Hello. Welcome to the "summer" edition of our newsletter, which covers July and August...mostly because we forgot about July. Sorry.
So, what's been happening in the world of Colour;Noun these last few weeks? Well...
The show must go on...
July was a busy one for us - not just because conversations started to finally trickle in about future face-to-face events as England's covid restrictions eased - but because Vicky's life was consumed by the world of theatre.
Not content with doing two plays concurrently (totalling 12 shows) as well as countless rehearsals, techs and dress runs, Vicky dislocated her kneecap 5 days before curtain up and faced a hilariously long two weeks in a knee splint.
In amongst all of this, she wrote a blog about the mantra which saw her through (and which has ironically been the mantra of every affected events/theatre business in the last 18 months): "The Show Must Go On"...
Look, I made you some content
Whilst we might have been quiet during the last couple of weeks, the online world seems to have become more and more crowded. With things reopening and life becoming busier once more, LinkedIn in particular has become a hive of activity - for better or for worse.
Has our lack of in-person interaction and validation this past year and half meant that we're sharing more and more information on social media? And are we sharing too much?
Here's Howard's thoughts...
What's the future of the office?
Speaking of in-person interaction, remember when companies said it would be “impossible” for their people to work from home? Well, that seems a whole other world ago!
After 18 months of remote and home working for most of us, what does this mean for the future of the office? How has the pandemic, and the changes in human behaviour that have come about as a result, impacted its function, purpose and meaning?
Our latest blog takes a look at the questions we're asking and some things to consider.
So, in summary, the world's got a bit busy again, hasn't it?
The coming weeks are very exciting for us, as we finally get back into face-to-face events with actual real-life people after so long on Zoom. We're kicking off with two team days for an armed forces organisation, facilitating at a pharmaceutical company conference, running a session on fear in business for a professional association and then making go karts for a landscaping manufacturer's senior leadership day!
If you'd like to bounce around any ideas for your next event, get in touch!
See you next month...
Do you remember when companies said it would be “impossible” for most of their workforce to work from home? That it was “impractical” to have so many people out of the watchful eye of the office? Seems like a whole other world ago.
Working somewhere other than the office was previously said by many companies to be an unattainable way of working – and surprise surprise, that view was suddenly overturned almost overnight. Now, most of us have probably spent more time at home in the last 18 months than we have in years.
With people heading back into offices, the easing of restrictions and the rollout of vaccines, things seem to be returning to some sort of pre-pandemic "normal"...or do they?
From reading surveys, articles and posts from connections, it seems lots of people have anxieties about the return to "normal", whether that's the thought of discussing working preferences with their managers, adjusting to being back around other people, or readjusting to the office environment as a whole. There's natural hesitation (I mean, let's face it, we've all been in our home offices or on the sofa for ages, in our own homes, with our own comforts and perhaps more working freedom than we're used to) and so far, it doesn't seem like offices have been quite as busy as our government seemed to hope.
So, what does this mean for the future of the office? How has the pandemic, and the changes in human behaviour that have come about as a result, impacted its function, purpose and meaning?
Well, we certainly don’t have any answers, but here’s some things to consider…and maybe more questions to be asked than answered!
With reworked spaces and wildly differing working preferences now coming to the fore, will there be any forward planning on how the working weeks are structured? Especially within certain teams, for example, it sounds likely that schedules could collide, and important meetings/decisions/updates purposefully arranged for when most – or all – are in the office.
Which leads us nicely on to…
Ah, meetings. Some of the organisations we work with are obsessed with meetings – meetings about meetings that end with a meeting about setting up the next meeting. Will more flexible working policies continue to change how we prioritise what we actually need to meet about? Will we end up with endless Zoom calls instead? Or will we finally realise that some things we used to meet about could actually be solved in a phone call?
Trust and presenteeism
I don’t want to add in a bit of a downer, but what about levels of trust? There was undoubtedly an initial hesitation from organisations to let people work from home (forced Zoom check-ins and update meetings on how much work you’ve done, anyone?), which has since become the working norm in the last year. How does this then translate into a very hybrid working model, where individuals have their own preferences and ways of working?
I certainly don’t know the answer to this, but I wonder if there will be a difference in attitude towards those who work from home more often, and those who choose to work in the office again. From those in positions of power, as well as from team members…and even how we view ourselves.
We could even see a bit of an arms race taking place: “Yeah, I’m going back into the office for two days a week…oh, Dave is going in three days a week…hold on, you’re in for 4? Maybe I should readjust…or just go back in full-time…”
A new meaning
If people are theoretically in their offices less, what becomes of the vacant (or empty) spaces when people aren’t using them? One of our clients turned their offices into accommodation for critical and emergency staff during lockdown, but would or could that continue going forward?
It certainly seems like quite a few businesses are re-evaluating why they need an office space, and what that office space could be used for in order to make it worth the investment – and to get the most out of it for their people.
