Catching Up with Creatif Staff in Isolation

The current coronavirus pandemic is of course affecting everybody, both in terms of their home and work lives. At the time of writing Creatif’s London showroom and Leeds Head Office have been closed for just over six weeks – with that in mind we decided to check in with some of our team members that have been forced into full-time remote working...

Jodie Lund, Project Consultant

As a Project Consultant you’re used to being on the move, so you must be fairly well adapted to remote working?

“Yes - being in sales, 3 of my days were previously spent in London mainly commuting to the showroom and being able to visit clients, and the other 2 were spent in the head office in Leeds. I’m used to the dodgy WiFi on the train, the delays and spending time without my colleagues whilst I was out and about. This has pushed me to ensure my time management was impeccable and I provided a good structure to my day and week that worked and was extremely productive.”

“Of course, my remote working I was used to was slightly different than working from home every day, which after a continual sustained period, like this, can be most difficult.”

Would you say the lack of a change of scenery has been one of the biggest challenges for you?

“I find working from home is great if you have lots of work to do whereby you need to concentrate like a large complicated quote. However I don’t think you can beat the office for collaborative time for idea’s with discussions on projects or new products.”

“The biggest challenge has been the limited interaction with colleagues, of course we have several Zoom meetings and plenty of phone calls, however I miss not just being able to speak to them direct. However I bet some of the team are relishing the quiet times, without me always chatting away to them!”

“I also miss the people and the breakout time. I think it’s hard to breakout from work when you are at home, I miss the 5 minutes out and to grab a coffee and chat.”

Do you think other peoples attitudes are changing as a result of so many people being required to work remotely?

“I think previously people who were sceptical about home working will now realise that it is achievable and productivity can be achieved equally at home, as in the office (sometimes often better at home). I think this will increase the amount of people home working and reduce the amount of people attending the office.”

Have there been any benefits to the extra time spent working remotely?

“Less commuting! It has been great to reduce the hours spent in the car or the train, I must have at least 18 hours less on the road than I was doing which is great. You don’t think its much at the time when you are doing it as you are so used to the routine, however This has hugely increased the work life balance I have.”

And how have you spent that extra time away from work?

“I have a horse so I have spent a lot of time with him and done a lot of training and fitness training which he required. I also have 3 dogs too so they have had plenty of exercise and training too."

Image from iOS (5)Jodie's (very well-behaved) pups.

“My house is a renovation project, so any bit and pieces I have been able to get hold of I have been using and starting to complete the house.”

And finally, your one tip for successful remote working please…

“Have plenty of breaks, it is easy to keep working and not stop and before you know it it’s the end of the day and haven’t left your desk and the past couple of hours of work haven’t been the best!”

Ben Speight, Head of Marketing

What experience did you have with remote working prior to the current pandemic?

“Well I live in South Yorkshire which is over an hours drive to our Leeds office, so I tend to work a couple of days from home in a normal week. The time I save not travelling on those days allows me to get far more done - personally I find that tasks which require concentration are better completed at home, so I usually leave those until I’m not in the office. That being said, it has taken some time to get used to working from home on a permanent basis.”

And what would you say the biggest challenge so far has been?

“Well one of the biggest challenges of working in Marketing at any time is having to constantly adapt, but obviously not usually on this scale. Recently we’ve had to make a lot of changes very quickly. For example; normally we’d be planning for Clerkenwell Design Week right about now, which of course has been postponed for obvious reasons. It’s the same with our Creatif Talks events. Reacting to all of that has been the biggest challenge.”

“And of course it goes beyond events; as a large number of projects are on hold the knock-on effect for us in the Marketing department is not being able get on-site and share those projects with the world. We’ve had to take a long, hard look at our how to continue communicating with our customers during this difficult period across all of our channels, and of course what we can do to support them. But the team here has really pulled together and I’m very pleased with how we’ve been able to adapt.”

As we’re on the topic of “adapting”, do you expect to see many changes within the workspace sector following the current pandemic?

