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FASTNET FIRST-HAND- Lockdown 2.0-The Importance of Empathy


Back in March, when a global pandemic chased us out of our offices, I can say with all honesty, I found myself feeling more overwhelmed than ever before. Like so many, I was working from home, whilst caring for and homeschooling my 3 kids (although ‘home-schooling’ is very generous for what we managed to achieve). My situation was in no way unique or more difficult than others, but I underestimated the willpower it would take to succeed.

It has been a massive learning curve. One of the most challenging things about remote working is video calls. Being on camera is a performance that takes so much energy. We all remember the infamous BBC interview back in 2017, when Robert Kelly’s children gate-crashed his discussion on South Korean politics. Their family blooper went viral. I felt like my kids and I were re-enacting that scene almost daily. 

Although, remote working allows us more time with family, to quote Matt Mullenweg, this is the remote work experiment no one asked for! Sometimes I miss commuting to and from the office. I could assume my work character on the way and get myself into the right headspace. Now there are no boundaries. However, when I reflect over the past 7 months, it hasn’t been a negative experience overall. Even though I had only been with Fastnet for 4 months when we were forced to work from home, I continued to build relationships with the team, and was able to support them and deliver in my role as Marketing Communications Executive. This was down to the empathy shown by the team I work with. I openly communicated about my working from home situation and how crazy it could get with 3 small boys around. In response, I was shown patience and understanding to find a system that enabled me to be as productive as possible.

I recently read an article in Silicon Republic by Microsoft Ireland’s MD, Cathriona Hallahan, where she discussed the importance of empathy when managing remote teams. “For us, it was about really understanding from an empathy perspective what our employees needed,” she said. “One of the areas that has been really amplified has been how difficult it is to parent while working from home. You don’t necessarily need the advanced infrastructure that a company like Microsoft has. What you need is to just have that human connection with your employees, to understand where they’re coming from and to see if there are small things that you, as a small business, can do to support them.” According to a recent survey by TED, 92% of employees would stay at their jobs if their bosses showed greater empathy.

Today we are back in Lockdown but for now the kids are at school. The memes are filling up our Fastnet WhatsApp group once again as we support each other through another incredibly challenging and uncertain time. For us at Fastnet, we are doing what we do best, staying connected. Following our highly competitive ‘Steptember Challenge’, which we took part in to raise funds for a local charity who do incredible work for homeless women and children in Cork, we are now focusing on fun, team-building challenges to get us through the next 6 weeks. We know from hard-earned experience that while it will be difficult, we will get through it, and we’ll continue to support and look out for each other along the way.

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