Same Job, New Era – Returning to work during a pandemic

June 2020

Enact is excited to welcome back Shu-Wen Chan from parental leave! When Shu left the office the “corona handshake” did not exist; it was a time when Enact colleagues sat comfortably cosy in a single open-floor office space, at desks scandalously placed within 2 meters of one another. After months of nursery rhymes and diapers, Shu has returned to an Enact with drastically different working routines. We took a few moments to interview Shu about her experience of returning to work in the time of corona.  

You went on parental leave in November 2019 and have been at home with your daughter for the past 5 months. While you were on leave, the world turned upside down. How did it feel to return to the same job but under entirely different circumstances?  

After five months of entertaining a toddler, I was excited and ready to return to work. While the job scope remained fairly similar, I quickly realized not everything was familiar – I was returning to a very different way of working, with a short walk down the stairs to Zoom calls in my makeshift closet-turned-office being the new routine. Before I left on parental leave (a time before COVID-19), Enact was already on its way to more digitalized routines – we were early adopters of Slack, and were transitioning to Teams, as well as introducing virtual working tools to keep our team connected across Stockholm, Amsterdam, Finland, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Nairobi. The main impact of the coronavirus on Enact’s working routines has been an accelerated digitalization and an integration of this flexible and virtual routine into our daily work with clients and projects. Luckily for me, I am a millennial who is pretty tech-savvy!  

What would you say have been the largest benefits and drawbacks to this new way of working? 

One benefit from this change is the maximization of time. By simply skipping the usual morning routine, the commute to work, and setting up my desk, I have gained a full 2.5 hours of my day. On the controversial topic of work-life balance for consultants, as well as for a new parent, it has been a luxury to gain so much new-found time in my day. Enact, like many other companies, was already offering flexible working hours before the pandemic, however the underlying mindset has predominantly been that one should try to be present at the office as much as possible. I think this mindset has changed drastically, and the focus going forward will be more on getting the job done, regardless of where you sit. Another benefit that I have reflected on is that we are more coordinated as a team now. Strangely enough, I feel more connected and I spend more time speaking informally to colleagues on the phone or collaborating over Zoom, and I have a broader overview of what each member of Enact is up to.  

The drawback of working from home is the difficulty of disassociating home – a place of relaxation and family-time – from work. Like many others, we have had to carve out new working spaces in the house and form new routines to recreate the mental switch from “home mode” to “work mode”.  

How do you think the coronavirus has impacted corporate sustainability and the demands on businesses to take responsibility during these times? 

Corporate sustainability is not just about caring for the environment and society, it is about companies being responsible for issues on which they can have an impact. COVID-19 has forced many companies to deal with the rapid change in stakeholder expectations – the most obvious being consumer behaviours and health & safety of employees and customers. I think we will continue to see a rise in e-commerce, new business models and in general a shift towards a more digitalized world, and this will bring about new types of corporate sustainability issues for companies. I hope that business will never be as usual, and COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of being agile, prepared and responsible in order to maintain trust among key stakeholders.