“Of course. It will be really interesting to see how the industry reacts, however at this stage it’s impossible to predict. I think the main thing that needs to be considered is how practical solutions can be implemented, for example; I’ve always been a strong advocate for staff being permitted to choose where they want to work (where possible), and maybe now that businesses across the country have been forced into having their staff work remotely they will have more confidence to let them do it going forward – this is a practical solution as it keeps office numbers down (reducing the risk of infection spreading) and requires no setup.

How have you been spending your free time in isolation?

“I’m a huge sports fan, so naturally I’ve had to find other ways of keeping myself entertained. Walking the dog, sorting out the garden and of course generally getting on my wife’s nerves while she also works from home.”

2020-04-27 17_26_57-ben speight (@benspeight) • Instagram photos and videosBen's dog (and also now colleague), Ray.

“I quite enjoy tinkering with technology so I’ve had time to waste on a few little projects like building websites. I also built a video game console a couple of weeks ago which was fun.”

Do you have an expert tip for remote working?

“Expert might be a strong word, but the best advice I could give would be to plan your day in advance. Personally I like to spend a couple of minutes in a morning blocking out periods of time for the day ahead, including everything from work to exercise to my meals – it really helps me focus and not just lose track of time while melting into my chair.”

Aaron Surtees, Project Consultant

You tend to travel a lot, so the biggest change for you right now must be staying in one place for a change?

“Absolutely - as a travelling Project Consultant I’ve thankfully been used to flexible working times and different working environments. These include; hot-desking from customers’ offices, working on the train, in McDonalds, Costa or any other similar free Wi-Fi provider, and even from my car on occasions!”

“I’ve worked from home occasionally if ill, but my experience with remote working from home is fairly limited.”

With so many people forced to work from home, do you think employers will encourage remote working beyond the current pandemic?

“I’m sure companies will all be realising how easy it is for staff to work from home. Hopefully any negative myths out there have been dispelled and businesses are realising people can still be as productive, often more relaxed, etc.”

“It seems like future appointments may be steered towards Zoom or Skype too, rather than the old fashioned method of making a car journey to see people. I’m all for this.”

What’s the biggest benefit you’ve noticed personally over the last few weeks?

“Less distractions which has lead to increased productivity and efficiency. Also the cost saving (both personally and for the business) associated with not having to use the car and travel. But I do miss the social aspect of being in the office.”

And how have you been filling up your free time?

“Regular exercise is important for me and I try to target 1 hour walk per day. I’ve also been spending more time in the kitchen and experiment with some different foods. I’ve also been behind the BBQ now that the weather has started to improve.”

Finally, do have one tip for successful remote working?

“Keep connected with your team.”

Emma Hartley, Executive Assistant

In your role as EA, your role is primarily office based – how have you found the transition to remote working?

“Other than the odd day here and there I don’t have much experience in working remotely. My time is usually spent in our Leeds office with the occasional visit to our Clerkenwell showroom. To be honest, I hate the current situation - I need to be around people, in the office seeing people.”

So you’re not a fan then. What have some of the biggest challenges been for you?

“I like to keep work and personal space separate, and that has obviously been difficult. Communication is probably the biggest overall challenge – it’s a lot easier to ask questions when you’re in the office. As I said, I also miss the office banter a lot.”

There must be some positives you’ve noticed?

“Of course – time being the main one. I have a lot more now there is no travel. I have a lot more time to cook, house work etc. Plus, it takes me 10 minutes from getting out of bed to the laptop. Granted I might not always look my best…”

“Away from work I’ve kept my time filled up with daily walks, plenty of cooking, yoga, some home improvements and even some LEGO building.”

So what do you think will “normal” look like when the current pandemic is over? Do you anticipate there will be a lot of change?

“It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot in the last week or two. In terms of office design I think more wipe-able surfaces, more space in the office, less things to touch, maybe more automatic doors, more technology to help us have less contact with things – solutions to help limit unnecessary interaction and improve people’s health within the workspace.”

“I think people will have to be a lot more flexible now too - I imagine more people will work from home and split thee time more evenly between the office and home. Hopefully this will mean less meetings and more video calls.”

Give us your one tip for successful remote working…

“Keep a routine, try and keep a space separate for working to personal life. It is also easy to hardly get out of your seat, so make sure you take time to get up and have a walk about and get some fresh air.”