Some of the organisations we’ve spoken to have been thinking about using their larger office buildings to focus primarily on collaboration – with lots of the work able to be completed independently and from home (with check-ins and video calls as necessary), their spaces will concentrate on getting people together. Whether that’s for team briefings, strategy updates, making decisions or just being able to spend time together as a team, it’s a far cry from office cubicles and keeping your head down.
If we’re looking at the possibilities of office spaces being focused on collaboration, how will this shift team dynamics and the overall workplace culture as a whole? With the huge changes that have happened in the last 18 months, and a great sense of us lacking actual human interaction (and Zoom not being a great replacement), could it be that we embrace the office environment more than ever?
Now, I’m not saying that’s for everyone – there are lots of anxieties that come with it – but from our recent conversations, people are looking forward to being back together again in person. Perhaps we’ll see people using offices as they were meant to be - as a place to interact, not a place to sit in silence near each other, sending emails back and forth rather than getting up and walking across the room…
What do you think?
When talking to people about what they thought of returning to the workplace, it’s no surprise that opinions varied wildly with different industries, different roles, ages, and sizes of companies. Nobody really knows how things will continue to evolve in the coming months – all we do know is that things are different, working practices have changed, and that flexibility is (hopefully) here to stay.
What’s your experience? How have things changed for you – and how do you see the future of the workplace in a post-pandemic world?
People say I’m self-obsessed… but enough about them.
OK, gather round, I don’t want anyone else to hear this… is it just me, or has LinkedIn got a bit, well, meh?
I start most days with a quick trawl of things that pop up on my feed, but I will be the first to admit that in recent weeks the scroll has become shorter and faster. At this point I should make it clear that this is not a criticism of you dear reader. Most of the things I see aren’t original content, generated by you - it’s things that people like, or celebrate.
So what are people liking and celebrating at this moment? Let's check my feed...
Someone is getting married… someone has had a baby… someone thinks I should become a franchise partner in workspaces and co-working… someone is excited to see family they haven’t seen in a while… someone is going to be on TV… Ah! Someone is bigging up their company for meeting someone important in the government of an African nation! Someone is promoting an art exhibition… someone is on the radio… someone has got some qualifications…
WAIT A MINUTE! WHAT’S THAT NOISE?
Oh, don’t worry… it’s just the Irony Alert klaxon. Here I am, bemoaning the paucity of actual business-related content on, y’know, a business-related social media channel, and I’m adding to the noise. I just think that after however many months of the world being put through a blender we have reached a nadir of things to talk about, but there is still a need to be out there, saying something.
CAN SOMEBODY TURN THAT IRONY KLAXON OFF?
Right. Business focus… this is meant to be business focused. Stick to the point Howard. Here’s my thought, for what it’s worth:
“No one is listening. Everyone is just waiting to speak.” And that is not just a critique of the easily-shared, one-click expression of a stance, opinion or political affiliation that social media provides. It seems to be true of so many comms in organisations too.
(I’ve always thought it funny that the department that strives for clarity of internal messaging abbreviates the word that is central to their role. There goes that klaxon again.)
It seems that people need to make a noise – any noise – to ensure that the world doesn’t ignore them. At one end of the spectrum, internet trolls saying things to get reactions; at the other end of the spectrum, me, writing this.
As I write this I have just seen someone shilling their coaching business by comparing someone’s brain tumour to “their own burnout”. There it is. The nadir. (“Today’s challenge. Link the following: a) reference an acquaintance’s life-threatening condition, b) somehow make it about me, c) use MY experience, and MY hot take on someone else’s illness to promote my business.”)
“But look, I made you some content…"
I can’t leave you like this. Instead I will point you to this masterpiece of the challenges of creating content in a vacuum - musician and comedian Bo Burnham's lockdown musical comedy, "Inside". If you haven't seen it yet, give it a watch. It's the journey of one man's desperation to create meaningful content, totally alone, during a global pandemic. And it's brilliant.
Take it away, Bo… (and don’t forget to hit “like” or “celebrate”!)
“The show must go on…”
Seem familiar? It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot over the past year, whether that’s in relation to the effects the pandemic has had on businesses worldwide, or referencing the fantastic campaign surrounding London theatres and their return. I certainly know we’ve said it a lot over the last couple of months as we continue to navigate the impact that Covid has had on our business, and on those of our clients.
But as I sit here writing this, that phrase couldn’t be any more topical. I’m currently sat on the sofa with my knee in a brace, having dislocated my kneecap a couple of nights ago at a tech rehearsal. As well as running Colour;Noun, I’m also an actor, currently rehearsing and running two shows (one local, one for a regional festival). As you can imagine, dislocating one’s kneecap is not the way to make either of these things a success.
