I work as a Policy Planner at the City of London Corporation as part of a team managing and developing the City Plan 2036. Following a period of annual leave at the start of March I was advised not to return to Guildhall office and to work from home. Like most people, I’ve been through a range of emotions from initial nervousness for my health and my families, shock at confinement in my home, panic that I couldn’t get essentials and confusion as I navigated this new situation. Like many I am living with a partner, both working from home, as domestic life blurs and we juggle for control of the sole table. Isolation however has let me connect with friends and family more regularly and send (and welcomingly receive) small gifts in the post that have brightened days and lifted spirits.
Many City Corporation employees occasionally work from home, through shared drives, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Use of virtual meetings between colleagues, teams, whole departments and the committee members has become the new norm. Sharepoint has been a useful platform providing daily updates/news on a practical level such as where to seek out help from mental health first aiders, hints and tips to improve digital skills to light hearted news such as fund raising initiatives. Some teams have virtual tea breaks to catchup and in the planning department we have ‘wildlife photo of the day! Guildhall remains opens to essential works such as the brilliant street cleaners and enforcement team as the City concentrates on providing critical services to the communities. The City Corporation is responsible for community shielding helping to reduce pressure on the NHS by assisting with residents’ emails, queries and supporting homecare. The Town Clerk John Barradell is leading the Strategic Coordination Group responding to the COVID-19 outbreak across London – made up of representatives from the emergency services, the GLA, local authorities, transport providers and the voluntary sector.
The City Plan 2036 was presented to a virtual Planning and Transportation Committee on the 31st March with much of our work completed for this deadline. The next stage would normally involve consultation and engagement with various stakeholders and interested parties. Whilst the plan maybe launched virtually, this stage and subsequent independent examination of the plan will inevitably be delayed. I have been considering how we can best use our digital capabilities to carry out consultation.
As employees reap the benefits of time and energy saved from daily commutes, and the cleaner fresher air that lower transportation levels have brought, I think that people will increasing choose to work from home and undertake daily business virtually. The City Corporation have already undertaken virtual workshops to keep engagement and consultation ongoing.