Otto the tortoise enjoying the sun in Emma's back garden recently.

Nick Waite, Interior Design Consultant

With the majority of your time spent working from our London showroom, did you have much prior experience with remote working?

“It was sporadic – would work from home when I had appointments outside of London. As you say, my office was the showroom so I commuted to London every day until the start of the pandemic. It was a novelty to work at home, so I really enjoyed it.”

And how about now, have your views changed?

“I have found prolonged working from home just as productive and we have established a successful Zoom meeting approach. Sharing documents etc has helped. I think working from home can become a bigger part of our working landscape at Creatif.”

Remote working obviously presents challenges. What has been the biggest for you so far?

“You have to keep the motivation levels up or you can drift. Little things like not having a printer or copier has been a pain. And not having the full team available due to furlough means some questions are more difficult to answer than usual. My physical activity levels have dropped considerably.”

Other than the lack of printer, what would you say you’re missing most about the showroom?

“My colleague, Kirsty – our Showroom Manager. I really miss the face-to-face interaction. Oh, and the coffee machine, obviously!”

And on the flipside, the biggest benefit you’ve noticed to working remotely?

“Easy! Less travel! It means more sleep and has allowed me to take some nice early-morning dog walks with Oscar. And of course, a more relaxed dress code has been nice… I’ve even been working on my “coronabeard” while in isolation!”

Before vs. After the infamous "coronabeard".

Timi Odeyemi, Project Consultant

As a Project Consultant, the concept of remote working must not be unfamiliar to you?

“For me, a couple of days a week would involve desk working which is usually done remotely.”

How have you found the transition to remote working being full time?

“I am certainly impressed if not a bit surprised at how fluidly people have adapted to remote working. It is interesting to note that people are capable of being very productive when left to work in their respective homes. A number of avenues of communication which were fairly sparse prior to Covid-19 (such as Zoom meetings to discuss ongoing and prospective projects, team huddles, etc) are now commonplace and would drastically reduce the need to meet in person – at least not as frequently.”

“However, there is no replacement for true interaction. The ability to come together and bounce ideas back and forth, visit sites, have a variety of environmental interactions and the like cannot be replaced.”

And would you say that lack of human interaction has been your biggest challenge?

“Probably, yes. I’ve struggled with the monotonous nature of working indoors solely. A normal day would’ve involved visits to a number of client offices, project sites and a dynamism which I sorely miss. Furthermore, key parts of my role include conducting site surveys, showing clients product samples and sitting around a GA bouncing ideas back and forth, showroom tours and CPD sessions. This side of things highlights the limitation of video conferencing platforms.”

“Ultimately, I miss the interaction and camaraderie with my colleagues and clients, and the sheer dynamism of the standard work day. “

What about the benefits of working remotely?

“A key benefit I’ve noticed whilst working remotely is my ability to concentrate. I’m the sort of person that requires some level of isolation and silence to get desk work done effectively. In this respect it has been great.”

“My working area is also specifically tailored to me. I have my setup exactly how I want it and feel at ease with the environment.”

Talking of environments, do you think the workspace as we know it will change once we’re all allowed back in?

“It is very likely that there would be new products more suited to the current climate – working areas that incorporate social distancing better, improved hygiene standards through the use of anti-microbial materials such as copper in the manufacture of high touch surfaces, hygiene stations and more stringent hygiene practices.”

“Another possible outcome of this is that there would likely be a stronger move towards more flexible working now that it has been tested and trusted so-to-speak. However, I am conscious of the fact that we are in uncharted territory with Coronavirus. This means that changes may well be effected, but then subsequently relaxed upon release of a vaccine. It’s all speculative at this stage.”

How have you been staying entertained and healthy while indoors?

“I’ve taken up a daily workout routine (eliminating commute time has given me a couple of spare hours). Online games with friends on an evening, reading, household chores that I would usually have procrastinated on… The usual.”

And what is your one tip for successful remote working?

“Get the best Wi-Fi package you can find!”

If you'd like to discuss anything with the team, please get in touch.