Earlier this month, before the government’s return to advising working from home by default, I made my first trip to London since late February – the longest I’ve been away from London for many years.

My deserted train to London earlier this month.

On reflection it was a bizarre experience, with my former peak-time train from Canterbury to St Pancras virtually deserted. The bike ride over to the FutureGov offices at London Bridge took me past familiar streets, yet the roads were quieter with many shops and cafes shuttered. The City and Shoreditch were subdued versions of their former selves, lacking the energy, bustle and vibrancy that I’d got so used to.

The day also remind me of the value of face to face interactions at work, as the time I spent with various colleagues that day was invigorating. As we head into another extended period of remote working, but this time in the dark and cold days of winter, I think we need to focus even more on wellbeing.

Energy reserves are depleted after such a long period of enforced home working since March, so the prospect of many more months of the same is a challenging one that we have a responsibility to help our teams through, learning and adapting as we go.

Four weeks into my new role as Chief Operating Officer at The Panoply, I’m starting to understand how the role fits into where the group is now and where it wants to be in the next three years. The Panoply is far from a typical technology services group and the role is far from a typical Chief Operating Officer role.

It’s been a busy month with Difrent team joining The Panoply early in the month, bringing with them a wealth of experience in the health sector. We’re also relaunching our internal communications to improve cross-group communications and implementing a more consistent visual identity across companies. Earlier this week FutureGov sponsored the GovTech Summit, with FutureGov and Difrent team members at the fore of presentations and panels debating some of the major issues in public sector technology, change and policy today.

Our Ameo team has joined forces with FutureGov, bringing a track record and expertise in local government restructuring and change management to their mission to build 21st-century health and public sector organisations. Next week sees the culmination of a lot of work in several of our tech businesses, bringing together Notbinary, Human+, Disruption and Arthurly into a single business – Foundry4. More details on that here.

Our strong belief in the potential of devolved autonomy is at the heart of how we are designing The Panoply to work. We are deliberately designing and prototyping an operating system that enables genuine empowerment for people in our companies, while helping them achieve more through cross-group collaboration and meeting the needs of our wider stakeholder groups – such as the communities we work in, the clients we work for and our investors too. This is a fascinating conceptual and practical challenge to take on and I’m loving it.

This means that my role so far is all about designing and embedding this operating system. I’m working with our companies as a servant leader, facilitating change and delivering cross-group projects to accelerate our progress. The role is all about building strong relationships with people from across our businesses, helping understand the challenges they face and how we can solve them together.

With that focus on relationships comes a lot of questioning, listening and learning. Building a mental model of the organisation as a complex network of people is an important first step in understanding how to design and influence change.

The biggest challenge for me this month has been balancing my default servant leadership style with the occasional need to take a more directional approach to leadership. There will be some times when I need to flip between these two modes and I need to work on how to do that without it seeming inconsistent or damaging relationships with colleagues. This is something I continue to focus on in my professional development.

Over the next few months I’m taking a renewed focus on professional development, working with a coach to help focus on the needs of the new role and how I can grow and thrive with the new challenges I was looking for when I took it on. It’ll be fascinating to see where this journey of development takes me in the coming months and years.