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Working from home: Be productive, stay motivated

Published on Wednesday, 25th March 2020, contributed by Armadillo

Following the government’s announcement last Monday evening, what was meant to be a test of our ability to work from home on Tuesday quickly morphed into our ‘new normal’. 

Whilst many people are experienced in remote working (we’ve always had the option of doing so when needed) it’s now non-negotiable, and with an undefined end-date. Add to this the fact that many people will now have to juggle children and other family members in a confined space, whilst trying to concentrate during a particularly stressful period, it feels like we’ve been catapulted into a different era.

But so far, so good. With one week under our belts, we’re into week two of working from home. We thought we’d share what we’ve learnt so far. 

It’s business as usual  

At Armadillo, we’ve been fully cloud-based for a year now (for files, emails and calls) so when desks became dining tables there was no disruption. We're also Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Experts, which means our client infrastructure is accessible and maintainable from anywhere. That’s really helped ensure a smooth transition. 

Communicate lots. More than you think you need to

James raySince working from home we’ve been kick-starting the day at 9am with an all-agency video call. It‘s less than 15 minutes, but it gives everyone the chance to say good morning, see each other’s friendly, smiling faces and share any key info. 

We’re using video chat a lot, actually – whether it’s for an organised team meeting or a quick question that it’s easier to ask face to face. Some have also set up groups with their usual desk mates so they can keep the office camaraderie alive. 

Virtual socialising 

We’ve seen some great initiatives popping up as people find new ways of keeping in touch and add some essential social connection to their day. 

For example, we’ve started a book club. Our first read is ‘The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work’ by Shawn Achor. We’ve created an open chat room where we can share thoughts as we go and have a date for a group video chat to discuss it. 

We’ve also added a new feature to our weekly agency meeting; Agency Through the Keyhole! A willing participant snaps a few shots of their home and we go on a virtual tour via a shared presentation screen, taking guesses at ‘who lives in a house like this?’ in the chat column.

Wellbeing is important

With high levels of uncertainty and change, wellbeing is critical. We’ve recognised that it’s important to look after yourself and include things in your routine and home setup that make you feel good. 

One advantage for lots of people is that at home they get to see their pets. Taking a break with them can help you relax and calm your mind. We wish we could all borrow Becky’s gorgeous dog Roo, or cuddle up to Sophie’s adorable mini-lop rabbit Elio.

But really, it’s whatever works for you. Ella, our Creative Digital Designer says: “I kept myself sane by buying fresh daffodils, lighting some scented candles and doing some light weights from my chair.”

If you’ve got any other ideas we’d love to hear them.  

Be Adaptable

Things are changing all the time at the moment: the physical environment we’re in, the type of support our clients need, the hours we do now we’re juggling work and family... We need to stay adaptable and flexible, and focus on what’s truly necessary, day by day.

Treadmill working from homeOur Conceptual Copywriter Carolyn Carswell has created a stand-up desk using a chest of drawers in the quietest part of the house. Our Client Partner Jo Penn is walking on her home treadmill whilst taking conference calls to get some steps in and keep the energy flowing. Our Strategy Director Fiona Craig has made it clear that, now we’re working alongside our children, it’s fine to see their interested faces popping up on our screens. “Let’s make them part of it”, she urges.

Companies will adapt. National and local brewers, including BrewDog and Psychopomp, are switching to producing hand sanitiser, either giving it away to vulnerable people and charities, or requesting donations to support relevant charities. Restaurants and food producers are switching to delivery, where safe and practical. 

The key is to keep processes going but appreciate that things are in flux. To be open-minded. And to pivot. One thing’s for sure; we’ll learn a lot – and probably keep hold of a lot of our learnings – when this period of isolation comes to an end.

Get some fresh air

Get outside if you can. Make time for your daily dose of exercise and don’t compromise. A family walk, solo run or cycle (whilst maintaining distance from others, of course) can make a world of difference. Our Client Services Director, Steve Jefferys, gained some brownie points and cleared his head by mowing the lawn on his lunch break.  Take your laptop into the garden. Sit by an open window and see the world beyond your four walls. And remember, this is temporary.

Focus on one or two things a day

Some advice from our Non-Executive Director, Ann Hiatt, was to pick two or three key things to focus on each day. Giving them proper attention is likely to be much more useful and productive than doing a little bit of everything and not being able to give any of it the head space it needs. 

The future

No one knows how long this situation will last, and our main focus is everyone’s health and safety. So we’ll keep sharing our hints and tips to help people navigate this remarkable new set-up. 

What we do know is that, when the time comes to socialise in person again, not only will we enjoy meeting up with the whole team and celebrating, the agency way of life and ways of working will undoubtedly change. We believe it will be for the better.