Where I WFH: Stefanie Hopkins, founder/MD of Faith PR
Stefanie Hopkins is the founder and managing director of Faith PR.
The Brighouse-based PR agency works with the likes of Approved Food, Thornton & Ross, Twisted Automotive and World Kinect Energy Services.
Here she gives us an insight into how she works from home.
1. Where in the house do you work?
On the ‘stage’, a slightly raised area in our lounge that has its own little bureau desk. My husband had to fashion a shelf out of an old piece of wood for me to rest my keyboard and mouse on though as it’s not big enough otherwise!
It’s the only place in the house I can get decent wi-fi and some relative peace and quiet. The kitchen has been taken over for home schooling and homework and my former home office is now the kids’ playroom.
2. Paint a picture for us of the view from your window
I can see our front garden; the lawn, trees on the perimeter and at the moment, there are some lovely peonies in bloom. Occasionally the resident squirrel nips across the lawn. The only downside is that the sun moves to the other side of the house in the afternoon so it can feel quite chilly.
3. If you have one, can you talk us through your home-working daily routine?
It’s not vastly different, just without the stress of the school run and getting everyone out of the house on time.
We have a daily team check-in call at 9.30am where we go through that day’s tasks and have a bit of a general catch-up. Then the day is taken up with client Zoom meetings and calls with work in between.
I wish I could say I have a proper lunch hour (lead by example and all that) but I usually have time for a quick 10-minute break then it’s back to it.
The day is interspersed with my two children wandering in for various ‘urgent’ things, like requesting more screen time – oblivious to the fact I’m on a client call.
I’m lucky that my husband has been able to take on most of the home-schooling, allowing me to concentrate on the business.
I try to finish around 5.30-6pm and go for a run but usually end up logging back on to finish ‘bits’ off which invariably can be another hour or so.
4. Which tools and technology do you rely on when working from home?
Our server is cloud-based and in addition to that we are using Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Monday.com, while WhatsApp is perfect for more informal chats and sharing memes.
We had a good test run working from home earlier in the year when we were flooded out of our offices for two weeks by Storm Ciara, so when we had to close the office for lockdown, we knew it would work smoothly.
5. What do you miss most about working from an office?
The office banter, seeing people face-to-face and the many cups of tea I have made for me! And also the ideas that come out of shared and instant experience. I really miss the creativity that springs from spontaneous meetings and random chats.
On the whole, I also miss the routine and getting out of the house – it helps differentiate work life from home life.
6. What tips do you have for increasing productivity while working from home?
Ensure the children don’t interrupt!
On a more serious note, just the sensible things such as taking regular breaks and putting your phone out of reach so you’re not tempted to check social media or get distracted.
It helps to stick as closely to your usual routine as you can – so if you’re used to having elevenses in the office then do the same at home. Try to have a proper lunch hour (ahem) and take regular breaks.
Having a dedicated workspace is beneficial; it helps you to remain focused. Some people – usually those who’ve never done it – picture working from home as sitting in bed with your laptop with daytime TV playing in the background. The reality is that having a separate place to work will help you differentiate between your home and work life. We all need a ‘commute’ from one area of the house to another when we’re finished for the day.
7. Will you looking to work from home more in the future?
Our office is not far from home so I never had a big commute to contend with, which I think is a key reason to increase home working but it can’t compensate for what’s lost in creativity.
I occasionally worked from home previously when I needed to get my head down and concentrate on a proposal or other big job so imagine I will continue to do so (as long as the children are able to go back to school. Otherwise the relative peace and quiet of the office is very tempting!)
But WFH completely is too impersonal for me, it needs to be balanced with being in the office around people. The value of human interaction day to day can’t be replicated working remotely and research shows that what remote workers gain in productivity, they often miss in harder-to-measure benefits like creativity and innovative thinking.
8. How do you think the workplace will change in the future?
In general, I can see flexible and remote working being adapted by more businesses across the board, which will surely result in smaller offices. We had already introduced a flexible working model at Faith last year which has worked well for us so I hope larger businesses will also see the benefits.
Our industry, though, is fundamentally a people-business that needs individual human engagement. A PR agency’s team culture can’t be fully replicated remotely.
Sure, some elements of camaraderie, banter and fun can be replicated virtually but others such as speed, creativity, client engagement, employee wellbeing and training need human interaction to work. Emotional intelligence isn’t easily learned over a screen!
I feel the lack of on-the-job interaction, guidance and the social benefits of working in an office environment are likely to prevent any radical shifts towards working from home indefinitely but I can definitely see the team working from home more often than they may have done previously.