Lockdown reflections - Christopher Smith

18 March 2021

A personal reflection by Christopher Smith, Consultant.

Although many of us at GGI had worked remotely, at least some of the time, before the onset of the pandemic, this does not mean that the transition to sustained home working came easily. Indeed, like most people, we have had to adapt to the rigours of working remotely - from the kitchen, from the sofa, and occasionally from the bed; shirt and tie for the camera, jogging bottoms under the table…

In many ways, it has been a transformative year for GGI. We have stepped up our communications and engagement activities to the point that we are now hosting three or four events every week, all free to attend. Our Illuminations campaign is building on the success of our Covid 100 bulletins, which saw us release one bulletin every day for 100 days, delivering a rich resource for NHS and other board members on a range of important topics. And our important client work has continued unabated, providing support to NHS and other public sector bodies.

Internally, we have also had to adapt. Thinking back, there are three things that have really made a difference to both my productivity and my wellbeing.

1. At GGI, staff are given a significant degree of autonomy to plan their days as necessary to meet our clients needs. Without travelling to the office, the importance of routine and structure has become even more evident. I have tried to make sure that I am at my desk, ready to go, for 8.30am most days and also that I go for a walk, weather permitting, at around 5.30pm. While it hasn’t been possible to do this every single day, it has helped to provide a pattern within which to work and also some clear breaks from the screen.

2. Much has been written about the fatigue associated with long days packed full of virtual meetings. This has been something that we at GGI have spoken about often. One thing that we have introduced that has really helped has been to book meetings in 25-minute rather than 30-minute blocks to give people the opportunity to move about and grab a cup of tea before the next one. It sounds a small thing but it really does make a difference. Another has been picking up the phone from time to time rather than using video-conferencing.

3. Finally, the GGI team has changed significantly during the lockdown period with several staff moving on and many more joining us. There are now quite a number of staff members who I speak to everyday but have never met in person. Grabbing some informal time to check in, to shoot the breeze, and generally get to know each other has been crucial to building effective teams during this period. One thing that GGI introduced early on, and which we have maintained across the whole year, that has helped with this is a Friday ‘happy hour’ where the whole office has come together to discuss a topic, play a game, and have a drink.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, what are the little things that you have changed about your working patterns to adapt?

Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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