How can employers support a better return to the workplace?

Published: 9th September 2021

Q&A with Neil Bullock, 3D Product Designer at Lighthouse  

As people gradually return to the workplace after working from home, we thought we’d catch up with our 3D Product Designer, Neil Bullock, for his top tips on what employers can do to help their staff feel safe and happy.

Neil has worked at Lighthouse for 15 years. He’s been working hard at home throughout the pandemic, but it’s been great to welcome him back to the office in-person!


What was it like working from home?

It was challenging as my wife is a childminder, which means I didn’t have the run of the house and garden like some people did when working from home. I stayed out the way and worked upstairs.


How did it affect your mental health?

In the early days of the pandemic when things were a bit quieter I was anxious about work and the future of my job. Being at home and working fewer hours meant it was easier for things to play on my mind and as I’m sure many people can relate to, you lose confidence and end up in a bit of a depressive cycle.


How does it feel to be back in the office?

Like my birthday because I’m so happy about it! I was a bit nervous at first, because I’ve had to be super-careful of my health in the pandemic, but I had a meeting before returning to talk it all through. Lighthouse has good Covid-19 procedures in place, including social distancing.


What did you miss most?

We work very much as a team so I missed the ability to call across the office for help. I could email of course, but then I had to wait for a reply, which would often lead to another question and a round of email tennis. It’s so much easier actually being in the office. As a 3D product designer I work closely with many of my colleagues throughout the whole design process. I need to know that the concepts I design are fully manufacturable and store-ready, which means working closely with the print and press teams, as well as our creative studio. Like everyone, we’ve used Teams and Zoom to stay in touch, but it’s not the same as face-to-face.


What support have you had – to work from home and return to the office?

The whole team here has been great. When I was working from home, Helen Myles – our Sales and Marketing Director, checked in with me every week to see how I was. Our Graphic Designer, Rhys Bright, was working in the office and he supported me with anything that was tricky to manage from home. I knew that all I had to do was pick up the phone and one of my colleagues would be there to help. I also had good technical support to make the switch to homeworking.

The support is still here now I’m back. I returned part-time to ease me back into working in the office again and I know that flexible working is there as an option if I need it.


What advice do you have for other people who may feel anxious about returning to the workplace?

Speak to your manager about any concerns you have. We’re all having to react and adapt to the changing situation so communication is really key, to make sure we understand each other’s needs. Returning part time and easing myself back in slowly was really helpful too, as was knowing what Covid-19 procedures were in place to help keep the workplace safe.


What advice would you give to employers?

Reassure your staff that their concerns will be listened to and make sure they know what Covid-19 procedures you’ve introduced, along with the help available to support their health and wellbeing. You could also look at staggering start and finish times if possible, to help with social distancing and give people a bit more flexibility.


As a 3D Product Designer, Neil’s job involves designing retail display concepts for a whole range of products and settings – from optimising the materials used, to working out how the display will work and look in-store, to supporting its full design and manufacture.

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