can’t wait for it to get back to normal.
When a company elects to send a large proportion of the workforce home to work, there are many difficulties it may face, from the infrastructure at work to people’s infrastructure at home and finally, just the actual routine of each day. At Protrade we’ve been lucky in that we have dedicated IT people to help set up each colleague (or ‘user’ to coin a rather impersonal IT expression!) with access to the various networks and systems they use through the day. We have a bespoke back office system for all warehousing, sales, billing and epos functions, and the software developers behind it have been on hand to make sure everyone is up and running. The other software we use is all Microsoft Office 365 based which is accessible from any machine. And from a personal perspective, I needed to ensure that all the marketing team had access to the Adobe products we use on a daily basis, such as InDesign, Photoshop and Premier. In that respect, each user’s licence allows for two installations, so that was no problem. Of course, each user also needs reasonable broadband in their home, but in this day and age most people do.
Then comes the new routine! In my case, working from home is a great opportunity to free yourself from the usual work distractions, in fact I think I’m more productive at home than in the office. There’s only 3 of us in my house and one of those is a cat, so it can be a little isolating. My partner has worked from home for the last 2 years, so there was some discussion over who got the office and who got the dining table. In the short term, she’s been relegated to the dining room! While in the Marketing team we do have discussions and calls many times throughout the day, the thing I miss most is the opportunity to just discuss little aspects of the jobs we’re working on as we’re doing it. It’s not really worth picking up the phone to ask ‘what do you think of this’ or ‘do you think this or that would work better’, and you’re also more conscious that you could be distracting the other person if they happen to be trying to completely focussing on something.
Another thing which you have to try to avoid are domestic distractions. The temptation to just put a wash on, or quickly load the dishwasher are always there, but you must remain disciplined and try to do these things at lunch time or after work. Otherwise the lines between work and home can become too blurred.
Personally (like the rest of the country!) I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. The option to working from home will always be there as an option to get specific tasks done. But we are fortunate enough to work with a really fantastic group of people, and I’ve started to quite miss the general office banter, and even seeing their faces every day! Video conferencing just isn’t the same.