Weeknotes 2020 #5: the new normal


Where to start.

On home… adjusting to life at home is harder than I’d expected, despite working at home a lot before. On the one hand I am lucky to be fully booked stretching out into the future. On the downside: the work is relentless. Until the easter weekend I’d had about three days off in a month.

On the work… work itself has been super interesting if busy and at times grinding. Coaching during a crisis is a surprising thing. Having an outside view I can often see the extent to which Covid-19 can up-end underlying assumptions underpinning product development plans and team organisation – like being able to see the frog boiling. On the other hand, on the ground, the need to rapidly re-strategise and re-organise is causing lots of obvious organisational pain. In my main current context with client Britten, Lou Downe’s principles for service design in a crisis – and the underlying notes – have been useful and comforting, even if it hasn’t been politically possible yet to implement all of them.

On technology… Twelve hours of zoom calls a day on a creaky old computer made me finally snap and buy a replacement. Farewell, Lewis, you temperamental 2011 Macbook Pro that saw me through BERG (and BERGCloud), starting FutureLearn, about sixteen Pink Singers arrangements, days upon days of video editing. A few upgrades here or there, and a final bit of invasive surgery to remove a resistor to disable the broken graphics card once and for all, but all in all with nine years of pretty relentless service, I’m happy with my strategy of buying big and delaying replacement as long as possible. It is still just about functional, albeit without software updates or the ability to sleep, so I will try and give it a final life in some way (or find a way donate it to a child who needs a device to continue learning while schools are closed). Here’s hoping the replacement lasts another 9 years.

On being social… after the 70/80-hour work weeks on Skype for business, Microsoft teams, Slack calls, Zoom, Whereby… weeks, I think I’ve been somehow more social than before: zoom quizzes on offer every night; group exercise classes; always-on drop-in rooms; Facetime with the niece and nephew, WhatsApp chat with selfie-sticks with mum and dad. No wonder I’m totally exhausted. Thankfully T has moved in and is making us delicious dinners most nights to take some of the strain.

On delivering… I never wanted to be an easter Bunny but this weekend has seen us zoom all over London hand-delivering orders after the overwhelming demand for Paul A Young Fine Chocolates overwhelmed Royal Mail’s current capacity to do, well, anything, it seems. The shop filled up with parcels and, consequently, so did our lounge. The shop is paused while the team figure out how to operationalise this for realsies; on the other hand it’s been admirable to see how quickly a nimble retail business can pivot to online while keeping the wheels just about on the rails. The route4me app has a terrible user interface but once you get past fighting that, it is pretty great and seemingly integrates with Shopify.

One of the other things you realise as a delivery driver is a) how many people don’t answer the door; b) or their phone, c) how typically neutral people are to receive deliveries; d) the address system is basically a nightmare. I will be taking this on board and being nicer to all delivery people.

On getting fat and sad… to conquer the middle-aged-spread and existential-dread combo, I’ve realised I need some more alone time and exercise, so I’m going to try and kill two birds with one stone and go out for some early-morning bike rides (within government guidelines of course). I’ll be on my trusty, knackered, cheapo 11-year-old road bike. It’s not about speed: it’s about tranquility. Tips welcome.

Obviously I’m still making bread although getting hold of flour is still a challenge. Got grains m8?

Finally, the question facing millions of men across the globe: shave your head or rock a man bun?

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