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You can run a sprint or you can run a marathon, but you can’t sprint a marathon.”

Ryan Holmes

A couple of months ago I interviewed Ann Hiatt for our ES Tech Keynote. As part of that interview, we touched on scrums and sprints and their respective roles in agile working.

Scrum is a framework that allows a team to work successfully together on a project, allowing everyone to work to their strengths towards an end goal, much like a rugby team working towards a championship game.

A sprint is a short period of time when a scrum team works together to complete a part of a project. 

Ann noted that sprints are done in short periods of time because nobody could operate at that pace all the time. 

In the middle of that discussion, it occurred to me that most of us have been sprinting for two years and it’s why we’re all so exhausted. 

The emotional rollercoaster we are all riding changes weekly. Just when we start to get used to one change, everything shifts again. 

We got used to working from home, to having no proper work setup or reliable Wi-Fi, to not being able to unplug, to having to motivate ourselves, to loneliness, to dealing with distractions. Somehow, we made it work. 

Most of us worked longer hours. We were in survival mode, and feeling like we were contributing to ‘getting through this’ helped. Then just when we were settling down into some kind of routine, business started talking about returning to the office. 

More than two-thirds of workers say they’re concerned about going back to the office. We worry because we don’t know how it’s going to work. How do we know it will be safe? Our routines have changed and so have our social relationships and boundaries. Whenever we’ve stopped doing something for a period, we’ll feel anxious about returning to it – and besides, we’ve started to enjoy better work-life balance and not having to commute.

But in the face of having no choice, we started to look at the benefits of returning: the joys of reliable technology, clearer boundaries between work and home, a fixed routine, space to work and create in, visibility to leaders and face-to-face time with colleagues.

An assistant heading back for the first time recently told me: ‘I’m the most tenured person in my department, but it’s like going back to my first day in the office.’ She was excited and nervous in equal measure. Her business was looking at re-onboarding everybody. 

And after all that build-up, suddenly we are faced with the Omicron variant, and everything just changed again. We’re heading back to our home offices. 

The truth is that we will never go back to business as usual. A recent survey from Accenture tells us that 83% of workers want the future of work to be hybrid and 47% would leave a job where hybrid working was not offered.

Work is no longer going to be a place that you go. The future belongs to companies that care about their people and their potential. Business growth in an uncertain world depends on a happy and productive workforce. Business needs to focus on giving their people both the flexibility and the tools to thrive. With the right resources, people can be productive in any environment.

And talking of productivity, the world of 9-to-5 just changed too. My recruitment contacts are telling me they have roles coming out of their ears that they can’t get candidates to even consider. These are the roles where businesses are insisting on a return to 9-to-5 working from an office. 

We need to stop focusing on hours worked and start focusing on goals achieved. Hybrid working means giving up control of the workforce sitting at desks for set hours every day. It’s no longer a master and servant relationship or that of a parent and child. The new world of work is collaborative, which means it revolves around trust, respect and letting go of control. 

As we enter the holiday season, the only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know when the uncertainty will end. It’s exhausting, but we have learned how to cope with that.

Our hope for 2022 is that companies will stop making plans to get us ‘back to work’. Let’s concentrate instead on creating a new world of work, which is not based on where you are working from or how many hours you are putting in, but rather on having the right resources, tools and support to ensure goals are being achieved – which will result in the workforce being happier and, therefore, more productive.

Wishing you all a fun and festive break, filled with friends, family, love and laughter.


Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

One comment on “An Emotional Rollercoaster

  1. Angela Simms on

    Totally agree with your view Lucy. Being a mature administrative professional, I now have elderly parents, who have been going through a lot of personal health issues over the past months including Alzheimers Dementia diagnosis, major depression, anxiety, etc. On numerous occasions I raised the issue of a desire to work from home at least one day per week, just as our research team did, but the answer was no, the Office Manager needs to be at the office. This, on occasion was when there was no one else in the office as they were travelling or working from home. We were a research centre, with no students or off the cuff drop ins when no-one was there. Just didn’t make sense. The city I work in is crying out for EAs, with many Government Departments having to review their salary offerings as they haven’t been able to attract the experienced EAs they’re after. On the flip side, the University I worked with has been losing staff as they are amalgamating roles, reducing salaries and not valuing their staff. After I decided to make the move and having only one interview, I am now working for an organisation that encourages flexible working arrangements. This allows me to take my parents to appointments when needed, without feeling guilty of anxious about it, and of course, I always make up for that flexibility many times over. The best decision a company can make is to ensure their employees are happy, because happy employees get the work done, are enthusiastic about what they do, and will remain long term with the organisation.


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