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20 more views from Cambridge business and community figures on what the workplace means to them



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Schools are back and workplaces are starting to slowly fill up again, but will the last 18 months continue to affect the way we work and what does the workplace mean to people now?

Cambridge-based design and fit-out specialist COEL and business psychologist Kelly Drewery, from Talent Glue, are continuing to research the subject.

Some of the participants in the workplace survey
Some of the participants in the workplace survey

Nearly 1,000 people have filled in their survey on it and more than 350 businesses have taken part so, following our coverage in July, here we share a second selection of personal reflections from people working across different professional fields.

For those wishing to participate in their research, the survey link is still live at https://surveys.talentglue.co.uk/s3/waywework.

Those who leave their contact details stand a chance to win one of three Fitzbillies champagne tuck boxes or a one-to-one coaching session with Kelly.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Lizzie are joining forces with Sharon Livermore from Kameo Recruitment to talk about their research at a webinar titled: “Is Hybrid Working?”.

It will take place on Tuesday, September 28 from 9.30am-11am. During the session, the panel will explore how to adapt to your team's changing dynamics, practical implications for workplace design and how to attract and retain the right people for your organisation.

To sign up for the webinar, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/is-hybrid-working-tickets-169074906597.

Wei Meng, director of operations at Tuspark Cambridge

Wei Meng, director of Operations at Tuspark Cambridge
Wei Meng, director of Operations at Tuspark Cambridge

“Technology has been vital in the past 18 months in terms of getting people connected. I was able to keep frequent communications with colleagues, business partners, family and friends across the world using videos calls. Global networking has been made much easier than before. However, I’ve also learnt the boundaries of technologies and found out that the virtual world contains fewer human elements. Workplace to me is a place full of emotions and human interactions. I cannot wait to go back to the office and see my colleagues on a daily basis.”

Neil Bharadwa – owner of The Cambridge Fruit Company

Neil Bharadwa, managing director, The Cambridge Fruit Company. Picture: Keith Heppell
Neil Bharadwa, managing director, The Cambridge Fruit Company. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The pandemic has been a mixed bag for our workplace. We continue to start early but now finish later. Our pivot from office fruit deliveries to home deliveries means smaller orders that require more attention. On the flip side though, we have the Red Hen Project visit two to three times a week to collect donated boxes for vulnerable families, which often means lots of tea and nice chats.”

Jason Mellad – CEO and co-founder at Start Codon

Jason Mellad, CEO and co-founder at Start Codon
Jason Mellad, CEO and co-founder at Start Codon

“The past 18 months has emphasised the importance of both flexible work arrangements and building a strong community, both key elements of the future workplace. We are fortunate to support founders and companies from across the UK and some utilise the office and lab space that we make available in our HQ at the Milner Therapeutics Institute, while others work remotely via Zoom and require hot desking and meeting facilities when they visit us each month. It’s important our programme continues to cater to a wide range of work styles and operational needs in order for us to be successful.”

Ian Mather – CEO at Cambridge United Football club and chairman at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Ian Mather, CEO at Cambridge United Football Club. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ian Mather, CEO at Cambridge United Football Club. Picture: Keith Heppell

“At first glance it may seem to many that the Cambridge United and Cambridge Arts Theatre have little in common. In fact, they share a desire to entertain and to make a difference to our community. The workplace – Abbey or Arts need to be welcoming and fun places to be.

“They also need to be safe places as both venues have technical aspects which need to be managed with care. What makes these places really work well is the dedicated staff who do their jobs because they love what they are doing in a supportive environment.”

Anna Jermain – founder of London & Cambridge Pony Parties

Anna Jermain, founder of London & Cambridge Pony Parties
Anna Jermain, founder of London & Cambridge Pony Parties

“For me there is nothing quite like working with animals, particularly horses and sharing their beauty and quiet intuitive presence with others.

“While at London & Cambridge Pony Parties we predominantly travel to venues to provide entertainment for children’s parties, we have started to do some therapy work with some autistic children and children who are going through difficulties. Similarly, our care home visits are incredibly rewarding. To be told a resident with dementia who hasn’t spoken for a very long time has started to interact after their pony therapy session is extremely moving.”

