Yesterday the Step Up network held its final 2020 event and provided all attendees with the opportunity to reflect on their year. 49 of us gathered, once again virtually, for a Zoom lunch and a chance to share our thoughts and experiences as well as ideas to boost each other over the more tricky parts of the world we find ourselves in.

There were many common themes that emerged from the three break out discussions sessions on; flexible working; health, wellbeing and family; and connectedness and technology.  These breakout sessions provided a warm, comfortable, welcoming, space for individuals, of all genders, to express their feelings with the support of members from across all parts of Cranfield.

With regards to the first breakout session on flexible working, the overall message was that of choice; the ability to work within our teams to ensure that everyone has the right choice in relation to flexibility for both them and their team. The concept of choice requires consideration of fairness including the impact on those around you and accepting everybody’s home life being equally important regardless of its makeup.

Wellbeing and connectedness breakout sessions certainly had a strong overlap. Our wellbeing is now so very tied to the hours we spend looking at little rectangular boxes. Whether mobile, tablet, laptop or screen sized it’s hard to get away from them wherever we look. Here, though, there were many supportive suggestions:

  • Book meetings for 45 minutes to give everyone a few minutes break between calls to stretch, grab a drink or just to stand up briefly.
  • Agree that having camera on isn’t always necessary, even go as far as putting “no camera’s required” in the meeting invite.
  • Sometimes phone people rather than video call, even going as far as booking a ‘walk and talk’ meeting.
  • Block out time for you in your diary (a walk, a lunch break… whatever you need) and treat it as important and value it (and value other’s time where you see it in their diaries).

An example of innovation was shared – one team, in the run up to a critical event, left their MS Teams call open so people could speak up when they needed information or to share something. This small simulation of the office environment, with the tapping of keyboards and the boiling of the kettle, made the hard work seem team-based and supportive.

It was lovely to hear the positives from 2020 that people felt too. The establishment of new connections with family members through the use of technology to connect multiple household. The opportunity to learn new skills, or reignite passions for long forgotten ones. The focus on friendships and family rather than the hectic, sometime frenetic, pace of life; the slowing down and valuing of time. The opening up of conversations on mental health; it’s ok to not to be ok.  

What I personally took away from this session is that my feelings are normal and I’m not alone in feeling them. Others are also struggling with the constant ‘on-ness’ surrounding digital tools. Others are also struggling to divide work from home, especially with the use of technology in all aspects of our lives now. Others are also missing the collegial nature of being in the same working space as their colleagues, the buzz and inspiration that makes Cranfield a fun place to be.

I hope that, as 2020 fades into our collective memories, we will remember some of the things we shared in this session; the value of kindness (“are you ok?”); the small considerations we have missed (“anyone for a cuppa?”); and the all-encompassing joy of something as small as a hug.

* With profuse apologies to William Shakespeare (Richard III act 5, scene 4 – for anyone wondering)

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