First anniversary of WFH

A collection of personal coping techniques for working from home and resources for virtual productivity and collaboration.

Tips for being productive and inclusive virtually

This week is the first anniversary of starting to work from home full-time. Many of those of us who have office-based roles will be in the same boat.

I marked the anniversary on social media this week to a very mixed response.

Some friends have settled in and prefer not having to commute; others are desperately missing the society of working in an office.

One asked me what I’d learnt that was making it work for me. And I’ve been reflecting on that point.

Physical support

The organisation that I’ve been working for over the last 18 months was already well advanced in terms of supplying everyone with good mobile kit, good remote connectivity, and good video-conferencing.

The other benefit is a remarkably well-used Yammer presence which offers work social networking and a wide variety of staff networks and interest and support groups. I’ve rarely seen the like of it – these things usually fester unloved in a corner.

But, on top of that, they were very quick to organise ancillary screens and kit and even office chairs for delivery to home addresses. Latterly, they’ve also offered a contribution towards tables that we’ve bought ourselves.

Having the right set-up makes a difference.

Moral and financial support

But more than that they were also extremely quick to acknowledge that homeschooling and caring responsibilities meant that people would have limited capacity. So they asked people to work out what they could manage in terms of hours and replanned organisational priorities – while keeping everyone at full pay. The impact on wellbeing, engagement, and discretionary effort is incalculable.

I don’t have any caring responsibilities myself but even so felt the benefit of working for an organisation taking such a progressive stance.

Social support

Colleagues have been similarly quick to step up and offer peer-to-peer contact.

One is running a series of virtual 15-minute show and tell sessions – there are usually a couple of week from different contributors of the most ecelectic and fascinating range of topics.

Another is organising a kind of coffee roulette – she draws names out of a virtual hat every week and you meet for a 10-minute chat to talk anything but shop. She says it’s designed to replicate the kind of incidental contact that you have in the office kitchenettes.

Contact time with line managers has increased – one colleague told me that she now had more regular 121s than before because her manager works in a different office and they used to wait until they could meet face-to-face.

Health & Wellbeing

The organisation has also put a heavy focus on health and wellbeing with all kinds of outside experts running short video sessions on physical, mental, financial, nutritional and relationship wellbeing.

I particularly valued a six-week course on resilience techniques, and picked up all sorts of tips.

Making us more productive and inclusive

My own contribution has been in helping people to understand how to make technology work for them through better meeting practices and better asynchronous collaboration. I’ve added a whole list of resources at the bottom of this post.

Colleagues have also been running 15-minute sessions on personal lean techniques – my two personal biggest takeouts have been the Pomodoro Technique and the ‘second brain’.

Sharing what works for us

We’ve also been taking turns in sharing what we’ve been learning and what’s working for us. Here’s my contribution last summer:

Resources: being inclusive and productive virtually

An excerpt from what’s working for me personally

Quality time – quality of life
I’m loving the extra three hours a day gained by cutting out my (fairly average) commute. I only live in Coventry, but by the time I’ve walked to the station, waited for the standing-room-only train, and got to New St, it’s an hour and a half each way.

I’m also having an actual lunch break every day – saving an incredible amount of money by eating lunch at home and eating better lunches. I realised that (because I’m lazy about packed lunches) I was spending about a tenner a day on grab and go lunches from Grand Central. Now I mostly have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, or a quick omelette or lentil pouch.

I’ve dramatically cut down my caffeine intake – to one single freshly-ground cup of coffee each morning. So much better for my wellbeing and it’s turned that cup into a treat that I often take out to the garden for a moment of decompression. (I’ve also cut right down on alcohol because daily evening aperos and nibbles were featuring a bit too heavily in April and May!)

In the extra time that we’ve gained in the mornings I’ve started Yoga with Adriene and I’ve become an enormous fan – I like her relaxed and compassionate style. It’s yoga for every body (which is just as well!). Over the summer I’ve often popped out after breakfast to do a bit veg harvesting – we’ve made a real effort to grow lots this year – my partner has done amazing things in germinating some extremely old seeds left over from our allotmenteering days.

In the evenings I’m cooking proper meals again – and a far greater variety (except when we’ve had to use up various garden gluts). I’d fallen into a time-pressured rut of a few boring, but quick and easy, standards.

