Weeknotes S01 Ep05

Another non-typical week…

Since I started weeknotes, for a variety of reasons, I’ve had a series of what have felt like non-typical weeks. So I thought I’d take stock a little and see what’s been going on…

Ep01 – 2 work from home (WFH) days

Ep02 – approx 2 days travel to Brizzle and back

Ep03 – full week in office

Ep04 – 0.5 days off, 1.5 days WFH

Ep05 – 1 day off

Ep06 [future me says this will be another non-typical week with 1 compassionate leave/WFH and 1 WFH]

Future me.

While on the face of it this doesn’t look too much, remember that I work part-time, 4 days per week. So actually in 20 days I have been out of the office for one reason or another for 7 days (about 35%) which I don't think is usual for me.

Couple that with personal things as outlined in Ep03 (and ongoing) as well as interesting occurrences at work which are making things less than clear and I feel like I’ve been getting a little discombobulated recently.

This guy, again?

I write this because I found last week a bit of a struggle again. Little things built up to make me feel quite low by Wednesday. When you’re feeling acute frustrations and uncertainties it can be really difficult to see what’s going on. Things snowball.

So I guess what I’m coming to is that I can say yep, it’s been a non-typical few weeks. I haven’t had the routine or the structure that I would usually have, and that’s made things more difficult. Plus, I’ve probably been a bit harder in myself than I should because for the most part it’s been difficult for reasons beyond my control.

I also worry a lot about my “visibility” at work. As a part-timer it’s always slightly tucked in the back of your mind that you’re less “present” than full-timers. You’re always slightly worrying whether you’re delivering enough, or if you’re missing out on opportunities simply because you’re there less. I work really hard to counteract that but these few weeks have made it difficult.

Should I use my invisibility to fight crime or for evil?

Anyway, without doing weeknotes I’m not sure how easily I would have come to this realisation. At least now that I have I can try and cut myself a little slack and move forward. I also realise the value of having strong relationships and support, so I’m going to be hitting a few people up for their help and advice next week which I’m sure will really help me.

And so, as always, onward…

Monday I got into work early, picked up some emails and caught up on people’s weekends. You might remember that last week I managed not to complete all of my Graduate Placement Sift statements. I emailed to say I could try and pick them up in amongst other work…

As it turned out I just didn’t have time. I helped Ally on a presentation and ideas for our Leadership team which addressed the results of our recent Pulse Survey. The survey has been set up by the Workwell network to try and capture a snapshot (they call it a temperature gage) of the feeling of the department every 3 months. It looks at stress, illness and other general wellbeing subjects.

This was the first one, and the only one before the People Survey in October. DATT picked up some dodgy results, and I sensed/overheard some cynicism about the validity of the whole thing – that worried me a lot. I think this contributed to a vague sense of unease across the whole week.

That morning I got involved in some significant whiteboard action with the apps team to solve a problem. I had a call about the pilot mentioned in Ep04. Met Chris about the aforementioned whiteboard action and security/data mitigations. Then went into our regular BP meeting.

Several things came out of that meeting. There was an honesty on the table that I don’t think we’ve ever had before, although I hope we are friends as well as colleagues I think it was the first time we spoke quite so openly. I also finally realised just how much issues in other areas are having a knock-on effect on us. Hopefully we can work out how to solve that.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with a team wanting a database solution. They should hopefully be able to do most of this using our workplace apps, and they agreed to go and do some user research, so that was good.

Finally in the afternoon I helped Ally finish the presentation so she could send it off. When I got home that evening my brother was staying. I made dinner and spoke about my day and was totally wired. I didn't sleep well.

On Monday night I had an email from Rosie Hatton at the Parliamentary Digital Service about my shout out for a mentor on twitter, I hope to meet her for a drink in August which will be really nice.

Cocktail Dog wants to make you a drink.

On Tuesday I helped Ally out with another Workwell-related task, a comms plan in response to this recent blog post by Johnathan Jones. In the morning I headed over to Millbank for a catch up with Mr. Dan Barrett to talk about mentors and generally be quite introspective for an hour or so. It was good though and I think we managed to pull some thoughts together about what we each need, which we will share as a blog post soon. In the afternoon I had a 1:1 with Luke, and did lots more emails.

On Wednesday I was due at the One Team Gov breakfast but ended up being late as a result of train and bus conspiracies. This was despite James Arthur Cattell asking me to be a contact and let people into the building. So I felt quite bad about that. I was also nervous because it was my first meeting and I wasn’t sure how much I would have to contribute, but I felt It was important to go and listen (especially after bottling out last week). It turned out that lots of people were there for the first time, so that made me feel better.

There was lots of lively discussion about growing the “policy” audience/attendees, and a commission from “big boss” to show how the ideas are being embedded within departments.

Then I had a catch up with someone in my team about the Pulse Survey and a meeting with Ally about Think Digital, some events she is thinking about running in September. I want to see how we can utilise the work of One Team Gov and make this less about digital and more about collaboration.

In the afternoon I had 5 half-hour catch ups, some had no time between, some had half an hour. They had to happen and they were productive but not helpful in getting anything else done. I picked up emails when I got home that evening.

I also shared a “Learning library” that I’ve set up, it’s just a spreadsheet but it’s organised by theme and has lots of links to useful articles and blogs which people can read in their downtime - I hope it will become a really good resource and also help new members of the team to orientate themselves.

And that’s it for me. Thursday I had compassionate leave and travelled down to an exceptionally rainy Devon to stand around a churchyard in the cold. Which somehow seemed fitting.

In other thoughts:

1. I’m thinking about undertaking a project starting in September and I’m looking for people I can pester, bother, shadow. More to come in a separate blog.

2. I’ve recently been noticing how I react to change. Sometimes working in this environment can make you feel a bit like you’re being blown around in the wind, making it difficult to stay positive. I need to get better at dealing with that, I am trying.



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Sam Villis

Sam Villis

Now: @socialfinanceuk Prev:@ldgovuk, Head of Digital at National Leadership Centre. GDS. Proud to be @OneTeamGov.