As lockdown restrictions start to ease, the past ten weeks of living with a pandemic have been truly extraordinary. It has been no different for the PLG team than anyone else. We have tried to carry on doing business and looking after clients who often have urgent requirements when it comes to moving, while staying safe and dealing with a housing market which has been largely closed for business. At the same time, we have different family set-ups and living arrangements, making working from home easier for some than others.
For Phill, our managing director, lockdown has been a relatively easy experience where not much changed apart from Zoom becoming his new best friend. The PLG Midlands office is a converted barn adjacent to Phill’s home and he recognises he has been incredibly fortunate to enjoy the best set-up of anyone I know. The only real difference under lockdown was not being able to travel much and view properties on behalf of clients, which usually takes up a reasonable amount of time in his ‘normal’ day to day. Business has been manic, but my small village has remained relatively untouched, apart from having to queue at Waitrose, he says.
On the other hand, co-director Glenn became a father for the third time during lockdown which presented plenty of challenges, particularly being unable to interact with family and friends during what is usually an extremely sociable time when everyone wants to meet the new baby.
Learning to crochet, or not
Despite obvious concerns about Covid-19 and worries about family and friends, many of the team took the view that they might as well make the most of it. Sarah, one of PLG’s consultants, took the approach that ‘hopefully it won’t happen again’ and enjoyed stepping off the treadmill and spending time at home with her family. She viewed this ‘pause’ as an opportunity to: stop, think and plan things which I have been meaning to do for ages.
Getting structure into the day was a priority for all, with Frankie, our senior administrator, starting the ‘Couch to 5K’ running plan to give herself an aim and a challenge. Before that, she was struggling to motivate herself to complete simple chores around the house but found that, once I was up and moving it set me up much better for my day. James, our lettings and sales manager, found himself enjoying breakfast with the family rather than skipping it as he would usually do. Leah, our head of finance and operations, had grand expectations as to what she would achieve in lockdown and is a tad disappointed this didn’t happen.
Fancy trying the couch to 5K too?
Click the link below for further details
NHS Couch to 5K (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/)
Keeping in touch
Those living on their own understandably found lockdown harder than those surrounded by family. Leah really missed family and friends and found the isolation hit hard in the first few weeks, although she got used to it and adapted fairly quickly. Ashley, our senior administrator, also found it hard being away from family and friends but Zoom was a lifesaver and meant she was able to talk without the usual distractions, which was a welcome upside.
Sarah also caught up with family and friends more than usual, with Zoom enabling her to keep an eye on her 93-year-old Grandma and support those who were struggling. Frankie says that, everyday normal situations became very challenging, and she found that she wasn’t reacting ‘normally’ to them. Richard, a member of PLG’s architectural team, wryly observes that you can see why they are so hot on isolation in prison as it takes its toll after a while.
Working from home
While many of the PLG team are used to working away from the office and are fortunate to have decent working-from-home set-ups, being forced to do this all the time has been an adjustment for some more than others.
Leah often found working from home more productive, a view Richard agrees with. Pre-Covid, he spent a lot of time ‘on the road’ – working from hotels, sites, trains and different offices, and has found he gets more done from his home office (aka the kitchen). Rachel jokes that the journey to and from work ‘is much easier’ but the downside of working from home is that she finds it hard to switch off from work mode. James has saved money on commuting and expensive takeaways and coffees but also notes the blurred boundaries between home and work life. Quite often the commute in the morning and evening provides an opportunity to prepare or reflect on the day, which we lost during lockdown, he comments. Paul’s role in the architectural team has been enhanced by working from home as not only did he have additional time because he wasn’t travelling to the office every day, distractions were minimised so he could focus on his drawing.
While Simon, who heads up the architectural team, welcomed ‘no excessive travel to meetings’, he did note that this had sometimes been replaced with ‘excessive Zoom meetings’, proving nothing is perfect. Ashley liked not having to commute but as she doesn’t have a separate office in her flat, there was no distinction at all between work and home, which was not ideal.
In a vote of confidence for the usual PLG working environment, Frankie found the hardest part about working from home was missing the team. Richard agreed that less social interaction with colleagues ‘even those you don’t particularly like’ was a downside. Luckily he refrained from specifics as he also missed the tea rounds; one suspects if he had offered more detail he might be making his own tea more often.
Simon missed the office banter but on the upside, found that interaction with colleagues actually increased as they utilised different forms of communication. Leah liked the fact that working from home made everyone more self-sufficient as they couldn’t rely on a quick answer for her when they needed something.
Zoom – everyone’s new best friend?
As is the case up and down the country, opinion remains divided over Zoom. There are those, like Phill, who have wholly embraced it, with morning Zoom meetings for the team becoming a feature of lockdown so that the day could be organised. James thinks Zoom has enabled the team to identify its potential for more client video conferences. Rachel also found it useful, not just for keeping in touch with colleagues but clients and thought, working from home would not have been the same without it. Richard found Zoom calls to be pretty useful and a great way to connect with the entire team, and is interested to see how they will be integrated into the new working world when things are fully back on track.
Frankie notes that while the team communicated as often as possible on different platforms such as WhatsApp, over the phone and Facetime, she found not being able to share knowledge, experience or any concerns in real time to be quite frustrating.
Teaching the kids
Lockdown has been quite a different experience for those suddenly responsible for their children’s education as well as trying to hold down the day job. James found working from home with kids meant plenty of interruptions and distractions and lunch was on their terms more often than not. Glenn won’t be changing careers anytime soon as lockdown confirmed teaching is not for him: “I am not very good at it and have a surprising lack of patience,” he says.
Sarah hopes the lessons of Covid won’t be forgotten, she feels it has made her appreciate the simple things in life and to be mindful as to what is really important. Richard thinks it has opened people’s eyes to a new way of working, allowing companies to be more flexible and streamline their business.
In order to keep his family fed during the day Phill became ‘Phyllis’ the dinner lady complete with a personalised apron, although we are still waiting for photo evidence of this!
It may well be that the evidence of that remains hidden but for now the PLG offices are working as normal again and the team of consultants are busy travelling the country looking at properties that might make a life changing difference to a client.