Just as nature is unfurling a bright new season, so are we.
Like many other companies, we have gone fully remote. It’s a new adventure, and to chronicle our experiences we are continuing the “Flowrona” document we started in mid-March, around the time we shut our Johannesburg and Cape Town offices and went to work from home.
Flowrona is a company-wide journal of the ups and downs of this new way of working and living.
When we all went #WFH on 17 March 2020, South Africa was about to go into one of the strictest national lockdowns in the world. Recently, Flowstars have been venturing out, now that we’re all allowed to cross provincial borders.
One of the lucky ones, Elmarie Nel, brought us back a gorgeous photo that sets the scene for what awaits all South Africans in the coming months: spring.
“Just got back from an amazing break to Mpumalanga; it’s so lovely to see the early signs of spring – slight greenery making its way through the yellow grass, small little leaves appearing on trees and bright green life springing from the scorched fields. It makes my heart happy and makes this year feel more bearable – Mother Nature always reminds us that this too shall pass …,” she wrote on 2 September.
But Elmarie’s words probably won’t appease one of our Capetonian Flowstars, Sarah-Jane Viljoen, who had this to say on 31 August:
“I tend to get a little grumpy this time of year (some of you don’t really know how grumpy I can get, I keep it well hidden). The main reason for my grumps is that by now I am SO over winter and feeling cold and damp and being stuck indoors. And now with our being more integrated with the Joburg team (which is a joy to counteract the grumps) I start hearing the word ‘spring’ from you all, daily. In Cape Town that is not a prospect until October. Case in point, this weekend there was snow on Table Mountain!”
Another sign of the times are the first in-person meetings since March, although these are still few and far between. Flowstar Caroline Smith was so excited about the first one she attended that she wrote this on 28 August:
“Yesterday we had our first in-person meeting. It was so lovely to see Tara, Ayanda and Edwina again that I nearly cried. I think we worked, but I mostly just remember the joy I felt.”
Despite the happier feeling that comes from seeing green shoots pushing up, Flow has not been untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic. Happily, the few Flowstars who caught Covid-19 have recovered from the virus, but one Flowstar had to comfort a housemate who lost a father to it.
“I’m desperately sad for my housemate and his family. It’s also been a rude awakening that anything can happen (and suddenly). It’s also made me think a lot about my parents and how worried for them I am,” she wrote on 18 August.
Although we are enjoying the benefits of working from home, we had an enormous amount of fun working together in our offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and Mercy Moyo spoke for many when she wrote, on 28 August:
“Saying goodbye to the office is such sweet sorrow. While it was good to conclude all the discussions, the office was Flow’s home and carries so many memories. I will truly miss the office but I also realise that what makes Flow tick is not the building but the people in it. I am looking forward to remote (non-Covid) working and seeing all Flowstars again.”
One big team
There has been one big benefit from this for the Cape Town team: with everyone connecting online every morning, several members of this team have said that they actually feel more part of the wider team than ever before.
In the lead-up to Flow handing over the office keys, there were management discussions on how a post-office Flow would work, and on 14 August Cape Town head Sarah-Jane described what many were feeling:
“My team and I, as well as management, are having interesting conversations about our place in the world of Flow … There are wonderful things about these conversations and also scary and disconcerting things, but we are all going through change and adapting, which I think is always good for one’s personal growth.”
Back in July, when South Africa was colder, Cape Town’s Riefkah Adams reported back on a blustery weekend during which she saved a mole that was stuck in the middle of a busy road:
“It was absolutely pouring with rain, literally buckets and buckets [and] it took about 10 minutes of me having to try and lift the mole up the pavement with a shoddy stick while trying not to be bitten (HAVE YOU SEEN THE TEETH ON A MOLE???) and waving down another car to help me. It was absolute chaos. Myself and a lovely old man managed to get the mole up the pavement and watched as it burrowed its way into the ground.”
The new normal
July was also when Flowstars Allison MacDonald and Willem Steenkamp were among the Flow trailblazers in terms of getting on with the work-from-home thing.
“Yesterday I moved into my new office. I put some posters on the wall behind me. I chose the Jack Nicholson Wolf one (a promo for his movie with Michelle Pfeiffer) because the mirror image of WOLF is FLOW. I really dig that,” wrote Ally on 10 July.
A day before, Willem had this to say:
“It’s taken a while, but I’m finally coming around to the idea of the ‘new normal’. Perhaps it’s more a case of finally accepting that the ‘old normal’ is never coming back, though ... more than anything.”
He then went on to tell us that, while he thought this was fuelling his hobbies, such as meat smoking and veggie growing, he was by no means to be called a “survivalist”.
“I’m not getting a gun and I’m not booby-trapping my home’s perimeter. And I’m not using acronyms like WTSHTF. I just like the idea of DIYing my food, of not having to unnecessarily risk going out to buy groceries, and of saving money.”
To help Flowstars continue to smell the team spirit, we have a short company-wide meeting each morning. Every day, a Flowstar is appointed joke master. Some of us, however, are more visually than word inclined, so this is what Flow managing director Tiffany Turkington-Palmer shared when it was her turn on 2 July:
“Instead of jokes, today I shared some things to make everyone smile :) Baby owls that sleep face down and angry avocado bullfrogs.”
And Flowstar Roy Barford is lucky to live on a farm just north of Johannesburg. Here he is in June, “chillin with my dawgs”:
Other Flowstars also took the time to use Flowrona to count their blessings, like Janet Berger, on 9 June:
“A year ago today I was in Bordeaux, France, with my daughter Kelly. How things have changed since then. Instead of being mumphy about it, though, I am rather feeling incredibly grateful for the memories of the trip and how fortunate I am to have experienced it.”
And then there are the Flowstars who can always be counted on to make you smile, like Edwin Reichel. We’re ending with his quote for the day from 9 June:
“Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.” (Mark Twain)