Working from home – Brighton’s Story



Working from home – let us celebrate the best bits of remote working.

It seems a long time ago that I started planning this article. Originally, I had planned to theme my February article on returning to physical workspaces and integrating the best of our work from home culture into ‘the new new normal’ (you may be able to tell I’m still looking for an official name). Alas, we’re currently in a national lockdown and there are challenges that must be overcome before office life comes back.

The UK was told by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ‘start working from home’ on 16th March 2020. Since then, there has been a massive expansion in the number of people experiencing the benefits and grievances of remote work. The end of this national lockdown may be ‘a long, long, long way’ (Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 2021) away, so it seems like we’re in for another few months of working from home.

In this article, I’ll be giving you an insight into how a variety of members from our Brighton community have made the most of this change and overcome challenges. I hope by reading some of these experiences, you’ll find some helpful tips and feel empowered through the rest of lockdown.

A Brighter Brighton?

Some would argue that working from home (wfh) has given us more flexibility and the power to create a better work-life balance. Although this isn’t true for everyone, here’s a story that I hope will influence you over the next few weeks to get the most from wfh.

I spoke with Jeremy Horne (Director of Datacove and a Co-Founder of BrightonR) about his experiences over the last few months; his highlight was heart-warming – ‘the ability to sit down and eat lunch with my family every day’. Jeremy dedicates the middle of his day to go out for a walk, have lunch with his family or play some games with his son. He’s found that starting a little earlier (08:00-11:30), finishing a little later (14:00-18:00) and not allowing people to book meetings over lunchtime (which is for lunch and not for meetings) means that everyone in his family gets something out of the day.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, wfh shouldn’t mean you’re stuck in a little room, locked away from everyone. Jeremy explained to me that he likes working in an open room, but at home this is the same room his children play in, which sometimes gives ‘that sense of buzz you’d get from an open plan office’.  Although an arrangement like this can make it hard to stay focused when children demand your attention, Jeremy’s solution is to take himself off to another room when he needs some quiet reflection time to complete a task. Being dynamic with the space in your home will help you get the most out of wfh – as long as everyone knows to leave you to it when you’re in your ‘little room’!

Staying organised and switching off!

Jasi Haefeli and Eloise Scoley, the Co-founders of Squash & Coriander (a local digital marketing agency) explained to me how challenging some aspects of wfh initially was for them. They gave some great advice for others in a similar position to them, to begin overcoming some of the ‘growing pains’ of wfh.

Eloise and Jasi both highlighted that staying organised really boosts productivity. Organisation is one of the challenges you must overcome if you’re living in a small space (or even a bigger space with competition for desks). Clear your desk space before you start work each day and try to separate work from other parts of your routine by keeping things tidy.

Make the most out of your workspace! One of Eloise’s top tips is to get some natural light, find some music that gets you into your flow, and have a snack on hand (but remember to keep liquids away from electronics – RIP the Apple Magic Keyboard!). Having a few plants dotted about can really tie your workspace together. 

A challenge that many of us have faced is knowing when to ‘switch off’. How many times have you told yourself ‘just one more email’, ‘this’ll only take another 5 minutes’ or something similar? Jasi’s advice is to give yourself something to look forward to after work, to make sure you switch off on time. She does this by arranging calls with her family, playing online games with her friends on her Nintendo Switch or dedicating an evening to a book and a few cups of tea. Give yourself a break when you feel like you need to ‘it’s more challenging for everyone at the moment and it’s okay to take a moment for yourself’.

Starting a new role and virtual sweating?

Oskar Holm (Senior Data Scientist at Tillo and the Organiser of Brighton Data Forum) joined Tillo earlier this year so his role has been fully remote so far. He described his wfh experience as both ‘quick’ and ‘long’ as he gradually overcomes the challenges of his home office (a converted ‘storage room with the spottiest wifi in the house’).

So, what’s Oskar’s advice for working from home?

·       Invest in a standing desk (or see if you can collect one from the office).

·       Make the most of your pet (if you have one). They probably love that you’re working from home right now.

·       Do more meetings than normal, talking to people and being seen counts, and it will make you feel more integrated with the people your work with.

In the last week of January, Oskar joined some of his Tillo colleagues for a virtual sweaty HIIT session with retired MMA fighter – Sol Gilbert. Personally, I think this is a great way to spend a lunch break just as long as it’s not every day.

Pyjamas or office clothes?

Pyjamas are one of the highlights of wfh, right? Personally, I’ve not joined team pyjama or tried the famous suit and shorts combo but a few of the people I talked to had (you’ll have to guess who has and hasn’t). While working on the sofa, or in bed with pyjamas might sound dreamy (especially during the chilly few weeks we’ve had recently) it’s not a healthy habit to get into.

Jeremy’s advice is to avoid getting out of bed and going straight to your workspace. Make time to have a shower, put on some clothes that make you feel comfortable (but able to focus), then grab a coffee and some breakfast before opening emails. I’d like to note that other beverages are available – such as Bird & Blend’s current ChariTEA which is not only delicious but donates all profits from this blend to Mind Manchester.

So what advice should you take forward?

·       Do your best to support others and stay connected. Eloise and Jasi often call each other when they’re feeling down and have a quick dancing break to Love Shack by the B-52’s. Give this one a try!

·       Take back that sacred lunch break like Jeremy, to make time for fun with others in your life. Even if you live on your own, try having a virtual lunch with someone – it might inspire you to try a new recipe.

·        If you often have meetings over lunch, avoid booking new meetings between 12pm and 2pm or at least give others the option to have the meeting at another time.

·       Prepare your lunch ahead of time to have a more relaxing lunch break. Eloise mentioned that meal prepping can help it feel like you aren’t always on the go.

·       Spend time with your teammates (in a safe and legal way). I’m not suggesting that company HIIT workouts should be implemented across Brighton but engaging in activities together that aren’t just meetings will help us all enjoy wfh.

·       Upgrade your equipment if you (or your company) can afford it. It could be the right time to get a laptop stand, a second screen or even a footrest. If you own a business, ask your staff if they need anything, my wfh experience was transformed when I collected all of my accessories from work.

·       Brighton is a wonderful place to live and work. Use this as a chance to explore Brighton further, try a new walk every couple of days. Getting outside is great for your health and can help you think of new solutions without staring at a screen!