A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Future of Work: Gillian Sheridan, customer engagement lead, An Post digital team

‘In the office when you leave in the evening work is finished. Closing the virtual office door at home can be a bit more difficult’

Gillian Sheridan: “We had four or five new initiatives to get over the line in a few weeks. We felt if we can do that sort of stuff then we can do anything”

Gillian Sheridan: “We had four or five new initiatives to get over the line in a few weeks. We felt if we can do that sort of stuff then we can do anything”

 

Gillian Sheridan had spent her entire 20-year career working in the GPO for An Post when the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020.

“It’s been really interesting,” she says. “We headed off from the GPO in the middle of March to work from home for what we thought would be a couple of weeks or so. It was a big change from being able to stop and chat with colleagues at their desks to working with Microsoft Teams in isolation.”

She also had to deal with home-schooling her six- and eight-year-old boys. “It was a matter of readjustment really,” she notes, pointing to some of the positives. “Being at home so much more, not getting up at 7am every morning to get to work and only getting home after 6. It was mainly positive from my perspective. The work-life balance is great.

“It’s the same as anything, you get used to working in a certain way. It showed that working at home can work and can work really well. On the flip side, in the office when you leave in the evening work is finished. Closing the virtual office door at home can be a bit more difficult.”

Technology has played an important role. “Microsoft Teams has been fantastic. It enabled us to work at home and meet up whenever we needed to. The great thing about Teams is that there is never any shortage of meeting rooms. It also helps you manage your time really well.”

Among the positive aspects were the community-engagement initiatives which were handled by the digital team.

“People could request a check-in. People with a relative or friend living on their own can request a postman to drop in and check if they are okay. Working on that was really positive. It wasn’t a case of replicating business as usual. We had four or five new initiatives to get over the line in a few weeks. We felt if we can do that sort of stuff then we can do anything.”

Changed for the better

The working routine has also changed for the better in some ways. “From week one we have held our own team meeting every morning. That gave us a connection that we mightn’t have had in the office. We have 20 minutes of a catch-up to talk about what’s happening and if we need help with anything. We also have a Friday meeting with one rule – no work talk.”

An Post also introduced rules of engagement to assist staff.

“They are great and include things like not scheduling meetings before 9am, not running into lunchtime, arranging meeting in 25-minute blocks instead of 30 so that they don’t run into each other.

“Also, if someone’s working routine is outside of the normal 9am to 5pm hours and they have to send an email to a colleague, they put in a note making it clear that they don’t expect a response until after 9am the next day. We all have to be more mindful of things like that. I hope that it will continue in a hybrid mode. It’s just a question of managing your time well, and deciding which activities are best done in the office or at home.”