Where I WFH: Georgina Phillips, Co-founder & Director, The Tonic Communications

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The Tonic Communications is a Newcastle- and Nottingham-based PR agency founded by Georgina Phillips and Kelly Marshall-Hill.

Today's Where I WFH guest, Georgina, has nearly 20 years of experience in PR. She decided to strike out with business partner Kelly in order to create a transparent PR agency which valued making a positive difference and ensuring a healthy work environment for staff - defying some of the less constructive trends in the industry.

Georgina shares what she thinks about the 'new normal' - and what a workday from the home office looks like...

 

Where in the house do you work?

Because both my husband and I are working from home, I alternate between the spare room/office and downstairs on the dining room table. We try to accommodate one another - so if someone needs some quiet, private or thinking time, they can have the office!

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

The view from my window is our garden, and while we have neighbours all around us, it is a very quiet street and so really peaceful. We live on the beautiful North Tyneside coast, just 20 minutes outside of Newcastle, and although we can't quite see the sea from our window, we can see the spire of St. George's Church in Cullercoats where my husband and I were married, and which is located a stone's throw from Long Sands beach. The view brings a smile to my face.

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

I try to be strict with my 8am to 4:20pm working hours, mainly to ensure the day job doesn't spill over into family time, and to keep my focus - I work best under deadline so knowing I have only those working hours each day to get everything done, makes me more disciplined and motivated.

Naturally, client emergencies and last-minute requests mean the odd evening or weekend working, but I feel I have a good balance. I have a 16-month-old son and so I'm generally up around 6am-ish - that means I have plenty of time to get ready and mentally prepare myself for the day ahead.

I start my working day with a cuppa and my to-do list planning - making sure that all my priorities are achievable for the day and week. I always take a lunch break away from my screen, even just for 10 minutes, but no two days are ever the same!

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

Microsoft Teams has been a lifesaver over the last few months - it has been ideal for keeping on top of client meetings, handling interviews and having our team catch ups.

Our office phones are on VoIP so we've been able to easily reroute calls to our mobiles via the handy Wave Lite app. For team planning, we've also been using Asana a lot more effectively, which has proven invaluable to track the progress of client projects and successes.

What do you miss most about working from an office?

It's having the team together to bounce creative ideas off one another, knowledge-share, or just ask a quick question. What I've always loved about working in PR is the buzz - sharing great coverage results with your colleagues and camaraderie with your peers when something doesn't go to plan.

Working in isolation does stifle creativity, but video conferencing helps to overcome some of that.

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

Having a to-do list is essential for me! So be honest about what you can achieve on a daily basis, and set realistic deadlines. Some days you have a natural enthusiasm for getting the job done - you may write the best piece of content you ever have done, or come up with an award-winning campaign idea. On other days it can be completely the opposite.

The best way to stay productive is to be mindful of that, and rework your to-do list for the day based on your creativity and energy levels. I'd rather take some time to have a walk and get some fresh air to clear my mind and start afresh later that day or the next, rather than be tied to the computer forcing out work that's not up to scratch. Having some oversight on what needs to be delivered that week - and building in some flexibility - will mean your 'on' days always outweigh the 'off' ones.

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

Since coming back from maternity leave in October last year, I made the choice to make 80% of my work time home-based and I enjoy the flexibility of both options. I will definitely continue to work from home in the immediate short-term, but I am looking forward to some in-person face time with the team and my clients.

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

What has been nice about lockdown, despite the stress of juggling work and family, is the time for reflection. Many companies are realising now that they have managed to maintain professionalism and good standards while their team has been working remotely, and many employees are appreciating the extra time (and money!) they get back from not having a daily commute.

While some people are looking forward to returning to 'normal', in most instances, we're hearing that many people want a new norm - a flexible week which includes some office time and a greater proportion of home working. I think that's great - having balance is so important and COVID has taught us all that life is precious.