How I’m Managing Life and Work in 2020: Big Challenges and Big Wins

Andy Batstone and his son, Will
Life changed unimaginably for most Australians in early 2020. And regardless of whether we’re 24 or 74, most of us have never experienced anything remotely like it (pun intended!).

But while there has definitely been a huge sense of comradery and team spirit, each of us has had to adjust to remote-working life in our own way. So we thought we’d share some of our stories of transition, because we’re all in this together and sometimes it helps to know others are going through what you’re going through!

As the General Manager of Recruitment Operations, I experienced some big wins and big challenges during the COVID-19 lockdown. I was focused on supporting our team through the difficult transition, while adjusting my personal life to manage the demands of working from home alongside my partner and 1 year old son.

But with this came so many great moments – for my family at home and the HorizonOne family.

The 2-week challenge

I found the first 2 weeks of remote work very challenging. I wanted to communicate with the team as often as possible, so we had to work fast to set up new communication channels. Initially, all our comms revolved around the equipment people needed to get set up, and the development of a new working from home and COVID policy.

On the personal side, my partner (Jess) was still on maternity leave with our son, Will. We decided to try and keep things as normal as possible, so I turned our upstairs spare bedroom into a makeshift office.

At first, it was really hard to avoid going downstairs if I heard him cry or laugh. But I quickly realised that when I did he would think “Hey, Dad’s home!”. Then it became super hard to pull myself away because he didn’t understand why he couldn’t come upstairs too.

Getting in the groove

After the first couple of weeks had passed, we all started to find our groove. I did notice though that some of our team were working 10 hours a day without much of a break, so I had to remind them to get outside and try to maintain some balance.

When Jess’ maternity leave ended during quarantine we added an extra desk to our makeshift office and worked together upstairs while family cared for Will downstairs. It was nice being able to keep him close, and Jess and I quickly learned the value in communicating our schedules so we didn’t have meetings at the same time. It was really nice working together and great to hear Jess doing her thing again after almost a year on maternity leave.

Back to the office

Before we knew it, restrictions had eased and we were able to transition back to the office. The HorizonOne team took a staged approach which worked really well – a couple in the first 2 weeks, about half the team a fortnight later, and the remainder after that.

It’s great to have everyone back together again; I know we all missed the buzz and vibe of the office. We’re acutely aware of the fact that we may need to return to work from home though, so have been actively encouraging staff to purchase any extra items they need to make any future transitions as efficient as possible.

I took a phased approach to return to work so Jess and I could find our new groove now that the lockdown is over and she is back at work. It also felt weird not to see Will for such long periods, so the phased approach made it easier for both of us.

My 2 cents…

While we all experienced significant challenges during the COVID-19 lockdown, I have actually heard many people say they found it to be a very positive experience.

From a personal perspective, I loved spending more time with my partner and my son. It was a really formative 3 months for him and I enjoyed being part of that. Jess and I also rediscovered our love for board games and trivial pursuit, and it was nice to go for walks and see our Canberra roads so quiet!

From a leadership perspective, I think the sudden shift helped everyone grow in how they support staff through periods of high stress or anxiety. You realise how important it is to check in with each person individually to make sure they are doing OK, and to lend an ear if they need to talk.

From a business perspective, the lockdown literally accelerated our digital strategy by a couple of years which has allowed us to be more agile and responsive.

For example, we’ve since implemented cloud call technology so anyone can work from home and still make and receive calls via the business line. We also implemented Microsoft Teams which was intrinsic to our operations in terms of collaboration and communication – be it 1:1 chats, weekly team meetings, or virtual drinks (which were just as well attended as weekly meetings!).

If lockdown strikes again, we’re ready. And we’re confident it will be a fast and easy transition.