Lee Davies reflects on CIPA, post-COVID 19

Towards a different CIPA.

I counted the weeks on the kitchen wall planner this morning. Fifteen weeks. Fifteen weeks since I said goodbye to the staff, Officers and others at CIPA and headed home. To obey social distancing. To work from home, because I can. To protect the NHS. To save lives. Oh, and to think. There has been a lot of thinking time. Sometimes too much thinking time, when I’m not having the best of days (thankfully rare). Generally, I have welcomed the thinking time. It is a precious commodity and, when you are leading a professional body as diverse and interesting as CIPA, there is lots to think about.

I have done a lot of thinking about the ‘new normal’. Enough to reject the term absolutely and to challenge those who use it about their understanding of it. They do not understand it. Some use it simply because it is a new business buzzword, and we know how much people love to use buzzwords. Most use it because they know something has changed but are unsure exactly what has changed or how the world will look post-COVID19. I reject it because the world of work is permanently evolving. There is no new. There is no normal. There is the future and it is our job to imagine what that might look like for CIPA.

I try to imagine the future based on the lessons I have learned. It is where I seem to differ from politicians. I prefer to learn in the moment and apply that learning to improve the moment, rather than let the moment pass and learn later. What have I learned?

I’ve learned that if you trust people to work remotely, with minimal supervision but maximum attention on wellbeing, they generally do well.

They do even better when you invest a little in their remote workplaces, or homes as they like to call them, where you are able to. It is not always possible. Some CIPA staff live with parents or grandparents, or in small apartments where it is simply not possible to create the perfect working environment. They are coping brilliantly but I have learned that I should have known more about my people and we should have thought earlier about how we equip them to work remotely.

I have learned that, however well-equipped you are to work remotely, it is tough. We take for granted the relationships we build and maintain at work. I certainly took for granted that Bill was there to sort out my IT issues, Charlotte was there for a chat and a sense-check, Dwaine was there to bounce ideas off, Fran was there to talk to and Neil was there to make awful tea. And all my other CIPA people. I had no idea how important those relationships were to me. As great and productive as remote working is, I have learned, much to my surprise, I like being around people.

I have learned that using technology to facilitate Council meetings, committee meetings, seminars, etc., works. Actually, I have learned that it works better when everyone is remote, rather than a number sat around a meeting table, where microphones compete and acoustics struggle, with others ‘dialling in’, usually on telephones with variable signal strength. People seem more focussed and purposeful when they have not just suffered interminably long journeys on public transport and are not worrying about getting away for the next meeting. That said, I miss these people too. They might not miss me but I know they miss meeting and socialising with each other because they tell me so.

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