Where I WFH: Clair Heaviside, Co-founder, Serotonin

Charlie Spargo's picture

Clair leads the team at Serotonin, the Manchester agency which rebranded from The Light in August this year.

Heaviside and her co-founder, Dom Carter, both previously spent time working at Cube3, before setting up The Light in 2019 and experiencing rapid growth. They now work with sportswear startup NEU Apparel and West Tower at Deansgate Square, and have a team of six.

Usually based in the heart of Spinningfields before shifting to working from home, Serotonin specialises in working with partners in eCommerce, health and wellbeing, and travel and hospitality.

 

Where in the house do you work?

My go-to tends to be my kitchen table at my home in Disley. I’m fortunate to live on the edge of the beautiful Peak District so I can be deep in a meeting or pitch one minute and out in the countryside the next. My idea of a work-life balance in action!

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

I sit by a large open window that looks out onto my garden. That always gives me the added pressure to ensure that my plants aren’t dying, so they look good in Zoom calls. 

Beyond that is the field where a local donkey lives. He often comes right up to the fence at the edge of the garden and can be heard braying loudly when I’m in meetings, which is a bit of a conversation starter...

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

Since the start of lockdown, I’ve been quite good at getting into a solid routine at home, mainly revolving around my dog, Ben. He demands that we get up early, so we’re out for a run together at 6:30am. I like to crack on with work early in the morning, and I try to get my meetings out the way while he retreats to sleep under the kitchen table.

Ben will always drag me out for a long walk at lunchtime, and in the afternoon I could be head down working on content creation or creative strategy, or checking in with clients and the team. By 5pm I’m back out again for a walk, although it’s all too easy to stray back to the computer in the evening.

I do find this time quite relaxing - a nice quiet space to get on with more creative work without the interruption of Zoom meetings, or the spontaneous client calls that make agency life so interesting! Without my fresh air, greenery and open spaces I’m sure I would have found the whole experience more of a challenge, and working from home would have been far less appealing. Over the past few months I have certainly learnt how lucky I am.

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

We’ve been using Whereby for video conferencing internally. It may not be as trendy as Zoom but we never have any issues and the personalisation of the space makes it feel more unique and informal.

Slack, Whatsapp and FaceTime are all great for both clients and the team, but sometimes a good old fashioned phonecall is perfect for when you just can’t cope with looking at your own face anymore.

What do you miss most about working from an office?

Of course, the people. The chats over morning coffee, the quick answers to questions, the sounding boards when you hit a creative stumbling block, the team camaraderie that picks you up when you have a tough client call.

Tech will never replace real-life human interaction. But I have certainly experienced the positive impact of technology to bring clients closer, make things happen more quickly and totally break down geographical barriers. I can visit clients in Manchester, London, Edinburgh all in the same day, and all before lunchtime!

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

Establishing a routine early on saved my productivity in lockdown, and my mental health. But there needs to be flexibility within a routine so it can adapt to different needs on different days. You are not a robot.

Acknowledging when you work best on specific tasks is important. I have more energy in the morning and I’m more creative in the evenings, so I allocate my to-do list accordingly. Don’t force yourself to work on something creative at 3pm if you know that isn’t the best time for you. Listen to your body and take a break, allow yourself space to think, and change your environment.

You can’t necessarily expect the Big Idea to come to you at the same time and place that you have just been writing reports or analysing data. That has to apply wherever you are working from.

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

We have definitely changed our outlook on more flexible ways of working. I don’t think I will ever be 9-to-5 in the office again, and I wouldn’t expect it of my team. We need to work in ways that are most productive and beneficial to us as individuals.

For me, the perfect working schedule is a blend, depending on the projects I’m working on, and who I’m working with. Plus the dog would miss me too much if I was out all week again.

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

From speaking to lots of other agency owners it seems that everyone is advocating more choice for their employees. It isn’t about all or nothing. The office will have its function, and when people come together in the office it will be for a reason, not simply because they feel the need to be visible or to clock in and out. Hopefully this is another nail in the coffin for presenteeism.

We've just introduced a wellbeing budget that gives every team member an allocated amount to spend each month on remote working, whether that’s a hot desk or coffees in a nice cafe. It’s about building a culture of trust to get the very best out of people and ensure they are happy.

Wherever we work, we’ve all found ways through technology to feel more connected all the time; but sitting around the table with a team, going for a drink after work, laughing about somebody’s terrible choice on the office playlist… those things will always be an important part of getting the job done.