Where I WFH: Darren Ratcliff, founder of Digitl

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Darren Ratcliffe is the founder of Manchester-based eCommerce agency Digitl, which works with the likes of eBay, Shopify and the Department for International Trade.

Here he gives us an insight into his work from home set-up.

1. Where in the house do you work?

I’ve set up my home office in my conservatory and it’s working really well. It means I have a bit of separation from the main house and the kids who are, of course, at home too! I've got everything set up exactly the same way as my desk in the office so it really has been business as usual. I'm a creature of habit so pretty much everything is in the same place so I don't get distracted. I work best with structure and routine, so I’ve ensured my space is just as I want it for maximum productivity!

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

Luckily, I get to sit and look at my garden which is looking great at the moment. A few years ago, I decided to dig a pond out which is now established and it’s become a bit of an oasis. I've also started to feed the birds (don’t tell anyone!) so it's quite relaxing to sometimes take a break, to sit and to watch them come and get some bread, drink from the pond and take off again. It’s a bit of a cliché but the lockdown really has made me slow down and appreciate my own environment much more. It’s been good for my head and, in turn, how I approach my work. I’m determined for this mindset to continue as lockdown eases over the coming months.

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

I'm trying to get back into running, so I start off with a jog or long walk before the kids get up. After breakfast, I work through our live projects and respond to any messages that have come in from clients overnight. We then do a team update on Zoom to start planning our day out. I’ve made sure that we all stick to this routine as starting the day in the right way ensures the rest of it flows. I quickly learned that remote working is seamless if it’s structured, but it also requires a certain level of trust so the whole team feels empowered.

The day ends with a few client updates and at around 4pm I sign off. I do often work in the evenings, but that tends to be for developing Digitl’s new business and marketing strategies rather than working on projects. I'll also do some work for my commitments with Trust Oldham and Oldham Athletic.

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

I have the same Mac at home as I do in the office, and I've got it set up with two monitors. I've done this for years and I tend to have my project management stuff open on one screen, and what I am working on across the other. It's really handy when you're on Zoom as you can have that on a full screen and update things on the other. If this crisis had happened a few years ago then it would have been much more challenging, but the technology we have has made a massive difference.

Darren has set up his home office in exactly the same way as his company office

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

I really miss the Northern Quarter - it's one of my favourite parts of the world. I've been doing the occasional day from the office so I’ve been getting my fix. That part of the city is so alive with culture, diversity and creativity. I thrive off of it so it’s been a wrench. I can’t wait for the buzz to return. I've also appreciated just how nice our office is - we've really made it our own over the past few months.

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

One thing I have learned is to put my phone on airplane mode when I’m using Zoom - that way it doesn't ring, and WhatsApp doesn't keep pinging - I find it really annoying and distracting.  There's also been a huge rise in clients texting out of hours - which is fine, but I've tried to not get dragged into working 20-hour days! It would be easy to fall into that trap, but you’ve got to manage the work/life balance carefully as family life, and having downtime is now more important than ever!

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

I’ll carry on working from home for one or two days a week. I don't miss the commute at all and I can use that extra time for cooking with the kids or getting a bit of extra work done. Like I said, if I can take anything positive away from this then it’ll be just how critical having a balance in life is. Business is vital but maintaining physical and mental health, relationships and family are even more important. Every aspect of life feeds into the other, so I’m determined to keep this approach in place as I know both my professional and personal lives will benefit.

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

Our office will permanently change. Our team have all enjoyed working from home more and we've taken the decision to move to remote working forever. We've actually put the office up for rent, and we'll be split between homeworking and from a co-working space. I'm really excited about this new direction, as it’ll allow me to work and travel at the same time. Clients don’t care where you are as long as you deliver. It’s the quality of work that matters, not where you’re sat!