National Grid ESO lady laptop

A day in the life of: Janet Morrow, Head of ESO Corporate Affairs

We’ve been speaking to ESO colleagues who are working to support the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. Next up is Janet Morrow, Head of ESO Corporate Affairs who gives an insight into what COVID-19 has meant for her.

National Grid ESO Janet Morrow

How long have you worked for National Grid ESO and what are you responsible for?

I joined two years ago and before this role I worked in corporate affairs across energy, retail and construction.

I lead the ESO Corporate Affairs team. My main responsibility is to protect, promote and enhance the reputation of ESO. This is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re a critical infrastructure as a business and we need to reassure that the lights won’t go out. Not only are more people working from home than ever, but it’s vital to keep powering hospitals and care homes.

Day to day we deal with government, industry, media and key stakeholders. We want to be transparent and let them know exactly what we’re doing. I’m also responsible for internal engagement and to communicate throughout the organisation.

How is your work helping Britain during the coronavirus outbreak and has your work changed day to day?

We’re busier than ever! As several of my colleagues have discussed, we’re in a period of reduced electricity demand. It can be anything up to 20% lower than normal. This actually makes things more difficult for our control room, but we have the expertise to continue running the grid smoothly.

Communication is more important than ever during a national crisis, and we’re being open about all our actions both internally and externally.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m responsible for internal stakeholders just as much as external. Although we haven’t furloughed anyone, many people across the country and in our organisation have been impacted and most of us know someone whose life has been changed over the past two months.

Our leadership has been more visible than ever. There are now two calls each week, and we’re talking much more about our personal lives and tackling any tough questions.

I’ve also found some positives in that we’re seeing quick decision making and as I said, the leadership have been amazing with their visibility and support.

What effect has coronavirus had on the relationship with your team?

When this started, I thought this working from home period would be difficult for me personally and for my team. I really didn’t like working from home and thought I’d get distracted.

My partner is out of the house most days renovating a property so I’m looking after my 8 year daughter. It’s incredibly difficult to work, look after her and home-school. I’ve realised that this is probably only a short period and she’ll be back to school after the summer period. She is also great at occupying her own time.

I carry on working as normal if my partner is around. Personally, I’m working harder than ever! I’ll start working at the same time I’d usually leave home to get to the office

But I try to grab small breaks to get away from the screen whenever I can. Video conferences strain the eyes and that’s the time you’d usually be in a meeting and away from the laptop.

My team is spread over three locations. Some of them have long commutes, and I even have one member of my team based in Brussels. It’s proved to me that people don’t have to be in the same location to collaborate and communicate.

We’ve started a daily video call team meeting first thing and I’m sure everyone feels even more part of the team than before lockdown! I’m also seeing the wartime mentality spirit - everyone is being so supportive, and we have each other’s backs like never before.

I didn’t think I’d have said this 6 weeks ago, but I’m getting used to this way of working and I’m not desperate to get back to the office.

"I’ve realised that we can be flexible, and the result is you get more back from people."

Biggest changes you have made since lockdown?

As with most people I’m sure it’s the small things. I feel lucky that I’m healthy and supported by the company I work for. I used to swim a lot and I’m a real sociable person so miss seeing friends.

I have balanced these though and I’m speaking to friends more than ever on video and the phone. Plus, I’m exercising more too.

What’s the first think you’ll do after lockdown ends?

Go to the swimming pool! The supermarkets are a nightmare at the moment so I’m moving to online deliveries after this. People don’t seem to have realised that now isn’t the time to browse in the supermarket aisles!

I’ve had to cancel a trip to Ireland for my mum’s 70th and a weekend in Amsterdam.

We’re all so used to social distancing now. I wonder how long it’ll take to get back to normal and socialising side by side in restaurants and pubs.