By Deirdre Ryan
CEO @ www.extrasireland.com & www.productionpeople.ie
For the past three months, like most companies, our team have been working remotely and putting in trojan work under varying degrees of challenging circumstances to function effectively. All this while adjusting to a new work/life balance or probably more aptly, the new work/life integration. However, in taking baby steps back to ‘norm’ I popped into the offices of The Production People and Extras Ireland in Merrion Square yesterday, and although not sure what to expect, what I experienced was a very strange sensation of time standing still – a junction where the internal world of the past and the external world of the present converged.
The first thing greeting me was a pile of post in the communal hallway, and the familiar smell of the polished wood staircase leading to the top floor of number 11, where our offices are based. I didn’t see any other residents of the building on the way up but could hear some mumbled voices and keyboard activity behind closed office doors.
Just about to put the key into the latch to open up and I stop myself – realising that once I open the main door the alarm will go off. And I simply couldn’t remember the code. Panic moment as something I did automatically without thinking 3 months ago had been refiled into an internal ‘to be retrieved in the future folder’. Luckily, I had the code written into my phone so I unlocked the door and I dialled it into the keypad, still holding my breath however until the ‘disarmed’ sign appeared and the piercing screech of the expectant siren remained silent.
Beyond the door, the emptiness and silence scream louder than any alarm. Desks with no paperwork and chairs with no people. The usual banter of colleagues chatting, computers rattling, kettles boiling and phones ringing all eerily quiet, like a deserted village where all the inhabitants have left and only the buildings remain. I walk around the desks remembering the vibrancy and energy that resided here just a few short months ago. Time has stood still in our office as life and work relocated to our homes. Like our business and our industry, it had gone into unexpected hibernation.
The wall calendars display March, the office plants have dehydrated and withered (in stark contrast to the lush and vibrant greenery of the Merrion Square Park outside). I replace empty air fresheners with hand sanitisers and gel and turn on the TV to keep me company.Opening the post, I find a hidden gem among the usual utility bills, statements and reports. It’s a handwritten postcard for Aislinn in Extras Ireland from one of the people she placed in an advert earlier in the year and it was delightful to read the personal note and the sentiments expressed. A unique human touch among the throngs of standardised typed documents. Hunger hits me after a few hours of concentration and I venture outside to see if anywhere is open to grab a sandwich and a coffee. Cars are parked but the roads are still quiet.
Half empty buses zoom by but the line of tourist coaches that once graced Merrion Square North are no longer visible. Children still play in the playground but only a few. People still relax in the park but social distanced apart and Oscar Wilde still looks on from his perch with an amused grin and no doubt, a sharp-witted comment. Wandering around to a little coffee shop and restaurant called ‘il Caffe di Napoli’ beside the DART station on Pearse Street, and I’m the only one in a shop that once bragged a regular queue out the door. Today it’s four staff and one customer and the result is a leisurely chat, not possible in the past due to time and service demands.
Again, the human interaction is a welcome respite from the eerie quiet of a world taking its first tentative steps back to the ‘norm’. On my return once again to Number 11, to climb the familiar stairs, I wonder if the office could talk, what would it say to me, as the first person it has seen in three months, since forced to cocoon? In my head, I hear it say, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you. Where are all the others? I kept the fridge going, the kettle is on, the computers are ready to fire up and the phones are ready to ring …… but I’ve missed the humans. Without the humans, I’m only brick walls and infrastructure – a village with no inhabitants, a body with no soul.” No 11 Merrion Square is one office that certainly looks forward to welcoming back its humans, its management, its staff, its clients, and its candidates.
The Production People and Extras Ireland are a people business, a company ‘Passionate about People’. The fact is, our people are our brand and we genuinely look forward to a full family reunion in the not too distant future – taking tentative but reassuring steps in the meantime to make it happen. We’ll continue to work remotely for the next little while, but our office is ready to welcome us back very soon.
If you’re in need of Cast for your next Production, get in touch. We’d love to help. Simply email [email protected] or call us on (01) 634 3112 and let’s see how we can collaborate.