As I am writing this, I am on a delayed train with wet feet, hoping to still make at least some of the meetings that I got up in the dark for this morning. Working from home permanently does have downsides, but on days like this it’s hard to feel that wading through flooded roads to the train station before 7am is worth it.
The folk around me on this train are frantically trying to get work done despite the poor internet connection and the poor person across from me is slowly being bored into a stupor by an over-eager and oblivious co-worker who has her cornered in the window seat. We are all waiting for lines to be cleared of flood water that has accumulated over night before we can continue our journeys North.
I am picking up snatches of conversation, passengers reflecting on how long it’s been since they last travelled, commuted or sat in an office. Most of the conversations are on mobile phones, updating colleagues about ETAs, delays and rescheduling meetings that were meant to take place in person, and are now maybe happening via a patchy WIFI connection.
Ever since the concept of ‘returning to normal’ started to be talked about, I have disliked it. After such a long period of crisis things have moved on, not back. We are moving forward all the time, every day, and of course things are different.
I spent many years travelling a lot by train, then years not travelling much at all, and now I am back to travelling regularly. It’s both by my own choice and also thanks to folk being more ready to embrace meeting virtually that I am no longer spending as much time typing cramped in train seats.
But I am still excited to do it some days. It makes my job much easier and enables me to better represent the organisation I lead. It helps connect and build relationships, and it reminds me that, yes, I can do this!
Standing on a stage giving a keynote, delivering a talk in front of an audience, delivering a report in a meeting, all these things are part of the work I do. Being comfortable and confident in all kinds of different contexts and with a broad range of stakeholders is a key skill that requires practice. If I stay at home I feel that I loose those skills gradually.
It’s important for me to be able to run late or be uncomfortable and still have a productive day. Travelling is a very effective way for me to keep those skills sharp. Small journeys make the longer ones easier to prepare for.
When travelling first resumed, I was so excited to meet with colleagues once again and a lot of our focus in those early days was all about travel, wearing masks on trains, getting dressed for work, keeping safe and well, managing the stress of it all and so on. We were adjusting to going out of our homes once again and to be in public spaces in a work context.
I found it hard initially. Harder than I had expected. I felt it was hard to leave home, the safety and comfort I enjoyed daily, and swap it for the dubious benefits of travel and seeing people in person. But now I don’t want to give up the ground I have gained, the familiarity I have regained. I don’t want to loose the skills that are coming back to me as I work through my inbox on route, saving frequently in case my connection drops.
The world is bigger than the small desk, surrounded by plants and accompanied by a dog bed, that I spent so much of my time at. And it is filled with people whom I want to connect, chat and collaborate with. People I will hug, eat and laugh with.
So I have wrung out my socks and trouser ends, opened a new document and started blogging, making myself at home for the journey. Happy and safe travels to you. I’ll see you out there 🙂