Where I WFH: Sal Thomas, Business Development Director, Blue Chip

David Prior's picture

In the next instalment of our Where I WFH series, we catch up with Sal Thomas, Business Development Director at Manchester-based integrated agency Blue Chip.

1. Where in the house do you work?

In the attic. A converted one, as opposed to the type with cobwebbed headless mannequins and moth-eaten wedding dresses.

2. Paint a picture for us of the view from your window

I live in a Victorian two-up-two-down, so my view is mainly of grey slate, red brick and postage-stamp yards.

It might not sound like much, but seeing the arc of a rainbow over those rooftops on a grey Mancunian day still thrills me to the core. Less so accidentally catching the guy opposite changing his pants.

3. If you have one, can you talk us through your home-working daily routine?

My working day starts at 8:30am, after a shower, a quick bout of exercise with my son, and a compulsive scroll through The Guardian website to see if anything has changed since I last compulsively scrolled through The Guardian website to see if anything had changed.

I’ll work on a number of elements of business development in any given day. From consulting on new briefs and overseeing content creation, to undertaking outreach and trying to catch up on those housekeeping things (website updates, case studies etc) that I never normally have time for.

I try and create time-boxes across the week to move different internally focussed projects forward. Easier said than done, and I invariably have a stack of Trello Cards I never move and an excel spreadsheet to which I forget to refer.

At 12:30 I’ll take a quick half-hour for lunch and find out from my husband how home-schooling has gone that morning. "Not quickly enough," is a common response.

After lunch I try to block out a couple of hours to consider the latest insight into the categories within which we work and to identify how we might be able to help both existing and prospective clients.

One of the real positives of lockdown has been that useful events which might otherwise have involved prohibitively long / expensive journeys to London have now been taken online – so I’ll try and attend at least a couple every week.

I’ll then invariably have a Microsoft Teams call or two with members of the wider team to discuss findings or bounce a few ideas around.

Come 17:00, I’ll log off and go for a quick jog to help clear my head and destroy my knees. About a kilometer in I’ll remember that I didn’t log my timesheets. Again.

Sal Thomas's home-working set-up

4. Which tools and technology do you rely on when working from home?

The kettle.

Seriously. I find that there is no conundrum that cannot be cracked without the judicious application of hot tea and the three minutes of pure reflective time you get whilst waiting for the water to boil.

5. What do you miss most about working from an office?

It’s less the office I miss and more about regularly being in the city.

Us middle-class marketing folk can have a tendency to disappear up our own fundament, but there’s nothing like a wander round the market section of the Arndale Centre to remind yourself of who you’re actually trying to appeal to.

I don’t miss the queue for the microwave, the poorly stacked dishwasher and the democratic choice of music.

6. What tips do you have for increasing productivity while working from home?

Set what you think are manageable goals for the week... and then halve them.

Humans are woefully bad at estimating what’s actually required to get a project completed (HS2 anyone?), so make your to do list shorter, and make sure it’s prioritising the important over the urgent.

And one from the teachers at my son’s school: if you need some quiet time, stick your kids in front of a movie. If you turn the subtitles on and the volume down, it’s not watching TV, it’s reading.

7. Will you looking to work from home more in the future?

Absolutely. I think so long as you can find ways to ‘top up the store cupboard’ of inspiration that you need to work in the creative industries, why not?

8. How do you think the workplace will change in the future?

That depends on how far into the future you’re looking.

I imagine at some point we’ll all have Apple Emotipads linked to our Hive Cerebral Cortex and the capability to conceptualise via 3D projections from our sphincters.

But in the meantime, I think offices will become drop-in hubs, not sacred shrines of enterprise to which we make a daily pilgrimage, and we’ll all be a lot more productive and less stressed.

Either that or people will be so desperate to get back to the status quo, workplaces will return to a socially distanced version of their former selves.