NEXTGEN DIARIES: LIAM LAWSON-JONES

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I am working from Gerald Eve’s new, one-person office in West London and have been working from home since 16 March. The move to remote working was very swift and luckily successful with all of our IT and internal systems still functioning normally. It’s very odd that at the beginning of March I was attending public exhibitions and meetings without handshakes and lots of hand-sanitiser, to then staying home for over seven weeks. Thankfully, I have a garden and am getting to enjoy London on a bike. It’s been a big adjustment but now somehow feels quite normal  

The firm has always had the capacity to work remotely but was not really part of most of my normal working pattern. After a few days and only a few teething problems everything was working normally as the entire business across the UK worked remotely for the first time. I think we all used Skype/Teams/Zoom more in the first week of lockdown than ever before, and it was overwhelmingly positive to see how quickly our colleagues and projects transitioned to business as usual via remote working. Our normal social groups and activities have all moved to conferencing platforms – I’m very grateful for Wednesday’s yoga classes on Zoom. I think our team is communicating as much if not more than ever and we have more regular CPD sessions, training and project catchups that we did when we were in the office.   

My day job has changed completely, and very little at the same time. I normally spend a lot of my time travelling to meetings and site visits all around Central London so it’s been very strange to be sitting in the same room every day and not leaving Shepherd’s Bush. The Government were very quick to emphasise how important it is to keep the planning system going to ensure that once the lockdown is over, we can all get building and support growth as we begin to bounce back This position has been embraced by the City of London and other Local Planning Authorities and we have not seen any slowing down.

Our Clients are also embracing this as an opportunity to get planning in place to ensure that their assets are working as hard as they can once we get back to normal to support business and the London economy. We have been supporting the NHS hospitals and workers by identifying opportunities where sites are vacant or there is spare capacity in hotels, car parks and logistics space to support the front-line effort. The spirit of pulling together has been amazing and I’m really proud of how Gerald Eve and the whole industry have banded together. I think there is a lot to celebrate despite a lot of bad news and sadness and uncertainty in the world elsewhere.   

I think the industry has learn a lot, very quickly. Despite a seemingly smooth transition, I definitely miss being in an office environment for the social aspects and I suspect a lot of others do too. It’s definitely not natural for humans to stay in one space all-day, every day. We are social creatures and I cannot wait to catch up with colleagues spontaneously around the office, enjoy a drink at the pub, a barista made coffee and eat a meal in a restaurant.

I think that working from home will be a much bigger part of everyone’s working life and that the purpose of offices will change a lot. I think this change to focus more on occupier well-being, sustainability and creating more flexible spaces had already begun, and that it will be greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Life is probably going to change in ways we can’t imagine yet, in terms of work I think that overall this will have a positive impact on how we all interact with each other and we can all embrace technology to make our day-to-day more efficient. The Square Mile has been an international centre for commerce for thousands of years, and while the outbreak has been incredibly disruptive I’m excited to see how the City adapts and changes and am excited to be a part of it.  

Liam Lawson-Jones

Assistant Planning Consultant at Gerald Eve