Kim Graham – senior partner for Feilden + Mawson

Kim Graham, senior partner for Feilden and Mawson
Kim Graham, senior partner for Feilden and Mawson

“As architects a creative environment is important, and our workplace provides this, enhancing collaboration and communication. This is true for most workplaces, and we have seen in the past year a greater move towards a healthier, relaxed and flexible work environment which captures some of the benefits of working from home and in the office with wellbeing at the core of productivity. In line with our Cambridge and London offices, our Norwich office when refurbished will reflect our design brand and the new norm of flexible working; a much cleaner and leaner space with thin client server facilitating this.”

Melissa Santiago-Val – CEO & founder of Sew Positive charity

Melissa Santiago-Val, CEO and founder of Sew Positive charity
Melissa Santiago-Val, CEO and founder of Sew Positive charity

“Founding a charity during lockdown, we gathered 50 volunteers to make community face masks – many of whom never met in person. We found ways of bringing our communities together virtually through sewing. We streamed workshops to over 100 people with materials sent by post. Working with vulnerable groups meant online was welcomed by many. Now we are about to run a course with Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre in person. Being able to feel fabrics, learn, share and discuss face-to-face experiences to strengthen our mental health in a safe environment is crucial.”

Qingqing Guo – head of Chinese, The Stephen Perse Foundation

Qingqing Guo, head of Chinese, The Stephen Perse Foundation
Qingqing Guo, head of Chinese, The Stephen Perse Foundation

“During lockdown, we discovered some creative ways to teach online and used different tools. Many games and quizzes were enjoyed. The technology available is versatile enough to enable this approach in teaching and we certainly learnt a lot. However, the traditional method of being face-to-face in a physical classroom is still the most effective way to teach and learn. Being in school also allows students to be with their peers, learn together and encourage one another as a community. Teachers also get to spend time with colleagues to exchange opinions.

Evelyn Brealey, director at Cambridge Global Health Partnerships

Evelyn Brealey, director at Cambridge Global Health Partnerships
Evelyn Brealey, director at Cambridge Global Health Partnerships

“It has been fantastic to witness the power of partnerships that has endured, even via only digital means. The extraordinary healthcare professionals involved in our international partnerships have continued to collaborate via Zoom and WhatsApp etc, sharing and developing their skills and knowledge to combat Covid and the many other global health challenges we face. In this era of pandemics and the climate emergency we have found new ways of working effectively yet we miss the human connection and look forward to being able to travel responsibly and hosting our partners in Cambridge.”

J-Laurence Sarno, marketing strategy specialist

J-Laurence Sarno, marketing strategy specialist
J-Laurence Sarno, marketing strategy specialist

“Before the pandemic, I was working from home and using Zoom for all but the most important meetings. During the pandemic, it became more important to get out so I met clients for walks or in their back gardens. These settings turned out to be excellent for forming bonds. Also, before the pandemic, I lived alone. I realised this wasn’t healthy, so I found a (wonderful) housemate. She’s also a business owner. The next six months are going to be exciting. Pent-up demand for technology products and services is rocketing.”

Oli Belson, associate environmental consultant, Stantec

Oli Belson, associate environmental Consultant, Stantec
Oli Belson, associate environmental Consultant, Stantec

“The workplace has always been an important factor in my worklife and the lockdown really brought home the benefits of that informal social interaction with your colleagues, the ease in which it takes place when you’re in the same office as someone.

“I enjoy the flexibility of working from home – it really helps out with family commitments, but the office gives that opportunity to collaborate and enjoy interaction with different people, with our projects and socially.

“I look forward to more face-to-face meetings with our clients as time goes on. However, video conference calls will still play a major part of our working lives.”

Meliya Mohan, terminal security office at Stansted Airport

Meliya Mohan, terminal security office at Stansted Airport
Meliya Mohan, terminal security office at Stansted Airport

“Stansted is the fourth busiest airport in the UK and it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“As a workplace it is an extremely exciting place to be, with so many departments required to work seamlessly together to provide global transportation for business, and tourism as well as delivery of emergency and humanitarian relief.

“The last 18 months have understandably brought enormous changes in the way we work and it is great to now see the airport opening up as restrictions are gradually lifted.”

Helen Slaski, CEO at Cambridge Science Centre

Helen Slaski, CEO at Cambridge Science Centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
Helen Slaski, CEO at Cambridge Science Centre. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Our workplace has always been lively, exciting and fun – helped by lots of children and their great ideas and creativity.

