A Post-Lockdown Utopia

Contributed article

This is Amy. She works in Professional Services. Like many of her colleagues, Amy has learnt a lot from the pandemic, like the fact that she can (kind of) do her job without being on campus, and it is much cheaper for the University if she doesn’t take up any space. Therefore, Amy is one of the many people who now blend working from home with hot-desking on campus.

Amy has just arrived on campus, ready to face today’s exciting challenges. She hoicks her office chair out of the boot of her car, and wheels it towards the building where (fingers-crossed) she will be working for the day. She is a little bit late, because she is flexibly blending caring responsibilities with working full-time, but with any luck she is not so late that she will have to resort to the overflow office building on the White Lund industrial estate.

Most people now work in a flexibly blended way, and so there is no need to be on campus all the time. There are definitely enough desks, because it is really only necessary to be on campus once a week for meetings. Unfortunately, members of senior management don’t tend to co-ordinate their diaries with Amy, so although it is true that she only has one day of meetings each week, these tend to be spread out from Monday to Friday.

As she walks through the large open-plan building filled with rows of desks, she scans for a place to sit. You can sit wherever you like, and enjoy the opportunity to connect with a colleague from another division, thus aiding the fostering of cross-working collaborative synergy. Or it would do if it hadn’t become a bit of a taboo to engage in gratuitous conversations, what with the noise levels. Passive aggression isn’t a nice thing to feel, is it? Still, there’s a real feeling of camaraderie when someone takes pity on you and lets you perch on the corner of their desk.

Of course, if you want to work in a collaborative way with members of your own team (i.e. you want to talk to them), you can get some of your 10,000 wellbeing steps in and wander round the building trying to find out where they are. Amy’s team all work in a blendedly flexible way, and she hasn’t seen some of them for weeks. Come to think of it, she’s not even sure how many of them there are anymore…

And of course all meetings can be held on Teams now, which is good because there is no meeting space anymore. Indeed the whole of this building is full of people having confidential Teams meetings. (If you’re using headphones, at least it’s only one half of a confidential conversation that you can hear.)

Actually, before the lockdown, it was becoming really difficult to find private meeting space. Now this has been solved by no longer holding private meetings (lol!). No, but seriously, once you get used to discussing reasonable adjustments and compassionate leave with your reportees on the steps in Alex Square, it starts to feel less of a big deal. When you think about it, doors are really just a barrier to agile flexibility.

Amy’s strategy for holding Difficult Conversations with staff or students is actually to hang around Bowland North quad waiting for a seminar to kick out early, so she can nip in for ten minutes. This is usually just enough time to give someone the link to the staff wellbeing pages or counselling service, before the next seminar starts. Job done.

In fact, this is a testament to the wonderful resilience and creativity that is being shown by colleagues, and it’s become pretty common when walking round campus to stumble upon a committee meeting efficiently going about its business in one of the larger disabled toilets. Amy is on an interview panel next week, but thankfully the chair of the panel has just bought a Ford S-Max with a nice roomy boot, so there’s no worries.

Amy nears the end of the aisle, and is just about to give up hope of finding somewhere to sit when, to her delight, she spots a free desk. Not a prime location, what with the afternoon screen glare and noise from the hand dryers, but it’ll do. She settles in and begins the process of adjusting the height of the desk, the brightness of the screens, getting the dock to recognise her laptop, and wiping the ick off the mouse. After only 40 minutes, she’s ready to start work, proud to be a valued team member in such a flexibly blendable modern workplace.

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