As Covid-19 has put our everyday lives on hold, working from home has become the new norm, and heading back to the office isn’t looking likely any time in the near future. Lucky to be in the digital industry, Browndog has taken to the WFH life pretty well, here are a few notes from members of our team on how they are coping.
Once we’d checked our technology allowed all of us to effectively service our clients from home (rather than just supporting one or two of us working remotely), I was most concerned with making sure that our team managed to stay upbeat, productive and able to adapt to this strange circumstance, and also ensuring that we continued to deliver our high quality work and support our clients who still needed us.
I needn’t have worried. Our team has been amazing, and for such a relatively young group (average age 27 excluding directors) they have adapted brilliantly, taking personal responsibility for their projects, checking in with our clients regularly, and contributing to our WhatsApp conversations, quizzes and jokes just like when we were in one office. More than anything I am proud of how they are managing such a tough situation. We have furloughed 3 colleagues so far, whose work pretty much stopped dead, but they still join in on non-work conversations and the weekly quiz to make sure they still feel very much part of the team.
My home set-up: Thankfully we have a home office in a spare bedroom, with a nice view, and our daughter who lives with us is nearly 21 so we haven’t had to juggle home schooling like so many have. I’m trying to exercise every day to get some fresh air and break up the day in one small bedroom.
More than anything I am proud of how they are managing such a tough situation.
Jamie, Technical Director:
I have to say I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the sudden change in lifestyle but as always, I’m like a chameleon and I’ve managed to adapt quite quickly to the situation. As a fully operational family, my wife and I have adapted to working remotely and simultaneously juggling our time between work and home schooling. The old playroom is now my office (which is going to get decorated). My role within the business has continued and hasn’t had much effect as we are now able to access everything online. Also, working digitally feels somewhat normal in our industry anyway.
The biggest impact for me, are the three very energetic, competitive children home schooling in different rooms. Plus, my wife in the front room teaching her students through Hangouts. Each with their own computer, which helps massively, however I’ve now created a new role for myself with the constant need of I.T. support and problem solving. This is actually keeping me on my toes and I’m quietly enjoying it! They have all found a natural way to argue about the smallest of issues. Minor things will start in the morning and multiply into a chaotic frenzy by the end of the day. It’s a bit like waking a volcano everyday, whilst riding a roller coaster! Subsequently, I have now installed a 4ft punch bag outside for everyone to use.
The positive side of all this is that it’s made me cherish what I own and have in front of me. I’m learning so much more about myself and what’s important to me in my life. I am so lucky to have a healthy family and a house with a large garden for the children to play outside all day. We are all eating healthier, we exercise nearly everyday. We take regular walks together as a family, we talk more, we bake more, build, dig, paint, draw and the cat and dog are getting so much more attention; they can’t believe it! We are stronger as a family and I’m enjoying every minute of every day in lockdown as I now know I will never experience this change in lifestyle ever again. I love it that the whole world has paused at the same time but I really miss all the sport and can’t wait for that to get back to normal.
Eleanor, Digital Marketing Executive:
Although the days go fast, the weeks go slow. One of the biggest struggles for me at the moment, work wise, is not having the open plan office I am used to, meaning I can’t just swivel my chair and ask the designers to help me with a quick job or discuss a new website project face to face. Keeping in a routine however has definitely helped me to cope with everything and regular calls and messages with the team have been very useful and uplifting.
In this digital world I’d say we have transitioned well to working from home, however, with some WiFi issues now and then, the online meetings can be sometimes frustrating and your freeze face is a big fear. I am lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your view) at the moment to be still living with my parents who have a big enough house that we can stay out of each other’s way when needed. Our attic office allows plenty of room for my brother and I to share and there have been no issues…yet.
I’m reading: The Body: A Guide for for Occupants by Bill Bryson
My new hobby: Learning Spanish
Josh, Digital Marketing Manager:
The logistical nature of working from home has been relatively easy to adapt to, given that my role focuses on digital aspects of the business. I am lucky enough to have a light and spacious spare room in my house, so I’ve been able to make a nice environment, away from any distractions to work from. However, I have found that finding ways to keep motivated is the key challenge. My partner is a nurse and works long hours throughout the day (most days at present), so I’m pretty much isolated for most of the week.
To overcome the motivational barrier of being isolated at the moment, I’ve made adjustments to my usual, in office, working day. I’m usually a late luncher (you could call it supper in all honesty) but I’ve found that’s not feasible at the moment. Instead I’ve been breaking my days up with shorter breaks or taking an hour late morning / early afternoon for a walk, if I haven’t been for one first thing. Ultimately, I’ve found that this flexibility and regular communication with the team is what has driven my motivation so far and long may it continue.
Although I say I have minimised distractions in my home office, some are unfortunately unavoidable. I live with a free-roaming house rabbit (Missy) and ever since I’ve been working from home, she’s pretty much spent all her time in the spare room with me. She’s quite relaxed most of the time, apart from nudging my feet under the desk for strokes, mid-client call. Not cool.