We’ve started a Sunday Walk club with two close friends and neighbours – we’ve now covered the whole of the Coventry Way and most of the Coventry Way circular walks. And we’re all now investing in winter walking gear so we can carry on as the weather turns. Having a fixed social point in the week has made a big difference, we finish each walk with cake and tea and have a snack halfway – and it’s even replaced our Saturday night Zoom Pub calls from earlier in lockdown.

Virtual Productivity
Workwise, having a routine has also been key – daily huddles with the internal comms team, and frequent catch ups with my Sixth Gear team mates.

I’ve also found a lot of the Lean15 techniques valuable for productivity – a special mention for time blocking and pomodoro technique, and my ‘second brain’ that I’ve started in One Note and refer to daily.

Each morning I set up my work station on the dining room table, check my inbox and Yammer, and then fill in the IC Huddle board before our meeting, and each evening I update my ‘second brain’ and do my What Went Well listing before packing my work station away again. Getting these routines in place has been crucial.

Also, I’ve learnt a huge amount about making teams and meetings productive and inclusive virtually, including using Liberating Structures and other exercises – and this knowledge has really meant that I’ve been able to be as efficient and productive as I would be in the office. In fact, possibly even more so, because it’s now much easier to block out focus time and get my head down.

That said, I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have the necessary counter-balance of Yammer, Tiny Talks, Gilda’s coffee meetings (I’ve met people that I’ve never met in the office), and the Corporate Enablers huddles and socials (special mention for Through the Keyhole).



Blogging about: How To Find Your Ikigai And Transform Your Outlook On Life And Business

Listening to all the former colleagues and current contacts who’ve been kind enough to speak to me so far has prompted me to have a think about what I want – rather than just which roles I could potentially be placed in.

No-one has mentioned Ikigai – but the conversations so far have brought it to mind. I think I saw it first last year when Rich Baker posted something about it on LinkedIn.

With no direct English translation, it’s a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living.

I’m a sucker for a visual aide to thinking – especially if I can sketch it myself with sharpies on huge sheets of paper – but I’ve quickly realised that I need input from people who aren’t me.

I’d be grateful if you can help me to validate/ add to these lists:

Things I love
(I know that I should really be able to fill this one in by myself –
but sometimes I forget things)
Family and friends
Food (cooking, eating, watching TV about, Slimming World)
Reading and books
Running (and walking)
Travel (especially in Europe – and by train)
Rupaul’s Drag Race
Social Media
Organising/ planning/ writing lists
Learning new things
Things I am good at
(I might have been a bit too inside the box here –
what would you put on a list?)
Writing (copy editing/ subbing)
Organising/ planning/ writing lists
Social Media
Events (planning/ organising/ delivering)
Leading (teams)
Developing (teams)
Sharing enthusiasm
Getting to grips with a lot of information quickly
Explaining things
Empathy (putting myself in other people’s shoes)
Getting to the point
What I think the world needs
(Tell me I haven’t forgotten anything that you know I care about)
Less poverty
Less hunger
More equality (gender / LGBT+)
No homelessness
Toilets and sanitary-ware for all
No Brexit
Less Trump
More education
Social justice
No torture – more human rights
Animal protection
Employee Engagement
Trade unions
Less exclamation marks
Things I can be paid for
(Now then folks – keep it kind –
and again I think I’ve probably been a bit narrow with this)
Writing and editing
Comms planning
Employee engagement
Change communications
Internal comms
IC team set-up/ team development

Thank you – once I’ve got your input I will make a beautiful Venn diagram and use it to guide me.

Craven Crusts: grab a slice of the community bakery, café and artspace

I’m so proud of Himself.  Not for putting his money where his mouth is or for being a quietly enthusiastic supporter and advocate for something he is passionate about, although he has and he is, but for rolling up his sleeves and pitching in.

Over the last few months he’s been working his socks off as part of a team of people who are trying to reopen a 110 year old local bakery for the community as an artisan bakery with bread baked on the premises, a comfortable and affordable community café and an art space.

