The events of 2020 prompted a sudden shift in the way that we live and work. As more of us return to the office and reclaim our pre-lockdown routines, we asked a panel of BU alumni to share how Covid-19 has impacted their work – for better and for worse – and to share their thoughts for the future.
- Dan Abberley, Digital Manager for SEAT UK
- Felicia Troberg, Founder of Troberg Baby Box
- Julian Jackson, Founding Partner at ResultX Asia sports and entertainment consultancy
- Laura Stone, Senior Marketing Manager at Princess Cruises
- Leanne Kent, Marketing Manager at Beep Digital
- Agatha da Silva, Career Director at Universidad Privada Boliviana
- Lindsay Myers, Teaching Professional at Cegep de la Gaspesie et des Iles, Montreal, Canada
- Stephen Hynde, Commercial Director at Smartwatch Solutions
- Tammy Sleet, BID Manager at Wimborne BID Ltd
- Titas Petrikis, Professor at Vytautas Magnus University and music composer for film, TV and theatre
- Emma Golby-Kirk, Producer at Cosmic Carrot
- How has Covid-19 changed the way you work?
Dan: As the initial lockdown happened and we were all working from home we had daily catch-ups as a team. As the team has become more accustomed to working at home we reduced the frequency and individuals are now working more independently. It relies on you managing your diary effectively and ensuring that when you are in contact with someone you get the maximum output from it. I changed roles during the period and this has meant that I have had to work with completely new people, agencies and members at head office level. It has been incredibly important for me during that period to ensure that I have the right stakeholders around me in order to successfully learn and perform my new role.
Felicia: Covid has made my work day a lot less social. My work day previously involved a lot of time speaking and brainstorming with others. Now my networks have retreated and the way I work has become more isolating. I have tried to set aside time each day to connect with my network and also add to it!
Laura: I have been working from home since the week before lockdown, whereas previously I would have been in the office five days a week, so that has been an adjustment. We have seen large revenue losses as a result of our cruise ships being unable to sail for months, and having to issue refunds and compensation to customers. Our marketing budget was paused and our focus switched largely to activating via owned channels, as well as using existing relationships to gain free opportunities and exposure and to help keep bookings for 2021 cruises coming in.
Leanne: Marketing and digital agencies have adapted well to working from home and output has been largely unaffected. However, the Covid-19 outbreak caused a significant decrease in sales for my employer as clients cancelled projects. This unfortunately led to redundancies for me and some of my colleagues.
Lindsay: I’m a teacher at the pre-college level, and all of our teaching has moved online. It’s been very hard to adapt to this new way of teaching, and I can definitely say that I’m not a big fan of it!
Stephen: As a business working predominantly in the construction sector, providing site security, we have seen an increase in specialised risk assessments. Our processes, including single manning vehicles and social distancing, have had a minor financial impact.
Tammy: I am working primarily from home at present. All the office kit is in my home so it’s become the BID office. The building where our office is, is still closed. We can go there to work but there seems little point as I can work easily from home. In that sense we have thought about what space we actually need.
Emma: Since lockdown our three-person production team has vacated our offices and have been working remotely. We decided to give up our lease on a serviced office in a communal business space because we just didn’t feel the volume of use on the shared facilities was safe. We have now taken on a short let in new, spacious offices which are just for us and we are tentatively returning to the office.
- What have been some of the positive outcomes?
Dan: Working behaviour has changed significantly. We have had to be more ruthless in the work we do and the priorities we set. We have had to learn to work remotely as a team, and also to learn to look after yourself while working from home. A great learning from all of this is diary management, the importance of exercise and the importance of utilising the technology around you.
Felicia: Time to slow down and really focus on my personal and professional goals. I try to do this every month, by sitting down to review a list and create actions of how to achieve my goals. Now I can actually sit down and be more creative with my action plan and begin to set it in motion. I feel more in control of what I want to achieve and how to achieve it.
Julian: Getting to speak to people quite easily who would have otherwise been too busy with usual office life. Savings in travel costs, connecting with people and always having something to small talk about!
Laura: I've enjoyed working from home as I have gained a better work/life balance. Remote working has worked fairly well for my team and in some cases it feels like we perhaps communicate more than we did in the office as we have daily Zoom calls.
Leanne: Redundancy was a situation that I was unprepared for. But it helped me build resilience and confidence to secure a new role at another digital agency.
