Returning to the Office: One Week In

12 June 2023

I’m writing this to you six months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that everyone should begin to work from home, avoid all but essential travel and ordered businesses across the country to close due to a virus that was sweeping the globe. Should someone from the past have time-travelled to 2020, they would think the apocalypse was looming.

I’ll be honest, I was naïve enough to believe that we’d be back in the office after six weeks or so. In typical British style, I completely underestimated the destructive nature of this virus and adopted the ‘stiff upper lip’ persona. I really wasn’t prepared for just how wrong I was.

Between March and September, it feels like the world has turned itself upside down and started to right itself again, and now everyone is adjusting to the ‘new normal’, but I’ll be honest, I’m still yearning for the ‘old normal’.

You see, while Summit has been exceptional in ensuring our working from home transition was as smooth as possible, it cannot compete with being in a vibrant office environment – and that’s what the business has offered me for the last three and a half years. As someone who enjoys the company of other people, being stuck in my home office for six months was incredibly isolating.

Thankfully, week commencing 7th September 2020, my prayers were answered and Summiteers across the land started to filter back into their respective offices for 2 days a week – baby steps.

Of course, this wasn’t the office space we were used to, it couldn’t be, and only half the business were in at any one time, but weeks of planning from HR and IT meant we slipped back into a routine as easily as was realistically possible.

After arriving on the first day, we were greeted with a smile by HR, asked if any of our circumstances had changed since signing a COVID-19 disclaimer, told to sanitise our hands, and sent to our socially distant desks. I’m not ashamed to admit that my anxiety was through the roof on the night before going back, but once I had sat down in my seat, the worry just dissipated.

As well as catching up with faces I hadn’t seen in six months, the little details that have become a Summit trait instantly made me feel at ease: individual bottles of hand sanitiser and a personalised box of tissues on every desk were nice touches that helped provide a sense of security and homeliness.

I had a chat with one of our HR Advisors Laura, who said: “For our big return to the office we wanted to add a personal touch, we are like a family and it was important to us to be able to welcome everybody ‘home’. Our Summiteers have been working from home for such a long time and it is a big change for people once again to go back to office working. To us the little things count just as much as the big ones.”

And going back to the office wasn’t done on a whim, there were clear guidelines set by both the government and by our parent company tcc Global that had to be adhered to in order to get us back working in that collaborative environment. As is the case with everything in marketing, meticulous planning went into every aspect of making the business COVID-secure.

Our Managing Director, Martin told me: “It’s great to be back in the office and see everyone’s smiling face.  We made the decision the time was right for a return following consultation with Summiteers and the latest government guidance on safety and risk.  There were some other external factors that pointed us towards this specific date such as the end of the summer holidays and schools re-opening. September to December is by far and away the most important time of the year for retail, so we wanted a gentle return to office life to further help our efforts to support our clients through this period.”

And while adjusting to the ‘new normal’ is going to take some time, I’m confident that my mental health will be so much better off working in the office at least part-time for the foreseeable future.

Want to know the two things I do miss? Not being able to partake in a tea round, and hugs. Because if anything is certain in these uncertain times, it’s that a good cuppa and hugs make everything so much better.

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