Returning to the work place after over three months of lockdown is one completely bizarre phenomenon that none of us could have foreseen before the pandemic. But even more weird than that, is going into the office for the first time and meeting your boss for the first time after working together for two months via Slack and Google Hangouts.
Being a lockdown hire at We Are Star has been fantastic and in many ways normal, as the company policy already was “work from wherever you like,” but that’s usually providing that the team have actually met each other once. Or at least met them at the interviewing stage.
Applying for the role, getting interviewed and then getting the job offer all online felt just as weird as Zoom Weddings sound and having been offered the job, receiving the onboarding package from a UPS guy all just added to my pandemic experience.
Two months into the job, lockdown is now easing and life is slowly slowly returning to a more “normal” state than when we were only allowed to the shop once a day. With our gorgeous offices at Mappin House just off Oxford Street (that I had only ever seen on Google street view) I was keen to go in and see where I am working and most importantly, meet my boss.
Still wary of using the tube, I donned my mask and hopped on the bus that took me straight to central London. A Monday morning July rush hour would usually have felt very different – there were no heards of European teenagers on a school trip, the bus was filled but only to its new capacity which is less than half, and the traffic left me with no reason to complain.
Hoping we’d be able to recognise each other in person, I waited by the entrance of Mappin House and as he arrived, a hand sanitiser handshake later, we went up to the office for the first time.
What used to be a bustling and vibrant shared office space, Mappin House felt like an office that was open on a Sunday for a couple of keen workers looking to get a headstart for the week ahead. Meeting rooms were locked, the cafe was closed and the building felt entirely empty.
With We Are Star being a fast-growing (but still quite new) company, and having an office in such a central location, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the space might just be a small basement office where natural light was a rare commodity.
Instead, the office space was extremely impressive. Huge windows casting views out onto the once bustling Oxford Street, break-out spaces galore and comfortable places to work, either on your own to get some focus or with your team in a collaboration space. There were high desks, benches and booths, High ceilings and massive windows. It felt not only nice, but a place I would be quite happy in.
Regardless of its emptiness, it was a pleasant quiet place to get some work done, chat about work and see the place that I hopefully will be working in more regularly in the months to come.
Lunchtime was just as different; in the heart of Soho in the middle of summer, food markets, pubs and bars are usually heaving with office workers taking long lunches, brunchers and those on their day off and tourists from every corner of the earth. Instead left in its place was a few brave food stalls and less than half the amount of people you’d expect to see.
It felt like an early Sunday morning as we weaved through the streets of Soho and Fitzrovia looking for something to eat. Having come across a few food stalls on Tottenham Court Road, our agency welcome lunch felt very different than anything I’ve experienced before. As lovely and interesting as it was, it was certainly a new experience.
After the working day, our welcome drinks felt much the same. Having the entire pub seating area to choose from and no one standing at the bar, the idea of the future “New Normal” became very apparent. Suddenly, office life felt very distant in the past and maybe, this quieter way of life is something we will just have to get used to.
Having known already that We Are Star is a “work from wherever you like as long as you get the job done” agency, based on skills, trust and lifestyle, it made me think that a lot of agencies will have to follow suit once the pandemic has subsided and we find a new way of living.
Maybe the days of 9-5 office days, time sheets and fixed hours are being forced away from us as we all learn to self-manage, trust and adapt to the new times. It seems that the more time goes on, the smaller the world becomes as everyone, including offshore colleagues, are always contactable and accessible to work with.
Being a lockdown hire might actually be one of the best career experiences I’ve ever had and has taught me a lot about the classic office lifestyle that is all we ever knew. And recognising someone in person when you’ve only ever met them on Google Hangouts is actually a lot less stressful than I thought.