Where I WFH: Ellen Kelly, Director and Co-Founder of Avant PR

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Ellen Kelly is the Director and Co-Founder of Avant PR, a Manchester-based agency that specialises in fashion, beauty and entertainment.

Here she gives us an inisght into her working-from-home arrangements...

 

Where in the house do you work?

In my living room. I live in an apartment with open plan living area and kitchen, which although is lovely and spacious, does leave me with limited options when I need a change of scene.

Paint a picture for us of the view from your window

I’m lucky to have what I class as one of the best city centre views from my window – I can see out over Ancoats, past all of the old mills to the Etihad and beyond, with the view even reaching Saddleworth Moors. I also look out over the Ancoats canal and marina; the houseboats and various wildlife that live here are always interesting to look at, and at the moment there are plenty of baby goslings and ducklings around. It’s currently a pretty busy area, as many people opt to take their daily walks around the marina, so there’s always chatter and dogs barking to be heard.

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

I normally wake up at 7am and start my day with a 15 minute meditation – I’d been trying to make this into a daily habit before the pandemic hit, and am finding it even more beneficial now, as it calms my mind and puts me into a good headspace for the day. I make a coffee in my Nespresso machine and begin working around 8am, responding to any urgent emails from clients or media, liaising with new business leads and getting important admin bits boxed off.

The rest of my working day will vary depending on which clients and campaigns I’m focusing on – at the moment, we’re launching a couple of new brands including fashion label Liena and sustainable unisex brand nu-in, so I’m spending a lot of time creating media material for them and selling the brands in to national fashion press. As a team we’ve taken part in a few webinars with key members of the fashion and beauty press, talking about how they’re working during lockdown, and it’s been interesting to hear what type of content they’re publishing at the moment, and adapting our clients’ offerings accordingly.

I usually take a break mid-morning to go for my daily walk – I’ll either pop to my local shop, Ancoats General Store, to pick up coffee or essentials if I need to, or just walk around the marina. I make a point of eating my lunch away from my desk, and spend some time reading the week’s magazines and newspapers. 

I finish the afternoon catching up on emails and planning my schedule for the next day, and try to clock off around 4.30pm, when I’ll do a Youtube workout or yoga session to wind down.

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

Obviously my Macbook Pro and iPhone are my lifelines when it comes to working from home. For keeping in touch with the team and our clients, we use a mixture of Zoom, Google Meet and Whatsapp groups. I always have to remember to dress up a bit for any Zoom calls I have in the diary! My business partner and I use a shared calendar in Outlook to co-ordinate on upcoming client calls and virtual new business meetings, as well as any deadlines or key campaign dates.

I’ve been making the most of the new and improved digital outputs from magazines such as Stylist and GQ which have adapted to fit the lockdown lifestyle – Stylist has paused printing of its magazine and instead issues are available digitally on its app, and GQ’s new weekly Happy Hour Instagram Live broadcast interviews guests from culture, style, sport and politics. It’s been interesting keeping up with how the traditional print mags are evolving during these times, and how we can adapt our ways of working to keep up.

Other than that, I’m heavily reliant on my coffee machine and my portable Sony speaker to get me through the day with some sanity!

What do you miss most about working from an office?

I miss seeing my business partner every day, and the office chat – I really took the general social nattering that we partook in throughout the day for granted, as it really does keep you going. Similarly, being able to bounce things off a team in person is such an easy way to come up with new ideas, which doesn’t quite translate as well when you’re communicating digitally.

I’m also missing being based in Manchester’s city centre, and the general bustle of working life – from being in a building full of other creative companies, to nipping out to the shops at lunch time, to the opportunities for socialising. Life has slowed down since working from home, which definitely has its perks, but I’ve always thrived in a fast paced and buzzy environment.

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

Create and stick to a schedule where possible, even if it’s just a loose one that includes things like a waking up routine, your workout and walks, chores to do around the house, and breaks during the day. I’ve found it essential to have some structure to my day, and means I can focus and be productive during work hours, without the days seeming endless whilst I’m stuck in my flat. I found a template on Pinterest that I fill in each day, and there are lots of scheduling apps you can download for your phone.

Take breaks during the day – I try to get up and walk around my flat, pop outside for some fresh air, or stretch a bit every couple of hours, because working from home isn’t always the easiest on my back and shoulders! I also think it keeps me focused and more productive. 

Mould your daily routine to what works for you. Now we’re working from home there’s the flexibility to adapt your working day a bit, so you can add in breaks, workouts, yoga etc whenever suits you best, start earlier or work later depending on your personal preference. I’m a morning person and am much more productive early on, so I’ve altered my day to cater to this.

Keep communication with your team going – whether it’s to discuss ideas, issues or just have a more general chat, maintaining a conversation keeps you connected to your colleagues and definitely keeps me sane.

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

I’m looking forward to getting back to some sort of normality, and the usual office environment is a big part of that, but it’s certainly handy knowing that we can easily work from home and that the majority of our work and communication can be done remotely. I don’t think we’d look to make any major changes with regards to regularly working from home but it’s definitely an option if and when it might be needed.

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

I think there’ll be more flexibility on employees being able to work from home, and the structure of the working week, now that companies have had to make sure their systems and setups can be adapted as such. It’ll be crucial to keep these ways of working quite flexible, in case we’re ever hit by something like this again, so that transitions are much smoother.

With social distancing looking likely to be a part of life for a while, layouts of offices will have to change – we work from island-type desk spaces so that the space is open, the team can all see each other and chat freely. We’ll have to look at a new layout to ensure we’re adequately spaced out, which will take some getting used to. There’ll also be an impact on the use of communal spaces in offices, with less hanging around and chatting in kitchens/breakout areas.

I also hope we can keep up the kindness and compassion that’s played a big part in all of my working relationships over the last few weeks – if there’s anything good to come out of this pandemic and the lockdown period, it’s that people are showing much more consideration and kindness to one another, and it would be lovely if we could all take that forward.