Lockdown: One year on

March 16th one year ago was the last time we sat together with our colleagues in the offices of Winchester and London. We’d already seen other Hyphen offices closing their doors, starting with Milan which experienced the first effects of the pandemic. On that day in March, the UK government announced that we should work from home and a year ago today, we entered our first nationwide lockdown.

It proved to be a tough year for everyone, some having to work from home whilst juggling work with home-schooling and everyone worried about loved ones. Since then, we have worked hard to recover as a business, and we are now seeing great signs of recovery. However, it is right that we are marking this anniversary by taking stock of our experiences across Hyphen, not just the challenges faced but also the lessons learned.

I hope that you will find these observations, drawn from many staff working in all parts of Hyphen, an interesting reflection on the last year.

Sophia Gravina, Architect in London:

“During lockdown I completed my RIBA Part 3 to qualify as an architect. Lockdown moved my course online, which was initially a big adjustment. Despite the disruption, there were some positives which I enjoyed.

Although I was on furlough while I completed my case study, this allowed me to dedicate much more time to my course than I would have been able to previously. I found that working on my Part 3 helped me to build home working skills and routines that proved valuable when I returned from furlough. I also found study groups on Zoom worked surprisingly well as I prepared for my final interview. I haven’t been able to celebrate properly yet, but I’m so glad that I was still able to qualify despite the pandemic.”

Olaf Gröger, Director in Berlin:

“When the crisis hit, we were able to implement a home working strategy very quickly and this was partly due to the fact that we already had measures in place for parents who wanted to work remotely – for example, if their private circumstances required home presence. However, lockdown presented new challenges for myself and many others who had to take on the additional role of ‘teacher’ alongside their full-time job. In Germany, we lag far behind our European counterparts in terms of digital home schooling and although many schools have now reopened, it is only on a part-time basis. I’m fortunate that my wife shares this added responsibility, but others have not been so lucky.

We’ve all been affected by the negative impacts of lockdown but that’s not to say that we haven’t experienced some positives including reduced travel times and increased efficiency. We’ve also significantly reduced our paper footprint by around 85%.”

Laura Vatteroni, Architect in Milan:

“During lockdown I took the bold decision to move back to my home country of Italy. At the time, I was working for Hyphen in London and sadly, this meant leaving a job that I enjoyed. However, I remained positive and when I moved to Florence, I had time to help my partner design his new dog grooming salon.

Not long after, I was offered a position in Hyphen’s Milan office and I couldn’t have been happier. Working from home has become more widely accepted and, in my experience, it has many benefits. Giving up the daily commute has freed up more time to do the things that I love, such as cooking a proper meal for myself almost every day! I do miss the social interaction with my colleagues but in the meantime, I’m lucky to have my dog Tabata to keep me company.”

Rémi Pascal, Architect and Associate in Paris:

This past year, I’ve managed projects for some of Hyphen’s most influential clients including one of the world’s leading logistics operators. This experience has helped me to grow professionally, and I was recently appointed as an Associate in our Paris office.

As a Group, we should be proud of how quickly we were able to adapt to changes in the market and seize new opportunities across different sectors. We’ve also discovered the value of splitting our time between home and the office and this is something that I believe we should take forward post-lockdown to maintain a good work / life balance. Thanks to technology, there is less of a need for so many physical on-site meetings and this reduction in travel is another positive takeaway from life in lockdown.”

Sarah Fox, Chief Operating Officer at Hyphen:

“We all deal with experiences in different ways. The quote “we are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat” (Damien Barr) is one that I will remember when I look back and think about what happened in 2020.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I have learned to celebrate the positives over the last year, however small.

Like many companies, we have discovered new possibilities with giving people more freedom to decide how, when and where they work. We have experienced a fundamental change which is likely to evolve into something different again when we begin to return to the workplace. The structure of our teams no longer has to be defined by location and this allows us to work more dynamically.

In the future we should seek to find a balance between the simplicity of our new-found virtual world and make renewed efforts to meet again in person when we can so we can continue to find ways to build more meaningful connections with each other.”