News and insights (March 2021): Will working life ever be the same again? 

By Parisa Namazi, Director of Talent

When we first got the instruction to stay at home from the government in March last year, I don’t think any of us seriously thought we would be in lockdown a full year later. 

There’s little doubt it’s been a challenging year for everyone, in so many ways, but I am very proud of the way staff and clients have adapted to the situation so quickly and seamlessly.   

In terms of staff wellbeing, we have tried hard at Cicero/AMO to support the team throughout the various lockdowns over the past year. 

To try to prevent Zoom fatigue, we introduced a lunchtime break across the business between 13:00 and 14:00. All staff should be able to take their break anyway but by putting it in calendars, staff have been more inclined to take a proper break away from their screen and been more mindful of putting endless meetings into their diaries. We also encourage staff to use our ‘Take II’ programme, which means they can take two hours, at a time to suit them, away from work each week. Many people have been using this break to go for a walk and get outside in daylight. 

We’ve also set up a mentoring scheme so that staff have someone within the business they can speak to about any concerns, we had ‘coffee and coaching’ workshops to help people stay connected and we have launched a women’s network to help people connect, which isn’t as easy when not in the office. For new joiners, it has been difficult joining a new business (and for some their first job) remotely. We have set up buddies across teams and have engaged them in interactive team workshops to help them get to know one another and learn more about the business. 

We’ve had a whole programme of virtual events from online yoga, to mediation as well as advice on finances, one-to-one coaching and activities for children while parents were home schooling. All our staff have access to a confidential 24/7 counselling service which has provided professional support where it has been necessary. 

While people adjusted quickly to working from home, I know that many are now keen to get some balance back between remote and office working. Much like spending 100% of our working hours in the office felt unbalanced, it seems most people agree that spending all our working hours at home feels quite isolating and at times inefficient for collaboration and professional development. With many large firms deciding that there is no need to return to the office for a five-day week, the move to more remote working will continue. At Cicero/AMO we have surveyed staff and the majority are looking for a hybrid model, with task focused flexibility, when we can return to work for a couple of days a week in the office, where they can collaborate with colleagues and meet clients and the rest of the time working remotely. We are now making plans to ensure this model works for the team so that, as soon as the rules allow, we are able to adopt this new way of working which brings us back together but also applies the valuable things we have learned over the past year of remote working.   

This piece first appeared in Cicero/AMO’s March news and insights update – click here to access our full update.

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Parisa Namazi

Director of Talent