[Editor’s note: Honor joined us for a weeks internship within the Account Management team. It was great having her onboard and we hope she found it valuable! We asked her to write a blog to during her time with us.]
Almost a year down the line, remote working is the new normal and people are now into the swing of it. However, as with everything new there are still challenges.
After hearing about all the great things the Make it Clear (MiC) team gets up to, I got in touch with an interest to gain a week’s worth of work experience in their account managing team. On the first day, I met everyone over Google Meets. As a second year university student, I have experienced remote learning but not the structured 9-5:30 workday from home. I often thought it looked quite dreamy working from the comfort of your own home, not having to commute to work and only having to find smart tops (saving on buying trousers!). However, when I hit day three and had only left my house to go to the shops, I began to wish I was doing my work experience in the office.
Although I didn’t get the opportunity to meet everyone in person, MiC made my work experience extremely valuable by setting up many different virtual meetings to learn about each department, as well as inviting me to observe client meetings. As I haven’t experienced working life in the office, I wanted to gain a deeper understanding on how, for better or worse, work life has changed because of COVID-19. I asked all of the team from MiC about their experience of working from home and if they have any tips for someone, like me, who is just starting out.
The benefits of WFH
It is no surprise that working from home has slowed life down and has also made some things smoother. There is less opportunity for unexpected train delays or missing keys and for some people, scrapping the 2–3 hour commute not only saves a considerable amount of money but also time. This meant time in the morning to fill with a workout, long breakfast or just more sleep! Because the office is now at home, lunch breaks can be used for activities such as running or a family meal. For one employee in particular, remote working has been a blessing in disguise as it has allowed them to spend more time with their newborn son. For another, their cat returned home after a year of being missing giving them valuable time together.
For many, working online has increased productivity because there are less distractions and many feel it is easier to focus. The lack of in-person connection that characterises working virtually has meant although interactions are less frequent they can be more purposeful with individuals dedicating time for each other, for example, scheduling meetings for a team catch up.
For those that joined the team remotely during this pandemic, Make it Clear made an effort to virtually introduce them and organise 15-minute coffee catch ups once a week to allow the team to get to know the latest recruits and see how they’re getting on. MiC also introduced a morning scrum to get everyone together virtually to talk first thing in the morning about their day and help to motivate each other. It has managed to improve the overall communications of the team and engage everyone before their working day starts.
The challenges of WFH
For some people, especially the creatives at MiC, online life is much more challenging. A designer works collaboratively with their team and in the office this is much more effective. The process of online feedback can take longer as you need to wait for someone to be free to respond to a message and schedule a meeting, instead of simply turning your chair to ask them a question.
Technology has been extremely useful, for example shared calendars and zoom meetings, but can also be frustrating at times. Dependent on a strong internet connection, virtual catch ups can become a conversation with an irritating delay that causes confusion and ends up with individuals talking over one another.
The fact that life is restricted to each person’s home has challenged the MiC team to create and manage a healthy work-life balance. The WFH office space varies from team member to team member. It is often a kitchen table or for those that live with a few others, a desk in their bedroom. Many didn’t have the right tools at home and were working from a kitchen chair rather than a desk chair with the right support. MiC were quick and generous to get people the right kit they needed straight away from laptops, monitors, cables to office furniture and stationery.
With work becoming part of home life, there is less of a defining boundary between the working day and personal time. This makes it easy for work to run into the evening and harder for employees to switch off. Although it was agreed that not commuting was a positive outcome of remote working, many in the team commented that they miss cycling or walking to work or using their commute to listen to a podcast or read a book. Many miss the fresh air, exercise and time to mentally prepare for the day – as well as the opportunity to gradually leave work behind on the way out.
More than all of these challenges, the MiC team missed the social aspect of working in the office: the coffee chats, lunch breaks, office jokes and overall work relationships. Although, I did still experience the MiC office humour online – mostly due to an unexpected cat popping into the screen or someone’s internet playing up – it is clear that it would be fun to work with the team in the office on a daily basis.
How to work from home
Make it Clear have made an effort to keep the team connected in a few ways. Introducing the morning scrum, encouraging virtual department social catch ups, as well as Team Talk Thursdays; a weekly social event that involves talking about anything except from work. The virtual socials have been a highlight for many of the team during this tough time. The virtual planning day (with a delicious Biscuiteers delivery), online quizzes and a wine tasting and tapas making event for the Christmas party are some examples of virtual social fun organised by MiC. Everyone enjoyed these occasions and reported that it helped them to feel engaged with a team they haven’t seen in person for almost a year.
The Make it Clear team have been working from home since the start of the pandemic, like many others, so they had some tips for me to adapt to this new way of working:
- Rethink your routine to find new time for healthy activities. For example, make a daily walk part of your schedule in order to break up the day and get fresh air and exercise.
- Put effort in to keep connected with team members.
- Learn the best practices around technology to make your virtual work life smoother – for yourself and others.
- If possible, physically separate your workspace from the rest of the home.
- Set up a workspace with a proper chair, desk and multiple screens, if possible. Investing in a supportive chair or a desk at the right height can make a huge difference.
- Take a lunch break so that you can refresh and get ready to start again. Block time out for lunch in your calendar so other meetings aren’t scheduled in
- Finally, as I am sure most of the MiC team would say – get yourself a cat!