Thursday 14th May 2020

The meaning of team during Covid-19

Our WiSH Midlands board member Rose Klemperer reflects on what team work means to her in the changing working world we're finding ourselves in. A thought-provoking and inspiring read.

RoseI’ve been thinking about a lot of things recently. They’ve varied from “do I really need the beaded lemon shaped earrings?” (Answer: yes, obviously) to “please, let no one nominate me to do a 5km run” (I’ve got good friends and no one did!). When it comes to work, I’ve been thinking a lot about what ‘team’ meant to me BC (before Covid-19) and what it means to me now, during these very strange times.

I’m lucky enough to have found my ‘dream team’, in fact it’s the name of our WhatsApp group. They are all very different, brilliant women and we all have a mutual love of karaoke. Modern full-time working practices mean that, for many of us, we’ll spend more time with our team mates than our family and other friends. I’m a solicitor and, on a busy week, this can be upwards of 50 hours filled with the various stresses and strains which accompany a working week like that. The UK has the longest working week in Europe so I am not alone in experiencing long working hours. As such, working with people you connect with personally as well as professionally is a massive bonus.

Before lockdown I didn’t appreciate just how much I relied on seeing the team most days and, alongside supporting each other with work, supporting each other through everything else which life throws your way. When we started working from home I found the pace of work difficult, with much more email traffic which all felt urgent, calls flying in and out including unannounced video calls (not cool, by the way). I realised it’s because I would usually look up from my screen, make eye contact with a team mate and we’d agree our plan of action together in a few short sentences accompanied by smiles and nods. We aren't able to interact in this easy way now. We are also in the midst of a pandemic and everyone is finding each day bringing new struggles and anxieties.

Instead of taking my team mates for granted, which I think I did inadvertently before, I started to make an effort to let them know just how much I appreciated them. One particularly busy lockdown week the team really dragged me through and I texted them at the end of the week saying, in no uncertain terms, how brilliant they were and how much I appreciated them. I listened to a radio piece which said that seeing someone on FaceTime has a pretty much identical effect on the brain as seeing someone ‘in real life’ so I made a conscious effort to have regular Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls and prioritised at least 30 minutes of face-to-face time daily. Even when work was swamping me, this 30 minutes made a world of difference to my day. Team meetings also started with us checking in on each other in a genuine, as opposed to making small-talk, manner. I became more alert and appreciative of the small daily actions which meld a team together and looked forward to our pockets of interaction.

Whilst well-being and mental health were recognised as important before, the situation reinforced just how fragile life as we knew it was and reinforced our responsibility to treat others in a way we would want to be treated. Things are by no means ‘back to normal’ and life may never return to the normal we knew before; however, I’m comforted by the resilience of the team and the working routines we have forged together during this time.

When it comes to WISH, again, the first item on our meeting agenda was checking in on how we were all doing. Our mandate expanded implicitly from getting through the agenda to being another support network and dealing with the business of meetings. I have really valued the Board catch-ups we’ve managed to squeeze into hectic diaries and the innovative solutions discussed to continue to offer WISH member’s value through webinars and newsletters.

This period of time has really helped me to reflect on and refocus my professional priorities and has reminded me just how important a supportive team is to my overall well-being and happiness. No (wo)man is an island and all that. A strong and healthy team dynamic isn’t just a benefit to those within that ‘team’ but also the organisation to which that team belongs. I truly believe the strength of our team and the fact that we love the work, actually like each other and enjoy working together makes the experience of working with us more enjoyable (quite a statement when it comes to lawyers!). The same goes for WISH, no one would want to take on a Board Member role if the other Board Members didn’t form a strong team.

I’ve learnt a lot during this time about what ‘team’ means to me and the strengths of team working in a different way. I hope you all have also made progress when it comes to our new working ways and have a supportive team walking alongside you every step of this challenging new footpath.

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