Open for business – Remote home working, and self-care

This weekend I decided to rearrange my home office space so that it looks and feels as good as, if not better than being “at work”. However, I don’t think anything can replace the atmosphere, banter, and general feeling of being with people and belonging to a dynamic team.

Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and similar platforms are great for meetings and generally checking on friends and family, but don’t go the distance for me in terms of making me feel wanted, but it’s all we have in lockdown so roll on vaccine!.

To my knowledge nobody has launched artificial intelligence hug-o-vision yet (a crazy invention idea I just had like many a day), where perhaps a squeeze of a mouse will give us all the feel of a real hug wrapped around us. I’m hoping this type of technology is out there somewhere, perhaps in the form of home huggable robots who feel as soft as bears! If anyone wants to talk about such geeky (guilty as charged) inventions, and needs a crash test guinea pig please get in touch!

Planning A REMOTE working OFFICE space

In planning my new office space I did lots of research, and found a ton of great advice on everything from ergonomics to buying the right equipment. This article by Runtastic, an Adidas owned company, reminded me of the importance of good posture. I had a strict typing teacher at school and a piano teacher as an adult, constantly nagging me with “don’t slouch, sit up straight!”. It did help me become a model and actress so I have never forgotten this great advice and early training.

Speaking to your employer about the set-up you have at home to work remotely with any support you might need, plus taking regular breaks to walk and get some fresh air in the absence of a traditional lunch break is vital. I found that when I was working at home during my last employed contract I would act like the famous detective Columbo, saying to myself “just one more thing”, as I sat at my desk for over 6 hours without a proper break. A former mentor once gave me an egg timer to put on my desk to ensure I had proper breaks. It still sits on my desk unused, so I still need to play that back and take better care of myself, and so do you.

HOME OFFICE EquiPment

I decided the equipment I would need should at least match what I was used to in an office as an employee and also keep me as flexible as I can for my freelance digital marketing work. I already have a high performance PC in another room that I use with my music recording studio equipment, but I wanted to adapt my laptop for fixed office working, external meetings and travel.

Having a separate large screen PC monitor was important to me, and I’m used to two screens, particularly for graphic design work and side-by-side multi-tasking. This is what I came up with (thanks Amazon), there are many options and suppliers out there who have equally considered remote working customers:

Next, I decided to split my lounge into two areas; a work space and breakout meeting room (aka my general living space. I wanted the feeling of being at work, which you don’t get in a bedroom or even by sitting on a comfortable couch using a laptop with a laptop desk tray.

Laptops are not recommended for working on for more than two hours a day, so I decided to set mine up on a stand at the same height as my main Dell 24″ monitor. According to Spine Health “When you work on a laptop for an extended period of time, it is recommended to do one of two things: 1) Use an external keyboard and mouse and properly position your laptop screen at eye level or 2) Use an external monitor at eye level and position your laptop keyboard at a height that allows your shoulders and arms to relax.”

Writing this post has doubled up with helping me get used to my new office space. I even have the TV on in the background today, but hey, it’s Sunday and I technically deserve a day off. Come tomorrow it’s Monday and we are all looking for 10 Ways To Beat THAT Monday Morning Feeling, but I’m there for you all again so come on in and let’s talk, remotely for now until you can come into the office!

Expo Virtual 2020 Event banner

Passionate about underpants?

I attended the eCommerce Expo & Technology for Marketing Virtual 2020 marketing digital event this week, to get away from my CPD refresher course studying after writing 18 x 20 page assignments in two weeks. It was weird to go to an exhibition where I’m not on a stand high on caffeine and tottering around in heels like back in the day.

One of the presentations I loved was by Oddballs on ‘How apparel brand OddBalls drives nearly 40% of their revenue growth through email marketing’. Francine and Robyn explained their fun approach to their email marketing campaigns, and the use of real life proud wearers of Oddballs smalls in photos.

It was a refreshing change to hear lively forward thinking people talking pants to me, but making good business sense! I was very impressed with the community they have built up with customers and their high engagement rates from their email campaigns. Fabulous they have a female brand too, and interesting that they segment by style, explaining that we are all “creatures of habit” when it comes to the cut of our drawers. I added Klaviyo to my toolkit for a rainy day too as their platform and tools look very impressive, so it was a good day virtually out in a bottomless pit, thanks!

