Starting with a company that had transitioned to working remotely, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I had some experience of remote working, having completed my degree during the first lockdown, but had not really worked collaboratively on any major projects without having face-to-face discussions.
I started at Wirth at the same time as another graduate, which was useful in the first couple of weeks as we both focused on training and getting up to speed with all the different processes. We had regular sessions where we were introduced to the different software packages and how we would be using them in future projects.
During this time, I was also introduced to the rest of the aerodynamics team and briefed on the range of projects that were going on across the company. This was a great opportunity to meet my colleagues and learn about the interesting projects they were working on. Within the first week, there was also a virtual team-building exercise, which provided a fantastic way to meet everyone else in the company, especially those that I might not be working with on a day-to-day basis.
The whole team at Wirth have been incredibly welcoming and I have always felt that I could get the necessary support on any project. This was particularly true for the first set of projects I worked on, when things were still relatively new. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and have found collaborating online to be much easier than I anticipated.
The switch from physical desktops to virtual machines in Iceland, where our user experience can be tailored to our role, highlights the commitment of Wirth to improving our remote working experience. Our new office space also provides us with an opportunity to adopt a hybrid working pattern, collaborating with colleagues in the office when necessary but still maintaining the flexibility of remote working. My first year at Wirth has far exceeded my expectations and I look forward to continuing to work with the fantastic team as we deliver energy saving technologies to our customers.
I joined Wirth in October 2020 when working from home was the norm for millions of people. What a strange feeling to start a new job from home! It’s only in August 2021 that I was able to physically meet most of my colleagues for the first time, as Nick Wirth kindly organised a summer party at his own home.
It’s no longer possible to bump into people at the coffee machine so we need to make up for this lack of randomness somehow. There are two organised coffee breaks a week where anyone is welcome. I have heard of companies which don’t allow their staff to use their time in this way and it is such a shame.
It is interesting how time management has changed. I remember times on Friday afternoon where the pace of working slowed down and the noise level in the open space would increase, as people shared their plans for the weekend ahead. There was no way to quantify how much people actually work while at work. A working day would start and finish at given times with the expectation people were working in between. Working from home is a different dynamic and work ethic. For me, there is a stronger focus on achievements and producing usable work, as opposed to just being present because my contract says I should. I’m a lot more efficient while at my desk as there is no longer any distraction. I really enjoy the ability to work in silence and truly focus without any disturbances. It is however no longer possible to join a conversation happening a few meters away, or brainstorm, drafting ideas on paper. I’m not sure where I would find the time to do so to be honest. My days are a lot fuller than they used to be. If I need a break, I take one, but if I’m at my desk, 100% of my attention goes to the tasks at hand.
Personal life and working life are a bit more interconnected, the boundary between the two has become more fluid. There is a balance to be found but I really enjoy the liberty and flexibility. I can recall days at work when there was little to do while I had left so many things on hold at home. It is now possible to take some time during the day for personal matters and catch up on my working hours later in the evening or at the weekend.
It’s been a very positive journey for me. While I recognise that the situation is difficult and challenging for millions of people, working from home is what I wanted for many years. I feel very privileged to work for a company that made the bold move to radically change its setup, so home working is now the norm. It is in line with the company’s ethic and drive for a more sustainable world. It is a lot cheaper and, people are happy. It’s a win-win really! I used to spend at least 10 hours a week in my car before working for Wirth. I can now use my time more effectively, while reducing my carbon footprint and preserving my own energy.
Pre-pandemic my day was a long one compared to now (much like everybody’s I should imagine). I’d have a 40 minute (on a good day!) commute up the A34 into the office. I’d be in the office for 0745/0800 purely because it meant a) beating the traffic and b) I could get a lot done before the rest of the office started to arrive from 0830-0930. I’d finish around 1730/1800 (sometimes later), for another 40-minute journey home. This suited me down to the ground. For someone who has had a military upbringing, followed by a stint in the forces in early adulthood coupled with some mental health issues, the structure, order and routine comforted me, made me feel like I had purpose every day.
So, you can imagine my dread when the idea of a UK lockdown first surfaced. Not only was I in the final stages of planning a wedding (I had a project plan and everything… needless to say, there was a tantrum), but the mere thought of my nice comfortable routine being taken away from me was a double blow. So, I did what I believe many people did. I told myself it was only going to be for a few weeks, and it’d be novel. I’d channel my inner military bearing: ‘Improvise, Adapt & Overcome….’ …..
A few weeks turned into a month, but I started to find my new routine. Working alongside my fiancé was working out quite nicely. Being able to lay in until the late hour of 0700 for our 30 second commute. He’d laugh at me taking my mid-morning ‘break’ by doing Joe Wicks bunny hops around the living room instead of eating biscuits dunked in coffee. Nice walks at lunchtime, then at 1730 finishing up and actually being finished for the day. Eating dinner at a reasonable hour etc….
However, a month or so in, the financial pinch of the pandemic hit. I was furloughed. Then came the mental issues – no structure of work. Not knowing how long this was going to be for was akin to torture for me. Thankfully, I had a wedding date that kept moving and the constant re-planning kept me busy. After 6 weeks (and just as I was starting to enjoy myself) work called me back in.
It’s been full-on ever since. My spare room is now my (and my now husband’s) workspace. I can’t imagine going back to the office fulltime now. I love the flexibility of working at home, but also having a co-working space to go to when I fancy a change. My mental health has improved, my physical health has improved, and, importantly I’m just-as, if not more, productive in my work.
I know this hasn’t been the easiest or smoothest of rides for any of us, but the support from Wirth has shown me both pre and post pandemic is something I know is rare. They have invested in me by sponsoring me for 50% of my MBA and the camaraderie between all Wirth employees is second-to-none. I feel very lucky to have come through this world-changing event relatively unscathed.
Oh – and my husband and I still like each other 😊