Where I WFH: Charlotte Nichols, Managing Director, Harvey & Hugo
Darlington's Harvey & Hugo works in PR, content and social media marketing - and was founded by Charlotte Nichols in 2009.
She leads a small team and between them they serve a range of North Eastern clients and those from further afield, at the firm named after two dogs, Harvey and Hugo. Industries covered include professional services, food and hospitality, education, leisure and more.
Having moved to home-working with the rest of the Harvey & Hugo 'Pack' for the COVID-19 crisis, we found out what Charlotte's WFH set-up is like, and how it's slotted in with her lifestyle.
Where in the house do you work?
I don’t have a designated office, so I like to mix it up a bit. I work from the living room first thing, as I can watch the sun rise from where I sit. Later, I move upstairs to my bedroom and work while standing up using a chest of drawers for a desk - it’s not very glamourous, but it’s good for my back.
In the afternoon, I move to the dining room for a sit down at the table, before moving back to the living room in the evening.
Paint a picture for us of the view from your window.
My house is nestled in a beautiful Weardale valley, with hills to either side and lots of fields. My view stretches for miles, with lots of green fields dotted with farmhouses, hundreds of sheep and some woodland in the distance. Closer to home, our neighbours have horses and I often find myself getting distracted by them.
If you have one, can you talk us through your home-working daily routine?
I have an 18-month-old daughter who isn’t back at nursery yet, so I work in two-hour shifts with my husband.
A typical day at the moment involves a 5am start, which works for me; I’m an early bird and often work best at this time, so I save my deep thinking tasks, such as strategy-writing, planning or checking work for between 5am and 8am.
Between 8am and 10am, I’m on Mummy duty, which will generally involve a walk, a trip to the park - and lots of snacks! Then, from 10am to 12pm, it is back to work, where I check in with the team, catch up on emails and have some Zoom meetings.
I stop for lunch any time between 12pm and 2pm, during which I combine a quick family lunch with checking emails, news and social media from my phone while my daughter naps.
In the afternoon, I’ll often have meetings (generally virtual) between 2pm and 4pm, and then I spend a few hours with the family, having tea, catching up on The Clangers and doing the whole bedtime routine, before fitting in another couple of hours work between 7pm and 9pm.
Once work is over, I’ll take an hour to myself to go for a walk, do some exercise or read, before heading to bed at 10pm.
Which tools and technology do you rely on when working from home?
I would be lost without my Microsoft Surface laptop; it’s really easy to just pick it up and work from anywhere, which really helps with creativity and getting ideas written down whenever I’m inspired.
I also find I’m able to a lot of work from my Samsung smartphone, which is great for catching a quick moment to check the news, or post on social while my daughter’s occupied.
In terms of working with clients and the rest of the team, we use a variety of software, including Teams, Zoom, Trello and WhatsApp groups - we’re lucky that there are so many ways of keeping in touch nowadays, it’s been a real help since working from home.
What do you miss most about working from an office?
Most of all, I miss The Pack, as the Harvey & Hugo team are known, and our fun chats - there was never a dull moment in the office!
Our former office in Business Central had one of the best views in Darlington, and I do miss watching the lovely sunrises and sunsets over the town centre and the surrounding hills.
And as someone who has about 10 hot drinks a day, I’m really struggling without the instant boiling water from the work kitchen – I never realised how much time it saved me!
What tips do you have for increasing productivity while working from home?
I've found that we’re all so much more productive without the constant distraction of each other’s phones ringing, and getting caught up in office chat.
Surprisingly, I’ve actually found working in two-hour sprints really productive, as it focuses the mind and I know I have set deadlines to finish certain tasks and meetings.
My parents have started coming round on some days to help with childcare and, conversely, I’m often not as productive when I’ve got a full day to fill!
I love the reduced travel, and I find I’m able to squeeze more work into the day, rather than wasting it sitting in traffic.
It’s really productive working flexibly outside the 9-to-5, as it means the phone rarely rings and emails are quieter.
Will you look to work from home more in the future?
Definitely - we’ve actually given notice on our office to work permanently from home. Everyone was happier, more productive and saving money, with more time for family life - so it made perfect sense.
The Pack are still meeting regularly to collaborate, and we use Teams twice a day to check in and have our general chats, but this is now limited to two ten-minute sessions a day, rather than scattered throughout the day and interrupting our deep thinking time.
I must admit, if someone had told me this time last year that we’d all be working from home, I wouldn’t have believed them; it was never my intention, as we all loved working from the office so much.
However, we’ll keep reviewing the situation, and if things change we may get another office next year - but for now, it works.
Once the pandemic calms down, we’re planning on working from anywhere, not just from home – I can’t wait to tour the UK and beyond with The Pack!
How do you think the workplace will change in the future?
I think it'll be a mix of WFH and using an office, and so I believe that business centres will need to adapt to be used more as collaboration centres than permanent offices. It will definitely drive forward the digital office - people won’t need the clunky office furniture they once had, such as filing cabinets, files, shelving and large photocopiers, and we’ll be less reliant on paper.
In our office, we had all of those things, despite mainly filing everything digitally - the last few months have made me realise we don’t need them, so now we’re paperless, which is much better for the environment.
We’ve seen what technology is capable of, and I think we’ll all increasingly use it to work from anywhere, allowing people to form more international teams and truly become a global community.