“As an interactive science centre, we are all about energy and enthusiasm and being able to bounce ideas between staff as well as the bright ideas from our young audiences is key; the lockdowns were therefore quite a change!

“Undaunted, we switched to digital engagement and our centre to a film studio so that we could continue to reach young learners studying at home. We are absolutely delighted to be now welcoming visitors back in person at last.”

Viliami Mila, project manager at Wellcome Genome Campus

Viliami Mila, project manager at Wellcome Genome Campus
Viliami Mila, project manager at Wellcome Genome Campus

“Teamwork is everything in an environment where on a day-to-day basis we group together with our combined skill sets to achieve a common goal.

“A place where the ambitious can thrive no matter what their race or culture.”

Naily Makangu, founder of Athena Leaders Ltd

Naily Makangu, founder of Athena Leaders Ltd
Naily Makangu, founder of Athena Leaders Ltd

“Imagine smiling on your way to a workplace playground! A place where laughter and positive conflict co-exist. Communication flows despite working remotely. Projects are delivered despite challenges such as bootstrapping the development of a new product, funding issues, having a never ending to-do list and more. Free food, video games and social committees are the icing on the cake rather than the main attraction when talking about employee engagement. Although this sounds like a dream for many people, as the Mary Poppins of business, I live and breathe by working with clients to design their own happy workplace playground.”

Chloë Davidson, executive director, Cambridge University Musical Society

Chloë Davidson, executive director, Cambridge University Musical Society. Picture Mustafa Beg
Chloë Davidson, executive director, Cambridge University Musical Society. Picture Mustafa Beg

“To me the workplace is a creative environment in which innovative musical endeavours can flourish. I have missed the rehearsals that lead up to the concerts and the excitement and thrill of a live performance in a full concert hall. I look forward to our face-to-face creative meetings with the students and planning inspiring concerts and musical activities across the university. We are still being cautious and won’t yet be performing big Mahler symphonies, but we are planning a wonderful programme of concerts and look forward to welcoming our audiences back.”

Dr Nika Kolabi, dentist at The Priory dental practice, Royston

Dr Nika Kolabi, dentist at The Priory dental practice, Royston
Dr Nika Kolabi, dentist at The Priory dental practice, Royston

“Covid really changed everything in the dental environment. Our workplace was always equipped for decontamination and sterilisation. However, we were not equipped to the level that Covid required. Our workplace has changed to allow one way systems and quiet waiting rooms. Our masks and PPE became intense and this made working as a dentist more challenging.”

Pooven Padayachee, project manager, Balfour Beatty, UKCS

Pooven Padayachee, project manager, Balfour Beatty, UKCS
Pooven Padayachee, project manager, Balfour Beatty, UKCS

“The construction industry is well renowned for bringing teams of people together executing their skills to deliver projects, generally in a common location. During the pandemic, Microsoft Teams allowed me the opportunity to work from home for the past 17 months, a first in my 21-year career. While I appreciated spending more time with family, I felt quite isolated.

“I cannot emphasise enough the effects of having face to face meetings. This allows me the ability to gauge the finer nuances of body language and a chance to bring some spontaneous humour to the table.”

Charlotte Cartwright, CAREs midwife at The Rosie, CUH

Charlotte Cartwright, CAREs Midwife at The Rosie Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals
Charlotte Cartwright, CAREs Midwife at The Rosie Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals

“My workplace means having a space in which I can provide physical and emotional care effectively which is accessible to all – accessibility being crucial.

“It’s important we have an environment that allows for and encourages the mixing of colleagues drawn from various parts of our community. We all need to communicate and work together – this is fundamental to safe and effective practice. We depend on spaces where support-workers, doctors and midwives can work together, continuing to maintain active communication.”

Dr Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, clinical psychologist, founder and director of Play Included CIC

Dr Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, clinical psychologist, founder and director of Play Included CIC
Dr Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, clinical psychologist, founder and director of Play Included CIC

“I believe that there are lots of really helpful informal conversations that happen in the office. We run face-to-face training courses for health and education professionals on using collaborative LEGO play to support social communication for children. Our programme is called the Brick-by-Brick (r) programme, and used to involve a lot of play with LEGO! This has been hard to replicate online. Another thing I have missed have been the spaces in between the training. I have found the separation between work and home is much easier when you have an office.”

Read more

COEL and Talent Glue Business Psychology team up to research the way we work

20 views from Cambridge business and community figures on what the workplace means to them

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