Amazon’s plonk and run

Remember when the sound of the letterbox made you run down the stairs in anticipation, only to find it was someone trying to hit their physical junk mail quota by posting something you are never going to need or use? I still get similar email stuff that I probably signed up to when I was standing at a checkout and gave my email address, unsubscribed to the first mailshot, but doh, too late….it had been shared to a zillion other “business partners”.

Nowadays the sound of the letterbox has been replaced by a heavy knock on my door and the sound of a parcel being dropped on the top step as I rush downstairs. I’m so glad I renewed my Amazon Prime subscription, because since lockdown along with Ocado they have been life savers.

I heard that online shopping is now 26% of total retail, up from 19% since before Covid-19 which is incredible. We are all changing the way we shop and I’m sure the next technology will be to have it teleported through a time tunnel and plonked on our living room carpet!

Brilliant as Amazon is, and to a digital marketing person who has also “walked the job” in an emergency, picked products from stock and put them on the van, there was just one occasion where I wondered if home shopping was a good idea.

I ordered a new laptop when we were really all lock-downed. The driver showed up, there was a thud at the door, I ran downstairs, he handed me the box and zoomed off like Usain Bolt! I closed the door but as I took the parcel from him it seemed incredibly light, even for the lightest laptop on the market. I noticed the top of the box was sellotaped up, unlike Amazon’s usual black banding with the string inside that can cut your fingers off when you’re as eager as I am to rip the box open.

Long story short, it was just a box, but it was empty. I ran into the street and found the driver hiding round the corner. He claimed it was like that when he was given it and showed me a badge of sorts (probably fake) and said to call Amazon and they will send me another one. Despite my trying to describe this person and asking them to look into it and contact the police (unlikely, if he was a friend of a friend who is an Amazon), they just sent me a new one the next morning.

I hope it never happens again because it still felt like I looked in the eyes of a thief who was laughing at me, but Amazon carried on regardless and I got my new laptop the next day. Lesson to self, never judge a book by its cover (sorry)!

Finding my Digital voice again

more about me

In the beginning I taught myself HTML and CSS, building websites for friends and myself in various entertainment areas. I had originally professionally trained as a Buyer and worked in Purchasing, which to this day I still enjoy and like.

Then I discovered Marketing, jumped ship, and did my CIM Diploma in 9 months. I couldn’t put the books down, and with my naturally curious and creative personality this was where I belonged, in the front line facing the customers.

Fast forward 18 months to the millennium, the year Google launched AdWords. I was offered an interesting job as a Product Manager in the team, but I HAD to work in Digital. Taking the biggest risk of my life I applied for a brand new B2B E-Commerce Manager position in a large organisation, when the ink on the budget sign-off was still hesitantly wet. I remember saying to my boss the Director of Marketing “Please let me do this, and throw me out if I don’t make it work within 3 months”.

Thankfully I got the job and gained valuable experience. I was creating strategic marketing e-Commerce plans, learning by doing, phoning key influencer customers, and driving all around the country to ask them face to face what they wanted. When I came back, I translated my graphic and video filled presentations into technical speak and asked the IT team to build it.

I even tried to break up “us and them” territorial wars between my new Marketing team, IT and my former colleagues in Purchasing! Shopping carts were still evolving, Amazon had just opened its marketplace to sellers, but in B2B I could still make it up as I went along. I can’t think of a better and more exciting way to learn anything than to be given a blank sheet of a paper.

7 years on and I had done all I could do there creatively. Various web content, creative graphics, event management, Email marketing, website and digital marketing experiences later, I’m in a Digital state of mind again.

I’ve worked continually in Digital, Social Media, Video production and editing to support my performing arts careers, and have done occasional freelancing projects. I’ve been running Social Media channels, Google Analytics, AdWords, PPC campaigns, writing blogs and designing websites and content as part of my promotional activity in “real” life, and, just because I love it! .

I’ve made some non-marketing career related choices in my life, but all were deliberate around my work/balance due to circumstance and convenience. It is possible to love and be OK at non-business career things equally, so something has to give.

Now I’m back to caring enough about what I “do”. When I have I’ve always delivered spectacular results. Any gaps in my front line learning are filled with fast-track refresher courses. I’m finding not much has changed apart from the tools, it’s still just “Marketing” to me. In fact, I never totally left Purchasing either and find myself back there working on contracts as well as Marketing!

I was always listening to customers and asking them what they wanted. Now it’s easier because they say it out loud and tell the world in seconds. If I can help with your website, social media or wider digital marketing please get in touch. I’m sure I will say “please let me do this and throw me out if I don’t make it work…” again!