It’s exactly one year since AS&K closed its offices and we were all asked to work from home ‘for a few weeks’. That has stretched out far longer than we could ever have imagined. And while we have regular catch-ups – weekly all-company Zooms, quarterly Townhalls, frequent online social events, and daily team meetings and one-to-ones – we are all still logging on from our kitchens/bedrooms/spare rooms/home offices.
A year is a long time to be apart. So to mark this strange anniversary, we asked our teams what they have been up to and what they have learned.
Not surprisingly, our collective knowledge of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus, has greatly increased over the past year. Almost 20% of AS&K employees have had COVID-19, and another 16% think they ‘might have’. From one of the sufferers we learned that ‘COVID sucks’. Other obvious learnings were ‘everyone knows more about science than Boris’, and ‘we produce better slides than Chris Whitty’!
On a slightly more scientific note, we have learned about the pathophysiology of COVID. In common with much of the country we have been endlessly reminded of the significance of the R number, and about the development and mode of action of different vaccines, especially mRNA vaccines. We’ve learned that DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) make a difference to outcomes in COVID-19 symptoms, about COVID-associated thrombosis, and that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Aside from COVID, we’ve continued our deep dives into the various therapeutic areas that we work on with our clients. One of our team noted that they have taken the time to reconnect with topics of interest from their university days, while another has been getting to grips with the structure and workings of the NHS.
When not working, almost 60% of our team have taken up a new hobby during lockdown. These included DIY, jigsaws, knitting, sewing, embroidery and crochet (one of the team has been making dog toys from their dad’s 20-year-old shirts), cooking, painting, reading, belly dancing, and box-set bingeing.
We’ve also been exercising, and while running, cycling and walking have been the most popular pursuits, we’d like to give a shout out to the employee who has taken up beer lifting over lockdown! I’m not sure that features on the NHS list of recommendations to improve your health, but these are strange times. And perhaps this is linked to the several homebrew kits that were purchased by team members during lockdown.
Alas, the novelty of exercise faded over the year. We may have started lockdown with great gusto, but 12 months on and 41% of us admit doing less exercise now compared to pre-pandemic.
We asked if anyone had made any strange and/or impulsive online purchases over lockdown. There was nothing too weird: most were related to new hobbies, although the inflatable pink flamingo, two Bengal kittens, and spear do stand out.
All going well we will be back in the office in a few months. When that time comes, what will we miss about working from home? Unsurprisingly more than half of us will miss the short commute from bed to laptop. Many of us don’t plan to return to the office fulltime, and AS&K has introduced a very flexible ‘Working and Wellness’ policy that allows that. As long as we can do our job, and can get into one of the offices if necessary, we can work where we like.
Finally, what are we all looking forward to most about our return to the office? Apart from the odd ‘Pret’ and ‘Wasabi’ response, almost 100% of us said we’re most looking forward to ‘seeing people, real people, the newbies, the oldies, friendly faces, other humans, my colleagues, my teammates, the banter, having a good catchup, going to the pub after work’.
As I said, a year is a long time to be apart – let’s hope we don’t have to wait too much longer.
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