As the fireworks rang out across London at the start of 2020, shaking the windows of my tiny flatshare in Vauxhall, I could not help feeling a little smug. I had left my home county of Yorkshire nearly a decade ago, living out my budget limited dreams in London and I was shaping the brand of one of the most exciting start-ups in the UK. Things were looking pretty good. Not even extortionate rental prices or daily pollution blackened nostrils could get me down. As a graphic designer I especially felt the constant draw of city life and London. It is one of the design centres of the world, somewhere you can make a name for yourself in the creative industry, which caused me to never contemplate leaving. But 2020 never turned out how anyone imagined.
The Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world rapidly, and we all accepted the challenge that we had to take on to keep everyone safe. As we went into the first lockdown and adapted to working from home, I was not phased by the journey we all had to take. But as the weeks passed, and the only thing there was to look forward too was queuing up for the local supermarket, I started to wonder what living in London had cost in terms of quality of life. Needless to say the lockdown made me reflect on the city life I had always craved. Gone were the days of feeling smug as I felt increasingly jealous of the people who had access to balconies that could barely fit two people on.
In challenging times we all look for silver linings, and one of the most proclaimed for me was the ability through technology to allow everyone to work and keep in touch throughout lockdown. Online meetings have become such the norm for most of us that one of the most used phrases of the year has to include “you’re on mute”. Technology companies are pioneering the way in remote working, Jack Dorsey, the dual CEO of both Twitter and Square, informed his employees at both companies that they can continue working from home “forever.” And Shopify’s CEO, Tobi Lutke, declared via twitter that “Office centricity is over”.
This year, myself, and millions others have learned what it is to work from home. While I missed the daily weekday routine and Sensat’s gleaming new office, I saw a better work-life balance unfurl before me. It would be a lie to say I have not contemplated a life working more remotely before, outside of London, but never felt supported to do so at any company I had worked at before. And I am not the only one who craved greater flexibility, according to a YouGov survey, most workers want to be able to work from home at least some of the time once coronavirus is over.
In July, Sensat moved to a remote working policy where the team (Sensateers) are free to choose where they work and live in the UK and are best placed to know what ‘they’ need, to work most effectively. The level of trust given to Sensateers is something that I have rarely come across in my career and speaks volumes of how the values and transparency within the culture influence the decisions taken. It is only because of this support that I made the decision to ignore my unaffordable lust for London and the big city life and move to York.
While York lacks the shops, excitement and the Sunday bus service, (yes really) of a big city, it has a certain charm and calming atmosphere. The slower pace of life and forgoing the cramped and congested world of the London commute has allowed me to appreciate my surroundings more while still enjoying the perks of working at Sensat. This sums up a remote first experience to me, having the best of both worlds, finding that balance I craved. For me that balance was becoming one of the most important factors in my career.
As we come towards the end of this tough year, I still believe in the decision I made and while it has taken time to adjust, I am now seeing the benefits. However, remote working is not for everyone. We are creatures of habit who prefer the powerful drug of the status quo. But coronavirus has pushed us all closer to flexible and remote first working, and Sensat has embraced that change rather than fighting the inevitable.
Daniel, Miller, Designer, Sensat