Andrew, Senior Designer:
Thankfully, living with an impassioned advocate of homeworking, the concept wasn’t new in our household. For many years my wife has worked from home on a regular basis and it benefits her hugely. Our early resilience testing gave us the confidence that we could access files and work on them in exactly the same way we do at ‘work’, and we have successfully kept communication channels open within the team with WhatsApp and Google Meet.
For me, the early days were about finding out what works best; whether I am more successful working early in the day, or late into the evening; whether I do my best work in the kitchen or the garden. Ultimately I have found the added flexibility in my work schedule and routine extremely enriching. I have been inspired by the ability to change my work environment, and no-one misses commuting in rush hour traffic. As one of the more experienced (read older) members of the team I have also been experiencing the productivity advantages of the power nap!
There have been challenges, but I associate them more with the lockdown situation, rather than the practice of working from home. The lack of social interaction and community can be both a blessing and a curse, but we have countered that to a large extent using IM or just picking up the phone. These drawbacks are massively outweighed by the improvement in work-life balance, and the next challenge we face is working out how we return to the workplace, but keep these newfound benefits that have made such a difference to everyone’s life.
I’m reading: Why We Eat (Too Much) by Dr Andrew Jenkinson and Dog Training Revolution by Zak George
My new hobby: Monty, our 8-week-old Miniature Dachshund puppy, and perfecting homemade chicken stock
I have also been experiencing the productivity advantages of the power nap
Heather, Graphic Designer:
As the only member of the team living alone, I was most concerned about the thought of being trapped in my little flat by myself, so once we began working from home before the official lockdown, I headed back to Derby to be with my family.
As my dad has always worked from home part-time, he had dibs on the home office so I set up in the dining room, which has lots of natural light and space for me to spread out – let’s just say I’m not known as having the tidiest desk in the office! It’s been nice to have the opportunity to listen to trashy podcasts without judgement…and I’ve become accustomed to having homemade cake on tap. I’ve found that getting up in time to do the Joe Wicks workouts has really helped my productivity and feeling of achievement, and exercising in the morning is something I want to continue doing once we get back to ‘normal’.
In terms of client work, I’ve found that being unable to easily collaborate has been the hardest part. Although we have ways to remotely interact with each other, being in the office and constantly able to ask for others ideas and thoughts is one of the reasons we work so well as a team; I’m missing that. Plus, the neighbour’s cat isn’t as cute as our office dogs.
I’m reading: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien
My new hobby: Re-discovered how to make scoobies
Kirsty, Graphic Designer:
With collaboration being a huge part of how we work, I was intrigued to see how we could continue that working remotely. However, from the first day of lockdown we were jumping on Google Meets to figure things out. After some initial technology challenges, we were quickly set up and ready to go (I think we all owe Chris some beers on our next team night out!)
I thought my 15 minute pre-lockdown commute was small but the few steps along the hallway to my new office has challenged even that! Luckily, I was able to transform the spare room into my own BDHQ. The flexibility has also allowed me to dedicate the last part of the working day to develop new skills. I’m currently improving my knowledge on Yoast’s SEO course. Working on the design team, it is an area of the business I don’t have much involvement in usually but am enjoying learning more about.
Without a doubt getting out for exercise either during lunch or after work has helped with my productivity (I’m sure the majority will agree), and the gorgeous weather so far has been a massive positivity booster. Am I looking forward to getting back into our office environment and seeing the team? Very much so. But am I surprised how well we have adapted to remote working? definitely!
I’m reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama
My new hobby: Swingball
I was able to transform the spare room into my own BDHQ
Chris, Senior Web Developer:
When the shift to working from home was looking like a certainty, my initial thoughts were to whether we’d be able to continue to work properly. Fortunately, we managed to get the technology in place that would allow us to work remotely in the same way as normal.
I’ve adjusted to working from home quite quickly and appreciate not having to sit in traffic first thing in a morning. I find that there are times when I really want to focus on what I’m doing and removing the sometimes-noisy office environment really helps with that. I’m lucky that being a Web Developer means that I could almost work from anywhere, as long as I have my Mac and an internet connection!
The extra time at home has been quite beneficial, since I’ve got a lot of work to do around the house in preparation for the arrival of Baby Haigh, although I’m sure that so far I’ve just made more of a mess than it was before…
By far the biggest thing I’m missing is the dogs, team and the great working environment that we have. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office but also seeing how we can incorporate some changes and hold on to the improved work / life balance we’re becoming used to.
Sam, Web Developer:
Working from home full time is a new concept to me. Being the only one in the house during the day, you realise how much you like the office environment and having people around. My dog’s great but never replies to my questions. WhatsApp and video calls have kept us all talking with weekly quizzes on a Friday (I’m usually last place, I blame the questions).
I find working with the team on projects and communicating is a great motivator. Sticking to a routine has helped structure my days with a break in between for some exercise to get me out of the house. Enjoying the change of working from home but ready to get back to the office when it’s safe to do so.
I’m reading: James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes
My new hobby: Evening dog walks
So, there is a little insight into our working from home lives. It’s important to find the exciting/fun/interesting in the everyday – no matter how small. Our Browndog family remains safe and healthy, and we wish all of our clients and you the same!