We’re lucky. Our whole team has been able to work remotely since mid-March 2020. No-one’s been furloughed; indeed BLUE has continued to grow. And none of the core components of our roles have changed – we’re still speaking to clients, still drafting copy, still collaborating with colleagues, and still delivering impactful PR and communications programmes to organisations in the marine and energy sectors. In many ways, nothing’s changed. But a year into working from home, I don’t think I am alone in feeling a growing sense of isolation, sadness and longing for everything that’s been lost.
It’s just not the same through a screen is it?! No matter how hard we try to ask regularly about the children, the pets, or the partners, the natural conversations over lunch, while making coffee, or just grabbing some water just aren’t happening like they do when we’re together. And this affects our closeness as a team – our understanding of our colleagues and ability to empathise with and support them. Our colleagues so often become our closest friends and allies; we form tight bonds with them. From a casual chat at our desks about what we watched on TV last night, to a few rounds of drinks in the Dew Drop (our local office pub), we want and need to spend time with each other that’s not about work. The knock on effect of this interaction is even better collaboration on work-related tasks.
Yes, we’re still speaking to our clients every day. Spread across 17 different countries, it’s not that we saw them face to face every month anyway. But we did meet them in London or Oxford when they were visiting or passing through, as well as visiting offices across the UK. Plus we’d make regular trips to see them as well. Out to Cyprus, Amsterdam, Ireland, Singapore, Finland, Denmark – the list is long. While we recognise that the world has changed and that international travel will, and should, reduce for some, the benefits of certain trips have only become more substantiated and valuable. Not only in terms of visiting client’s offices and meeting them on their own turf, but also – on a personal level – the buzz and motivation that comes with travel and building personal relationships, face to face. It’s a powerful drug that benefits the individual, the client, and BLUE as a consultancy.
I’m not sure we ever took them for granted, but now that they’ve been taken away from us for a period, the privilege of attending industry events has never felt more pronounced. London for LISW; Hamburg for SMM and WindEnergy; Shanghai for Marintec; Athens for Posidonia; Houston for OTC; Limassol for Maritime Cyprus… whether a small, hour long event in the UK, or a three day conference overseas, all industry events deliver on certain elements that a webinar just cannot compete with.
Firstly, traveling to the event, whether by train, plane or automobile, provides a different dynamic from the office. Then the buzz of networking and meeting new people, as well as reconnecting with industry friends. Hearing people speak on familiar topics, sharing thoughts and ideas that have the potential to inspire and provoke, and engaging in discussion with other attendees to explore and hone your lines of thinking. It’s a heady cocktail for any communications professional, as this is where ideas are generated and narratives developed – in real time, with real people, face to face.
Resilience is probably closely linked to optimism. And the good news is that we are now beginning to see light at the end of this desperately long lockdown tunnel. So it’s important to remain optimistic and recognise that while, right now, we’re pining for times gone by, the majority of what we’re missing will be returned to us. If we can do our best to translate nostalgic recollections of ‘how things used to be’ into visions of ‘how it’s going to be very soon’, hopefully we can buoy ourselves sufficiently to stay strong and recognise how much more fulfilling, motivating and energising our roles are going to be when we can all be together again. Hang on in there – it won’t be long!