20 views from Cambridge business and community figures on what the workplace means to them
Since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, more people have returned to their worksplaces. Some, of course, have never been away, due to the nature of their work. Others will take lessons from the pandemic to move towards more flexible or hybrid styles of working.
As the Cambridge Independent reported in May, Cambridge-based design and fit-out specialist COEL and business psychologist Kelly Drewery, from Talent Glue, are running a research project called the Way We Work.
The team have since been inundated with responses from hundreds of participants, representing more than 150 companies. They are investigating what employees value in the workplace, including the social, psychological, and physical aspects.
The survey – at https://surveys.talentglue.co.uk/s3/waywework – is easy to fill out and takes less than than minutes. The team is offering a prize of one of three Fitzbillies Champagne tuck boxes or a coaching session with Kelly for participants who leave their contact details.
Here we present some of the thoughts of 20 of those who have responded, including a butcher and a baker but sadly, as yet, no candlestick maker (if you know one, please get in touch…)
Charles Cotton – author of The Cambridge Phenomenon
“One of the big benefits for the past 15 months, has been the opportunity to get to know Cambridge better as I have been walking everywhere.
“I have also worked from home and participated in Zoom / Microsoft Teams calls.
“While these are better than simple phone calls, there is nothing like meeting and talking to people face-to-face.
“More recently, I have participated in an in-person board meeting and was delighted to meet up with my colleagues and have the opportunity to talk with them collectively and individually.”
Ruscha Fields – founder of the Good Plant Company
“Enhancing a workplace so that it looks great and encourages wellbeing is a passion of mine. As companies encourage their employees to return to the office, these aspects are more important than ever.
“We are seeing more of our clients create collaboration zones with soft seating and plenty of plants, which are enjoyed for their aesthetic appeal and health benefits but also have a cool factor. The plants can also be used to create screening and privacy, which is now more crucial than ever.”
Henk Koopmans – CEO at Huawei Technologies Research and Development (UK)
“It is about meeting people you weren’t setting out to meet (in the office, the Science Park or even the Cambridge cluster) and as a result finding new ideas, new opportunities and generally feeling more enriched.
“Also, having face-to-face encounters allows me to pick up on emotions (stress, anxiety, happiness, elation) and reaching out, thereby having conversations that lead to strengthening of relationships and building of trust. That doesn’t happen online.”
John Gourd – CEO at Cambridge Network
“For me, an efficient workplace serves a number of purposes: it can facilitate spontaneous, collective, discussions around a topic, an overheard comment or an idea, it can help you build an environment that enables a team to look after each other’s mental wellbeing, and it can more readily help cement a team’s values and identity through collective conversations.”
Sarah Mila – administrator of the Arbory Trust, managing The Barton Woodland Burial Ground
“Running the beautiful Woodland Burial Ground at Barton just outside Cambridge is a privilege. The staff and I usually have close contact with the bereaved.
“During the lockdown, we couldn’t spend time talking directly with our families. I missed that closeness.
“Being able to talk to people who are grieving, to show empathy and kindness helps them and it felt sad not being able to provide that service.”
Jo Hart – group development and marketing manager at Mantle
“Facilitating our members and tenants needs where possible is key to the way we work at Mantle Business Centres. We are delighted The Bradfield Centre is set up to accommodate our well behaved canine friends and we love to see some of our clients bringing their dogs in. Based in Cambridge Science Park, we have plenty of outdoor space which supports dogs’ exercise requirements, clients appreciate and are respectful of our flexibility, and visitors are delighted to see the four-legged residents who bring a joy into the working environment.”
Supt James Sutherland – southern area commander, Cambs police
“In many ways we’ve never left the workplace as a lot of our work can’t be done virtually. That said, we have moved an awful lot of the management of policing online to minimise the number of people in the workplace and that’s where the majority of my formal work now takes place. So for me personally, the only reason for coming into the workplace over the last 18 months has been to provide visible leadership to the frontline – many of our workforce are facing the biggest challenge to policing since the Second World War. It really wasn’t an option to try to provide that leadership via Zoom.”
Richard Brown – paediatrician, Cambridge University Hospitals
“I work in a colossal workplace with vast numbers of staff members.
“The only way that this is navigable is with networking; the coffee-and-biscuit-based friendships that allow phone-a-friend balm when things are hectic.”
Tamsin Holland Brown – community paediatrician, Brookfields Hospital
“Work is about interpersonal relationships and collaboration, and while video consultation has many advantages (prevents travel; reduces time off school/ work; prevents viruses spreading around waiting rooms), seeing and examining patients face-to-face will always be important.”