Tammy: More family time, less rushing about, more exercise, less spend on petrol and childcare etc. It’s been pretty good from that point of view.
Titas: Less commuting in a way helped to increase productivity. Some of the meetings are unnecessary in the film production process and can easily be done online. That can definitely remain in place after the lockdown.
Emma: We were already pretty used to working remotely with international teams, but one positive is that we have learned how to use every video conferencing platform proficiently! It has been productive working at home and I think we all feel we’d like to carry on with a level of home working, even when we move to new offices.
Agatha: Living in a developing country, I have enjoyed seeing more digital inclusion in education.
- What have been some of the challenges or negative impacts?
Felicia: Public opinion. I have lost many customers due to their perceptions and worries. These are uncertain times and I of course understand that people become more protective and careful. My largest challenge is being able to provide comfort to my customers that the product and sales process is safe.
Julian: The sports and event industry was decimated so that has been a big challenge. We had to rely on the archives as there was no live sport. We pivoted into sports tech, which is not so much event specific, but sponsorship income fell off a cliff.
Laura: Although I mostly enjoy working from home, I do miss the face-to-face social interaction of being in the office, so I am looking forward to having the flexibility to do both.
Lindsay: Motivating my students, as too much screen time can be quite draining. I’ve had to find a balance to ensure they are learning while not finding it too overwhelming. Another challenge for me is that I’m a people person, so having to work only online has been a struggle.
Titas: The entire film industry is in uncertainty. First, the productions have been halted, postponed, or cancelled. Secondly, the cinemas are closed and the screenings are impossible, so the investments of the filmmakers are frozen too. There is a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen in the future.
Emma: The main negative for me was learning a new role remotely. It is awkward asking small detail questions via Skype, when I would have been much more comfortable just asking conversationally in the office. I also struggled with low mood about five or six weeks in. I got really fed up with every day being the same and there being little separation between a work day and a rest day. I miss human interaction on every level – both professional and just being out and about in the community. In the midst of the lockdown, I found myself getting excited about making a simple call to an image bank.
Agatha: Our research has been delayed, and we are still learning how to develop full online content for academia. Other impacts have included a growing social gap, issues around accessibility and the varied digital knowledge of both students and professors. Further, many are suffering with the health impact whilst trying to finish the semester.
- How do you believe Covid-19 will change things for the future of your work or sector?
Dan: It will change our typical working week and there will definitely be more of an acceptance around working from home. This period has shown just how you can operate at home and achieve similar, if not better outputs. There will always be a place for the office as you can’t beat face-to-face interaction, however if you need to work on a project there is definitely value in working from home. I also think that Covid has meant that people will be more resilient in their work.
Felicia: The fashion industry will certainly slow down. With people not heading out as much they will need fewer clothes and will invest in timeless, good quality pieces rather than ‘fast fashion’. Hopefully this will also boost the interest for second-hand shopping, and the circular economy which will shorten supply chains and promote sustainable decisions and changes in a very polluting industry.
Julian: Sporting organisations have to be more engaging and not rely on in-game attendance. Virtual applications and engagement tools will be the way forward for many.
Laura: Covid-19 has affected the cruise and travel industry hugely, grounding our operations to a complete halt. There is a lot of work going into what the return of cruising will look like in terms of making it safer to travel with social distancing, ventilation, sanitisation etc. There is also a lot of uncertainty as to when we will be able to resume cruising so all we can do for now is keep booking for early next year and hope that things will be better by that point, but be reactive to change.
Leanne: Covid-19 has made brands more aware of their marketing and digital spend which, in the long term, could negatively impact agencies as brands take marketing in-house. Right now, marketing agencies just need to adapt and truly support clients. That way they have the best chance of maintaining key partnerships through this unpredictable period.
Stephen: As a business we expect to see small to medium-sized projects delayed or shelved as the long-term impact on the housing sector continues and working from home changes the requirements within the work force.
Tammy: BIDs will be focused much more on business support and less on events. Town centre footfall will become less important as customers are more intentional in their shopping.
Emma: I am very worried about the museums sector in general. Our security as a production company is dependent on the large design and build tenders coming online. I am watching with caution as museums reopen. On the other hand, now is a good time to be in the digital media industry so I am also looking for new opportunities and there is a feeling in the sector that we all may need to change the way we think and innovate.
Agatha: Blended learning methods, and more initiatives for social inclusion of students with lower incomes.