Continue reading “Craven Crusts: grab a slice of the community bakery, café and artspace”

Death Row Dinners

We enjoyed a hangover-salving Sunday lunch at The Red Lion in Hunningham yesterday. I always enjoy eating there. There’s very little room for improvement in my book. Which leads me to the Death Row Dinners cards on each table – main function: to ask for feedback – subsidiary function: prize draw to win your own personal death row dinner.

This was far too big a decision to be rushed. And far too big a decision to make with a hangover.

Fortunately I’ve got all week to think about it because I’m planning to take my sister and bro-in-law there next weekend. What? They’ll love it.

So, preliminary thoughts for shortlisting…

Continue reading “Death Row Dinners”

Why Doesn’t Essex have a Destination Food Festival?

Inspired by this weekend’s visit to Ludlow Food Festival (which was brilliant), I was thinking that (my native) Essex should have a destination festival at least as big.  There’s enough quality food.  The countryside is just as beautiful, but in a different way.  It’s very accessible.  What’s stopping it?

Off the top of my head it should include:


Tiptree Jam
Tiptree Jam

  • Tiptree Jam
  • Maldon Salt
  • Leigh Cockles
  • Rossi’s Icecream
  • Kelly’s Turkeys
  • Mighty Oak Brewery
  • Crouch Vale Brewery
  • New Hall Vinyards
  • Burnham Mustard
  • Marriage’s Millers
  • Richard Haward Oysters
  • Jamie Oliver
  • Daniel Clifford
  • The Sun, Dedham
What am I missing?  People, location, produce, chefs, restaurateurs?  An existing festival or festivals that already hit the mark?  Let’s create it, at least in theory.  And once the theory is there…

Charlotte G’s Malteser Cake

  • Box or large bag of maltesers
  • 12 crushed digestive biscuits
  • 4oz (125g) margarine
  • 1 tbsp syrup
  • 6oz (175g) chocolate
  • Topping – 11oz (325g) chocolate
  1. Melt the margerine, syrup and chocolate
  2. Add malesers and digestives
  3. Press mixture into a tray/dish
  4. Allow to cool
  5. Topping – Melt the chocolate and cover the base
  6. Allow to set in the fridge
  7. Remove from fridge so that chocolate is not too hard, then slice.

A recipe to mark the start of my new hardcore diet!

Look at Me Being an Opinion Leader!

Someone has contacted me to ask me to encourage you to take part in a survey.  They say:

The study involves learning more about parents’ attitudes towards child nutrition, obesity and food choices offered to children at school.

This blog has been selected based on the overall content of your postings and the comments posted by your readers – so your readers’ participation would be very important. The survey findings will allow us to learn more about parents’ attitudes towards these important topics.

I’m quite excited by this!  Not since the Evening Standard contacted me in desperation has my help been sought…

My problem is that:

  1. the survey that they want you to fill in seems to relate to the American market
  2. it’s for a potato products manufacturer and although the intention seems unbiased I’m not sure

But, hey, it’s up to you: Kids & Food: What do You Think?  I’ve had a quick bimble through and if I qualified to fill it in then I would do (no kids so I can’t).

Not wishing to lead the jury, but I know what my response would be….  homemade packed lunches full of pretentious yummy mummy organics, no to school dinners until I can be sure that chips, mini pizzas, ‘chicken’ nuggets (or any kind of non free-range chicken) etc. are not on the menu.

Further than that:

  1. school dinner menus should be published a week in advance to help prevent clashes with home cooking (like they do in France)
  2. schools should not be allowed to purchase from food services companies such as brakes bros. etc.
  3. potatos would not count as a vegetable choice

However, I don’t think I’d go as far as banning jacket potatoes and am relieved to see that that this story was rubbish.

Although all of this is based on personal prejudice it’s not from a position of complete ignorance, my mum was a primary school bursar who had to outsource and then re-house school dinners and Himself works in the food service industry.

Autumn TV Scheduling – Wayhay

It’s time to bring out the cocoa, draught excluder, big slipper and blankets and settle down into the darkening nights and Autumn TV schedule.  Loving it!

(Especially as I have just started a diet and sworn off drinking for a bit – what’s left for a girl to enjoy?!)

What indeed!

Lost in Austen
Lost in Austen

The Restaurant
The Restaurant

The Hairy Bikers
The Hairy Bikers

And, thanks to the local CEX all the cheap back issues of DVDs my little heart could desire.