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Team reflections on working through a global pandemic

Team reflections on working through a global pandemic

As the UK went into lockdown, and we closed the door on our small office, like many, we firmly anticipated this to be a three-week measure. Never could we have imagined that it would be five months before the world began its re-emergence.

Between our team we have nine school aged children, one family who were required to shield and, in May, one new recruit, so it’s fair to say it has been a challenging juggling act for all. However, with adversity comes solidarity and with companies, regardless of geographic location, in the same boat relationships seem strengthened and opportunities for new ones opened up almost overnight, with the widespread adoption of the zoom call!

In this blog, five of our team members; Rebecca, Nicola, Daisy, Catherine and Emma, reflect on work and home life during a global pandemic.

Many of you will know our colleague David who himself has a rare disease. David shared his own unique reflections which you can read in his blog My reflections on COVID-19

Team reflections on working through a global pandemic

Rebecca Stewart, CEO, mum of three shares her reflections on keeping a business going and supporting a team during a global pandemic 

Businesses around the world have faced one of the most extraordinary challenges in modern history. Enforced closure, travel bans, and an uncertain economic future, threaten organisational chaos and are the cause of many sleepless nights for business owners.

As the pandemic rolled out across Europe and lockdown started to become a reality, we decided to move early and protect our team, packing up the small office and relocating our office team to their homes.

Here at RARE Rev we have always offered flexible and remote working so the move was not too worrying or challenging and indeed for David and myself, who always work remotely, it was business as usual. Being a digital business meant we could also stay fully operational, so we feel immensely fortunate.

Operationally we owe all our success to the resilience of the team who have maintained productivity alongside juggling children, intermittent internet, and meeting interruptions. Their sheer tenacity and enthusiasm to carry on, delivering world class work with an upbeat and can-do attitude has been our saving grace, and I could not be more thankful or proud of their efforts. And whilst I do not think we are out of the woods by any means I am optimistic that our agility, flexibility and dedicated team will allow us to continue to innovate in rare disease communications well into the future.

Nicola Miller, editor- in-chief and creative director is a mum of two primary aged children and a shielding family. Nicola has risen to the challenge of producing the latest summer edition, RARE Nephrology, whilst supporting her family through the isolation of keeping safe

Within days of closing our office in Ashford and starting remote working, my children were sent home from school for what was to be an indefinite period. Then a letter hit my door mat, followed by a series of texts and follow-up letters stating that our son was identified as medically extremely vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, and was required by the government to medically shield for an initial period of 12 weeks. This was later extended to ​1 August, and the jury is still out on whether it will end then, as the country holds its breath to see if the adopted measures are working.

Team reflections on working through a global pandemic

Since March we have seen the entire season of spring come and go, and before we re-emerge summer will be all but over too. Working from home while home schooling brings its unique challenges, but as a shielding family, by far the biggest challenge has been complete and absolute social isolation.

With a clear directive from the government to avoid all “face-to-face contact”, our world has been confined to our home and garden, and the only faces we have seen are our friends and family over Zoom, and the odd fleeting glimpse of a neighbour heading to their car. As a family affected by rare disease, isolation is not a stranger to us, and comes with the territory, as does the practice of trying to dodge infection and virus’s, which is all  very normal for us, but this absolute isolation is a different level again!

There isn’t a day in the last 100+ that I haven’t counted my blessings that we have faced this head, on as a tight family of four with a strong love and bond, (which despite the inevitable home school headlocks, has grown immeasurably stronger over this period), and not, as many have, home alone.

We have been there for each other in the night hours when one or all of us can’t sleep, when we have each at times slipped into a lockdown funk and needed to be rallied back to good spirits, and when just the whole global situation has seemed so overwhelming. But for many this has been a crisis they have faced alone.  I for one, know that when my family are finally allowed out of this, and can once again embrace people, the biggest hugs and squeezes we have saved up during this time, will be going to those members of our family, friends and community who fall into that category and have faced this alone. 

Daisy Marriott, communication assistant, joined our team during lockdown and has had to hit the ground running. Daisy reflects on first day nerves and and the unexpected technology benefits of remote working

Starting a new job is daunting at the best of times, the night before nerves and unknown expectations is one thing. But another big thing for me is my lack of hearing and the fear of missing something vital in a conversation! That is all quite nerve wracking enough and then add into the mix a global pandemic with a lockdown, it becomes quite scary.