George Northen and Jane Hart – founders of GetMeFit
“Our fitness and wellbeing platform was born out of the pandemic and all of us being forced to run fitness classes, consultations and meetings remotely.
“We love the flexibility and convenience the virtual world brings, but for the running of the business at GetMeFit, we’re looking forward to a time where we can mix home-working with a shared office space. This past year has really brought home quite how much energy we draw from being around our colleagues. As we all re-calibrate back to some normality, let’s hope we can strike the perfect balance.”
Dr Adam Durant – CEO, SATAVIA
“For me the workplace is where creativity happens and where you can collectively build great ideas. It’s also vital to have in-person time in the office to have those informal spontaneous discussions. I have just returned from my first international travel in over 460 days, which took me to Dubai and the USA, and the connections and reconnections I made accelerated the slow progress we were making on business development using virtual meetings. Doing business should be fun – it’s as much about the people you meet and the places you go, as innovating and building the technology.”
Inger Anson – head of the Cambridge office of HCR Hewitsons
“Collaboration is vital in our work, as it is for many people, and being in the office with colleagues makes that process much easier.
“We value a balance between easy communication with each other and the chance to work in a focused way on our own projects, so the space we work in, and how we use it, has to reflect that.
“We have all thought much more about our workspace since the pandemic began, and it has been high on our list especially because of our merger with Hewitsons, and our desire to bring teams together.”
Alison Wright – owner of Fitzbillies
“I’m so delighted to be able to go back into the branches and have team meetings over our very fine coffee. It’s wonderful to see customers back, enjoying their brunch or afternoon tea. And I really missed going to the bakery on the night shift and seeing all the bread and baked goods come out of the oven – and of course the smell of the warm Chelsea buns.
“To me the workplace is about seeing our fantastic cakes, bread, and café food in production and on display, catching up with the team face-to-face and perhaps most of all seeing our customers enjoying themselves.”
Jo Trump – principal at Hills Road Sixth Form College
“One of the key things we’ve learnt as an organisation is how important the social and collaborative elements of learning and teaching are. While we always instinctively knew that, this past 18 months has proven how important it is to share a physical space, not just cyber space. Education is about the things you learn in lessons, but it’s also about the things you learn about yourself and each other just by being together: we have really missed that and are delighted to be sharing our college space as one community again. All those chance remarks, ideas and collaborations are able to take root and flourish.”
Robert Short – landlord at the Queen’s Head, Newton
“I am the third generation of my family to be running the Queen’s Head. The pub, dating back to the Tudor period, is my workplace and has also been my home throughout my life and so it is steeped in both happy memories and heritage for me and my family.
“The last year has been hard with challenging conditions, but we have done all we can during this time to keep our customers feeling connected and to bring the community together.”
Kelly Austin – wellbeing team lead and social navigator at Granta Medical Practices
“Different ways of working have been a double-edged sword for us. It has opened up new communication routes and access to partner organisations. On the other hand, a call to a patient who does not use technology cannot replace building that rapport and picking up on finer points. The team have found it challenging. Our skill set is solution focused and person-centred so being a socially isolated, social prescriber has been frustrating. We look forward to using all the tools pre-existing and new to help our patients and community in a new way.”
Ed Tompkinson – founder of Clean Sweep
“As a chimney sweep my workplace is my clients’ homes. Being invited into someone’s’ home is an incredible aspect of the work that I do – it displays trust, and it allows me to get to know the clients in a different more meaningful way than if my craft was based in a more neutral setting.
“My priority is to respect the trust placed in me, complete my work perfectly and ensure the room is left immaculate.”
Alastair Mundell – CEO at Bridge Partners
“I’m very proud of my team for their achievements at the start of lockdown to seamlessly migrate clients to home working. It was inspiring to see how great businesses with dedicated, flexible staff backed up with modern technology could evolve overnight.
“While online meetings and remote working got us all through the last 16 months, they could not replace the energy you get from being in an office full of enthusiastic people. Since we’re invariably moving towards the hybrid working model, the time spent in the office with colleagues feels even more valuable, and we all appreciate the different vibe of face-to-face meetings.”
David Leech – third generation butcher at Leech & Sons, Melbourn
“Providing the local community, both residents and businesses, with fresh, delicious food is our priority.
“Throughout the strife and difficulties since the start of the pandemic, we are proud that our staff have worked incredibly hard to support customers in a time of need.”
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