This week we seemed to go into reverse. After months of careful planning and expenditure to make businesses and workplaces COVID safe, the government have reverted to directing us to work from home if we can and imposed a 10pm curfew on restaurants and pubs.

Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman

As the nights draw in perhaps we will become more like the Americans and sit down for dinner at 6.30pm. I suspect Amy Lamé our wonderful London Night Czar will not appreciate this but until the curfew is withdrawn maybe we need to try to make a virtue of the restrictions that are being thrown at us. As 18th century American statesman Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’ So let’s get used to booking dinners earlier and give our restaurants an extra early evening sitting.

We are generally fearful of change and there is a huge amount of change to deal with on all fronts at the moment. So thank you to British Land’s Chenai Gondo for her Linked In post on the relevance of Dr Spencer Johnson’s excellent book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. As she said, ‘It’s a motivational fable about how to deal with unexpected changes in your life - a theme so relevant at the moment since the world feels upside down to many.

It’s about #resilience, flexibility and personal #transformation through challenging times.’ This prompted me to reread the book which took me right back to studying Change Management as part of my Sloan MBA programme at London Business School. This short but powerful book is definitely worth a read if only to determine which of the characters you identify with. It will certainly encourage you to embrace change, to be open to new ideas and adapt quickly. Have a read and let me know what you think.

We haven’t allowed Covid-19 to get in the way of our annual Mishcon de Reya and London Communications Agency Labour Party Conference debate. We went ahead, admittedly not with our usual dinner and drinks format but, moving with the times, as a digital fringe debate. We assembled the usual eclectic mix of council leaders, thought leaders and developers who had plenty to say about ‘Planning for the future: London’s recovery in a post-Covid-19 world’. The quality of the debate was as good as ever, although we did miss the opportunity for chatting and, believe it or not, dancing!

I was delighted to be on the panel for the British Property Federation (BPF) Futures webinar on ‘thriving in a virtual team’ alongside our chair, Izzy Hease of Ellandi, Laura Parker of GL Hearn and Suzi Lawrence of London Communications Agency. We aimed to provide some useful advice and tips to the younger real estate generation on working remotely and how to network from a distance. The timing was good, coming just after this week’s change in government guidance which reverts to ’work from home if you can’, which came as a blow to all of us. I found it a really useful practical session on how to get the most out of our new ways of working, and hopefully our audience did too. There will be highlights on the BPF website if you missed it.

Coronavirus/working from home/facetime

Source: Shutterstock/1676998309

Although it is still early to predict how we will be working in one or two years’ time, there is a growing consensus that the future of office working is hybrid and will include elements of working from the office, from home and from what are being termed ‘third spaces’. This came over loud and clear in my podcast interview this week with Ryan W Simonetti the inspirational co-founder and CEO of New York based hospitality, conference and flexible working provider, Convene. Speaking to me from his Long Island New York home, Simonetti took me through the Convene journey to date, his thoughts on the future of offices and how the Convene team are responding to the undoubted challenges of Covid-19 by becoming a more tech led business.

He talked about the new and exciting products they are introducing, including their new virtual meetings platform which will help us replicate as closely as possible the experience of attending a meeting, conference or trade show. I can’t wait to give this a try! As I told Simonetti, our last planned event in March this year, was a tour of Convene’s space at London’s newly built 22 Bishopsgate in the City which was to have been followed by a dinner for key clients co-hosted with our friends at Fifth Wall VC Fund.

Sadly, lockdown thwarted our plans but we look forward to reconvening as soon as is possible, if you’ll excuse the pun! Simonetti’s philosophy is ‘1% better every day’ and I believe that he is achieving this even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Listen out for the podcast which will be coming to the usual channels very soon.

It was opportune to receive an email this week telling me that ‘now is the time to book your yacht for MIPIM 2021. A superyacht provides a perfect platform to showcase your company plus a venue to host a casual breakfast meeting, drinks reception or large scale event’. The way things are going it could well end up being a virtual yacht powered by Convene!

Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya

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