I was apprehensive about starting my new role from home, I felt like I would be missing the support network and comradery that comes naturally from being in an office environment. How wrong I was!
I have found working from home to be pretty much hiccup-free apart from the obvious video meeting call crashes and slow internet.

I will miss the very short commute downstairs and as I am nearly always wearing ear bud headphones when speaking to the team, so the fear of mishearing anyone has diminished rapidly and I feel confident in conversation (I wish real life had a volume button). I also feel the reason I have adapted so well to working from home is mainly from the incredible support and guidance the RARE team have given me.

During my first week we had after-work virtual drinks which were brilliant, and I have never felt lost or alone despite being physically alone 9-5pm each day. I know there is always someone I can call on if I need advice and our group WhatsApp is never quiet. I have felt extremely grateful and even guilty sometimes that I have been given this opportunity at a time when many others have lost theirs.

I am really looking forward to being in the office and physically being part of the team and it will be a bonus having the added pressure to wear normal clothes again.  A little reminder for anyone that is working from home. Don’t forget to change out of your PJs BEFORE the meeting. 

Catherine De Vaal, communications associate and mum to two primary aged children talks about guilt and her determination to onboard our newest team member will all the support she needed

​Like many working parents I constantly battle with time and guilt. The guilt of not being fully present when I am with my children because I am thinking of what I did not finish before I left the office. I know that Nicola, Emma and I used to dread those calls from school during office hours, wondering how sick they really are and then of course the guilt for even thinking that!

Well COVID-19 has amplified the pressure of not having enough time and oh the guilt has gone through the roof. I have spent the last few months apologising to pretty much everyone!

Which is why I have been incredibly lucky to have a supportive family, friends, colleagues and workplace, without whom I would certainly have lost my head and motivation.

Daisy started working for RARE Revolution amid lockdown, I was absolutely determined to make her feel a part of the team and supported during a complex time to start a new job. We have been incredibly lucky that Daisy is so self-motivated and immediately slotted in, rising to every task she has been set.

Daisy works across the brands and team and so is given work tasks from multiple people. This can be challenging which is why we have regular contact with each other. When Daisy started, I gave her an onboarding document with logins and explanations to what she would be working on and the different platforms she would be using. We are in daily contact either with a scheduled catch up, via video calls and WhatsApp.

It doesn’t feel as though I have only met Daisy in person twice. She very much feels a part of the team and I cannot wait until we can sit across the room from each other without the dodgy internet connections and noisy children in the background!

Emma Bishop, design and editorial associate and mum to two primary aged children has shown her dedication and enormous talent editorially and more recently as a home schooler!

I look back on the day we closed-up the office, at the end of March, and said goodbye (not hugging!), and I cannot believe how little we knew back then! We honestly thought it would be a matter of weeks before we were back.

In an ideal world I would have set up my new home office in the spare room; a space dedicated to my work and somewhere I could physically, and psychologically, shut the door on at the end of each day. However, we are not living in an ideal world!

​I am not just working from home now, but also looking after and home schooling my two primary school children. And so, my new office is at the kitchen table. Working in design it is not just a case of having a laptop that I could set up anywhere—I need a laptop, plus a large monitor, which takes up a lot of space. My work area also doubles up as a school desk for my children.  On my new desk you will find a large monitor, a laptop, a keyboard, piles and piles of paper, maths sheets, glue, scissors, colouring pens, Mr Men books and the list goes on!

The benefits of having my workspace in the main family area is that I can work, but still be present, able to monitor my children. And it also means I can do some work when I get a free five minutes or the luxury of half an hour, often mid cooking dinner! This is also the downside though, as there is a tendency for work to encroach on homelife and for it to feel like I am never away from it. Having it all set up in the main family space means it is always at the forefront of my mind and it is very easy to keep dipping in and means I don’t have set working hours.

But it is what it is, it works, and I am incredibly lucky to be able to work from home and take care of my children too. For now, our new ‘normal’ works and allows us to all be together and safe, which is far more important than a perfect, tidy home office!

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