Rising to the challenge of remote work culture

Being called to remote work ‘until further notice’ feels like a lifetime ago. Friday 13 March was Chatsworth’s first remote working day ahead of the National Lockdown on 23 March, and how important those extra few days were. To plan, prepare and begin the New Normal of remote working.

Culture is very important at Chatsworth, and employee engagement during remote working can be a challenge, but we were ready to embrace it. With many employees leaving London, we had our team split far and wide, from Suffolk to Brighton and even Cornwall, so it was undoubtedly important to continue regular social activities to ensure the team still felt a sense of companionship. And without hesitation, we reinvented our socials to fit our new-found requirements…

A Friday after-work trip to the pub became a remote Zoom call with a drink in hand. Our bi-monthly trip to BrewDog’s Pub Quiz became a remote quiz created by employees – who else remembers the magnitude of Zoom quizzes which flooded every household during lockdown?

I was particularly excited about the sunflower growing kits which were sent to each employee to plant and care for, with each week colleagues comparing growing notes or tips. Mine sadly only reached 116cm before being swept away by aggressive winds – thanks Storm Ellen…

A home-made hat competition encouraged employees to get creative. I dusted off my old childhood paintbrushes and paint collection and got to work. If you can remember Elmer the patchwork Elephant, then you can imagine my hat.

Other entries included: a cardboard Viking hat, a baseball cap stuck with Lotus Biscoff biscuits and even one made entirely from cut flowers from the garden! Our CEO had a hard time choosing the winner.

Our team has even celebrated a few milestones remotely. Helium balloons in the shape of numbers have arrived on employees’ doorsteps marking work-anniversaries, and birthdays have still been celebrated with cards, gift boxes, or flowers being sent home too. Although a remote celebration isn’t the same as a cake in the office, we are trying our best…

Our ‘remote clubs’ gave employees the option to join weekly discussions centered around the most recent film or book choice, almost as if we were all sat around the lunch tables in the office again.

Nothing can replace a true face to face social, but it has been encouraging to see participation in the remote socials, during what has been a challenging time. Some of these newfound socials may even keep their space on the Chatsworth social calendar well into the future…

As we enter Autumn and look ahead (maybe begrudgingly) to the cooler months, we face a new challenge.

Shortly after Chatsworth reopened its doors in August and welcomed employees back, albeit operating on a reduced capacity and in two different teams to remain COVID safe, the Government asked us to work from home again if you can.

What now feels like a very short six weeks of gradually regaining confidence moving around the city and revisiting favourite eateries on Exmouth Market, things came to a halt once more. Most disappointingly the message came just as we were getting back into the swing of things with Chatsworth’s life and culture. Enjoying lunch on the roof terrace, catching up with colleagues in one of our socially distanced breakout areas, or accidentally tripping into Gail’s Bakery each morning for a coffee and croissant, as I did. Now would be very easy to backtrack on our remote progress made, but I’m determined not to let that happen.

As we reintroduce what now feels a familiar style of working, it’s important to keep momentum on remote social activities so these naturally darker months don’t seem all too challenging. Our office remains open one day a week for our two teams who can optionally visit the office to work and collaborate, while the majority of our working days will be spent at home.

Film Club could become a staple over the next few months as wintery weather sets in. Especially with an abundance of seasonal options on Netflix surrounding Halloween, and dare I even mention the C-word…?!

Written by Bonnie Baker, PA & Office Manager at Chatsworth Communications

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