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Christine Baltas: Working from home – one year on

Christine Baltas started a new role as international market lead for real estate at Eversheds Sutherland just the UK entered its first lockdown in March 2020. She shares her love for the office.

Truth be told, I held off sharing across social media. Instead, I picked up my IT kit from the new office and went home. One year on, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months.

Culture is still king

The strength of a company’s culture will be challenged at the best times and no more so under a pandemic-led lockdown. A company’s structure, ways of working and the engagement of teams have been tested during this working from home experiment. From the induction week to team meetings, trying to replicate the pre-Covid in-person way of working has been an ongoing challenge for all office-based organisations – a company’s quirks and jerks can be magnified without the aid of the office backdrop.

Pre-pandemic cross-cultural collaboration was a consideration even when we had an office to go to. If you worked in a multi-jurisdictional organisation you would still rely on conference calls, cultural barriers, time zones, connectivity and meetings appointments. All, though, without the thought of wondering if you never meet in person.

Building relationships

There’s no denying one of the key components of being in the office is to build bonds with your colleagues and form great working relationships. In some instances, the office may not be a productive place to work, and accommodation strategists have for years planned and designed workplaces to cope with the changing demands of the office occupier.

Yet many of us in marketing and business development are team-working animals, we miss the organic and spontaneous conversations that occur. And whilst the virtual meeting is this decade’s great leveller and we are reachable and ‘Zoom ready’, unless you’re on a dozen calls a day, it can be a challenge to put yourself out there.  

So how do we replicate that interaction between colleagues, remain inspired and indulge in the spontaneous? Because as creatives, this is how we do our best work and we need to be in touch with a whole variety of specialists teams ensuring there is consistent communication.   

Places for people

Online tools replicate the whiteboard and avatars recreate networking. It was only a few years ago we discussed augmented reality. Gamification and AI were considered things we might draw from in the future. But it’s happening now.  

I think there is a desire to go back to in-person workshops, brainstorms, coffee meets and hanging out. Because that’s what teamwork is about. What we have learnt, one year on, is that we simply can’t replace the face-to-face. In the same way that the piped sound of crowds feels strangely dystopian at a football match.

So here’s my list of what I’ve missed and what I don’t.

What I missWhat I don’t miss
Seeing people face to face in real-timeCorporate clothing
Travelling internationally for workCommuting to work
Spontaneous conversationsFire drills
Afterwork drinksThe bar bill
New-joiner socials/It’s Friday lunchesQueuing at a restaurant
Donuts and coffee time with the team4 quid coffees
LaughterLate nights working in the office
Whiteboards/BrainstormingOffice carpet
Physical eventsVenue hire
StationeryPrinting
Browsing stores on my lunch breaksRemembering to go out for lunch

Christine Baltas is international market lead for real estate at Eversheds Sutherland.

Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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