People have been banging on about “resilience” over the past year as if it’s some magical blanket solution that you should possess in order to make your life easier in times of stress or change. “You have to be resilient”, they say, “just be resilient”. But what does that even mean?!
Maybe “the show must go on” would be a better summary. It’s engrained in anyone with a performance background and is not only the acceptance of the situation you’re in, but the determination to find a way through it or around it and give everything your all regardless.
So, with that in mind, here’s a couple of thoughts on “resilience” from someone with their knee in a brace and two shows to do…
Focus on what's possible
This one’s been obvious for me over the last few days, as I work out what is and isn’t physically possible. What can you actually do? Work out where your priorities lie.
For me, it’s:
Making those my priorities has been a bit like the excellent “Will it make the boat go faster?” mantra – if it’s not contributing to the overall goal, don’t do it. (Sadly, my overwhelming desire for a glass of wine does not fit into this plan, as I am taking codeine.)
This also means you have to stop worrying about the things you can’t change and focus on the ones you can. A hard one for me, whose mind likes to run away with itself and feel guilty, but it’s been a surprising moment of clarity for me to realise that if I physically can’t do a show, it then won’t be my problem. The show will go on without me.
Of course, from a business perspective, “what’s possible” has been a main theme, as so many industries have been restricted by what is and isn’t allowed in government guidance.
Embrace the small wins
Leading on from focusing on what’s possible, embrace the steps forward – no matter how small. (Easier said than done, I know, but “positive mental attitude” and all that, right?)
My steps have certainly been very small. The first day I couldn’t walk out of A&E by myself or fit the brace into the car! Then it was getting up and down the stairs. Then it was getting to the toilet…or even trying to shower… I’ve been measuring my progress by how long it’s taken me to get out of bed in the morning and walk to the bathroom – I am pleased to report it no longer results in an agonising, embarrassing meltdown and I can actually get there.
We’ve had to remember that every step forward that we’ve taken as a business in the last year has been a small win, no matter how bleak and hopeless the landscape has looked at times. Whether that was winning our first virtual events, briefly returning to face-to-face work back in September or booking our first live events in again this year, anything has been welcomed with a “phew!”
Hopefully the further unlocking and return of the live events industry to full throttle will be a stride forward that we’ve all needed…
Adapt and overcome
We're faced with change every day, and I think we forget just how many times we adapt without thinking about it – taking a different route to work, adjusting a meeting time because someone has to leave early, or substituting another ingredient in your dinner.
Anyone in the events industry right now will be incredibly familiar with adapting their products, services and offerings to fit with changing guidance, regulations and hesitation from clients – changing from face-to-face to virtual, hybrid and then back again (!), limiting numbers, incorporating distancing, increased hygiene procedures and longer risk assessments than ever before…
Similarly, anyone in the performance world has faced the same challenges, and despite the devastating effect the pandemic has had on so many, the community has largely remained strong, produced new and innovative pieces of theatre, delivered in different ways (filmed performances, Zoom performances, worldwide collaborations, audio plays, radio plays, the list is endless) …all whilst waiting in the wings for live theatre to return.
I’ve not done anything anywhere near as grand, but modifications have been made. I’ve switched my in-person rehearsals for being dialled in on Zoom (not quite the same, but the only real option available!) and in my already-running show we’ve adapted my role to include a handy cane, taken out any “risky” movement and my brace conveniently fits under my costume!
Seek support when you need it
Where would we be without the support of other people? My answer to that question is…still in bed. Without someone helping me over the last few days, I would have been akin to a beached whale.
I joke, but it is true. Other people’s help has been invaluable over the last few days. Whether that’s the wonderful team at the theatre who were able to pull me off the floor and ice my knee until I could get to the hospital, the radiographer who helped me hobble to my x-ray or my parents sending me “get well soon” biscuits in the post, it’s made things much more bearable.
We all need allies on our journey. Seeking solace in a supportive network of people is intrinsic to who we are as humans. We’re not always perfect, but the right people are always there when you need them, in business, communities, industries and even online.
What's this "resilience" then?
With “resilience” being one of the top buzzwords of 2020, I did actually go and look it up. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc.”
So that’s what it actually “means”, but what does it mean for you? If anything, “resilience” is deeply personal, and SPOILER ALERT: we all deal with things in different ways. I’ve found solace in theatre metaphors, funny pets, and supportive people, but they’ve not always been able to pull me out of the darkness. It takes time.
For more resilience tips, I came across this Spotlight article with Dr Jane Oakland on practising resilience in the acting industry – with most equally applicable for those in any profession.
Right. I’m back to rehearsals, resting my knee, and thinking about the practicalities of an activity we’re designing for a team day in September.
As the incomparable Freddie Mercury would say: “I’ll face it with a grin, I’m never giving in, on with the show…”
Colour; Noun (Vicky Holding and Howard Karloff)