Are we in or out… (of the office)?

A video meeting on a laptop

In March 2020, everything in the world of work changed. Being accustomed to a vibrant, chatty and energetic office, we were suddenly sent home! We packed up our desks and grabbed a few notepads, pens and highlighters… we scurried out to our cars and said our goodbyes. There was so much uncertainty and panic and it was a huge change to adapt to. When I thought about work, so many things ran through my head on that drive home. I wondered whether it might impact my motivation. Would I feel lonely? Being a recruiter can be incredibly stressful but when you work in a supportive team, you begin to rely on the camaraderie of your team, their opinions and advice. 

Now it was time to adapt to a few things, including working on a laptop – as silly as that might sound. I had compatibility issues with programmes, my keyboard commands were completely different, I didn’t have a mouse and it slowed me down in the most crucial recruitment window. The older you get, the more ‘alien’ change feels, but with a few weeks of practice I felt like I was back to working at the speed I was used to – now it feels strange to work on the computer in the office.

Pretty soon the stress began kicking in. I found that being stuck in my house created that dreaded cabin fever feeling, which I knew I had to overcome quickly. Working from home gave me the opportunity to take my excitable puppy for walks during my lunch break, which had such a positive impact on my physical health as well as mental. I love nature and being outdoors; the breath of fresh air and sunshine lifted my spirits which in turn relieved a lot of stress. 

One caveat of working from home 5 days per week was the tendency to stay logged on after hours. I started to feel burned out and experienced a huge amount of disruption to my sleep as I could never truly switch off. Admittedly, I really struggled a few months into the new WFH scheme, it felt never ending and my home stopped feeling like a place of relaxation and peace, and more a place of panic, feeling stressed and alert for 15 hours a day, every day. 

Our team really tried our best to cope! We didn’t waste any time and quickly began booking in frequent video calls to discuss recruitment activity and just to see each others’ friendly faces through the virtual world. It was a relief to have light-hearted moments during such stressful times. In some ways it also meant that we had more ‘human’ conversations with our academy staff members as we weren’t always able to visit them on site due to conflicting schedules and travel. I felt that the communication developed and improved. Although I had worked at the Trust for a little while at that stage, I only managed to ‘put a face to the name’ after over a year with some hiring managers which definitely strengthened working relationships! Having the calls allowed staff to see my friendly demeanour and vice versa – an email really doesn’t capture a personality, a smile or a little sense of humour.

Another big challenge was recruiting for our own team during this phase. As we are an outgoing and lively bunch, we wanted our new team members to feel welcomed and supported as much as possible. Everyone knows how nerve-wrecking a first day at a new job can be, so we booked in our video calls in the mornings and inducted new staff to the best of our ability. We conducted our training through the use of screenshare and backed it up with detailed revision guides in case they were ever stuck. We were on-hand to jump on calls to reassure our new team members and ended the days with catch ups and recaps, covering training queries again if needed. 

It is safe to say that everyone found their own groove and way of working, they dealt with uncertainty and change, they adapted and kept it together. That being said, getting back into the office and catching up over a cup of coffee at 7.30am felt like heaven! We’re now in full swing and working in the office 4 days out of the week, allowing one day from home. We’ve carried on having video calls with staff across the Trust, why didn’t we do this more often?! No matter what the world throws at us, we now know what we are capable of and what we can achieve.