Viewpoint: Working away from the office with Helen Bartlett

Helen Bartlett, Design Director at Paramount Interiors, explains how she’s reacted swiftly to working away from the office – an office that’s been an integral part of her daily life for almost 23 years! In her own words she talks us through her challenges, her concerns, the benefits she’s seen, what she’s missed and what she hasn’t missed whilst working at home.

“I’m now heading into my fourth month working from home and I’m sure, like many others, there has been plenty of time to ponder and re-evaluate certain things in both our work and our personal lives.

Prior to the virus, for me, remote working had fulfilled a requirement for concentration and focus. As a creative and therefore visually inspired person, I find the written word can be somewhat more of a challenge, purely from the point of view that I solely need to focus on what I’m trying to express. Any interruptions to this thought process and invariably I’ve lost the thread and have to re-focus, which when it happens on a regular basis, this results in feeling like you don't have enough hours in the day! And whilst our Cardiff office provides staff with plenty of areas to either creatively collaborate or equally quietly concentrate, there is still something about being visible that means 'you're available'.

Over the years we’ve all become so busy (not just in work, but in life in general) that it’s become far too convenient to communicate with people ‘now’ without consideration for breaking people’s train of thought. This isn’t a criticism of people, it’s just the way the world has evolved. Mainly due to advances in technology, we have all come to expect everything straight away, but this begs the question as to whether this progression has always been of a positive nature, particularly for our mental well-being.

Now that the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to appear in terms of returning to some sense of normality, my view about remote working, or rather how we achieve a healthy balance to get work completed, has been challenged.

I’ll be honest, I love having the headspace to think about things, but I also miss the dynamic atmosphere in the office. I crave to be a part of the energy that is created by everyone working as a team to solve a problem or plan a project. I miss the person who sits opposite me, who is the centre of most of the sarcastic banter within the office, whilst also ensuring he includes himself on occasions as the willing victim. I miss our bright and cheerful Receptionist, who upon arrival and without fail walks through the office every morning with a very uplifting "Hello".

However, what I don’t miss, and something which has proved to demonstrate that we could all work more effectively, are the lengthy meetings. The use of video calling using Zoom or Microsoft Teams has been invaluable and whether speaking with colleagues or clients, we have demonstrated that we can still have some light-hearted fun but meetings are now so much more focussed, thus saving time and mental energy.

But throughout this extraordinary time, one question in particular that relates to my work life that has kept me thinking and was raised in the early stages of home working - will the pandemic cause lasting effects on the office as we know it?

Having the time to actually give this some consideration, I’ve also had the opportunity to discuss this via phone and video call with a number of people over recent months, whether that be with colleagues or suppliers, as well as within our virtual coffee mornings I’ve been involved with.

I can unequivocally suggest that this will be the ultimate re-energising of the workplace. In so much as people will wholeheartedly want to be back together, albeit within one metre plus (England) or two metres (Wales) of each other, and have the 'normal' routine of getting up and travelling to a physical place of work, using this time to gather one’s thoughts and plan for the day ahead. We’ve had the line between our home and work lives stripped away and for me, this has now become somewhat blurred.

You see the point of this is complacency. You don’t truly appreciate what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. As one of my colleagues said to me just prior to lockdown “we’re family”, and I am not too proud to admit that throughout these months I have missed mine immensely, both of them.

I hope to see many of our clients, suppliers and friends in our showroom again very soon but in the meantime, here’s to a safe and successful return to the workplace.”

 

Helen Bartlett is our Design Director and has been with Paramount Interiors since 1998. Helen is responsible for designing key projects, making strategic business decisions and reviewing processes. Helen has recently worked on the refurbishment of Grade A office space at the iconic Hodge House building in central Cardiff.  

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