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Q&A with Chris Gill, Kajima’s Projects and Investments Director

Monday 15 March 2021

Chris Gill joined Kajima in 2020, just three months before the spate of national lockdowns. Despite the challenges this has brought he’s made great progress in pushing forward Kajima’s plans for upping investment in renewable energy projects, both in the UK and in Europe, as well as identifying other avenues for investment within our current portfolio.

Here, Chris shares a very honest account of how the pandemic has affected not only business but his home life too.

How has the pandemic affected your work/life balance so far?

Calls, calls and more calls. I don’t think this is unique to me, I think everyone has found the same. My day starts early with a morning run, good for the mind no matter how slow I feel some mornings, then some days it’s calls from 8.00am through to 5.30pm. I guess this is the effect of being home-based and not having that collaborative time in the office with colleagues and partners. Whilst working from home has its benefits, opportunities for ad-hoc conversations and unplanned ideas-sharing is certainly minimal.

What have been your main challenges throughout the pandemic?

I am definitely honing my skills in juggling - home life and work that is. The first lockdown was by far the hardest for us as a family as my wife was heavily pregnant with our second child, and our eldest, normally at nursery, became a permanent fixture at home as his nursery closed. Add to that, the competition for internet bandwidth, the almost constant Teams calls, the ‘challenge’ of the mute button and the makeshift office - lots of juggling for us!

Having detailed and sometimes difficult commercial discussions over Teams, has been quite challenging. Whilst the technology is enabling us to carry out these discussions, the natural collaborative element is sometimes lost, it can be really difficult to read the room and easier for people not to agree to solutions. So, progressing ways forward has sometimes been tricky.

Driving forward new business opportunities and devising the strategy that goes on behind that is much easier in person, as well as meeting new investor contacts. Whilst this can be done over the phone, it is easier to build relationships with people face-to-face.

What positives will you be taking forward as we start to move towards a ‘new normal’?

From a business perspective, we have seen that working from home can be productive. Kajima have continued to deliver as a business both operationally and new business has flourished. We’ve made progress on Kajima’s commitment to net zero as well as secured Optivo’s interest in Ealing Care Alliance (Holding) Limited and completed the acquisition of Eric Wright Group's investment in Sapphire Extra Care (Holding) Limited. This is a testament to the people we have within the business and their ambition and drive to succeed.

From a personal perspective, despite the inevitable challenges of lockdown, as a family we’ve managed to have a lot of fun along the way. We have been able to spend a lot more time together due to the fact that I am not travelling to and from the office, although I do miss the commute and time in the office.

As things start to return to normal I plan to find a good balance between visiting our new offices and working from home. I am keen to be back in the office for some of my working week so that we can reap the benefits of face-to-face working with colleagues and enjoy some social interaction, but will also continue to embrace the “new normal” of working from home.