This blog by Catherine Stoker

As a person who likes to make lemonade out of lemons, even I’m finding it hard to find positives to highlight during this awful Coronavirus pandemic. However, one thing I can say is that I’m relieved we are a business, where our team have always worked from home. Having done the same job from a posh office in the Centre of London, I can honestly say I’m relieved to be working in my home office, looking out over the stunning moors of North Yorkshire, with my Labradors at my feet.

Staff team benefits to working from home
When I set up my business nearly 9 years ago, it took a while to get used to motivating myself for work, without the general banter of office colleagues around me. Communication, training of new staff and building team rapport were all challenges to resolve. However, as a team, we’ve learned to use Skype chat to motivate one another, ask and answer quick queries and to build strong working relationships. It’s amazing how one or two emojis can say the same thing as what would have been a 10 minute chat at the coffee machine. Team meetings work exceptionally well either by Skype or Zoom, which is an excellent video conferencing tool. When we need to meet up face-to-face, we do it at a Spa hotel so we can include a nice lunch or some team-building R&R, alongside planning meetings. Home-working means you can get sooooo much done in the same amount of time. It’s my feeling that home-working brings a better balance to life in general. It feels more like working to live, than living to work.
Remembering to stop for breaks away from the computer screen is now one of the biggest challenges. The Fitbit does a good job of alerting me that I have been sitting for too long. Then it’s time to get up and walk the dogs, put the washing in, meet neighbours for coffee, go for a run or to the gym. I love multi-tasking and I don’t need to leave mundane household chores for after work when tired.
Good time management skills are crucial for home-working, as well as a strong level of trust amongst the team. If everyone knows what is expected of them and can be trusted to get things done, working flexibly from home can have great benefits for working parents who need to pop their children to the dentist or to drop off forgotten P.E. kit. Getting an early start or working later are all options for those with family and other commitments. With a new Labrador puppy arriving next week, I’m excited to be able to see him develop day-to-day as I’ll be at home, instead of working long hours in an office miles away.
The virtual office trading address and receptionist are an indispensable support system. Clients receive a professional introduction to the business when they call us, and postal communication goes to a central place for re-circulation to team members as relevant. I used to spend 3 hours each day commuting to and from work, sitting on the floor of a packed train. Now I can spend those three hours investing time in me!
Monthly business networking lunches have always been a very effective way of getting support, advice and motivation from like-minded small business owners, in the absence of office-based colleagues to sound out ideas with. They’ve always been an effective way of gaining word of mouth clients too. A win-win.
Client benefits of a home-based consultancy
The parent clients we work with are based all over the UK and overseas. If the broadband connection remains intact, Skype or Zoom are very effective ways to deliver consultation sessions, wherever the client might be based. This approach enables us to match up the right consultant expertise to the needs of the client, without the need for anyone to travel away from their homes. Very eco-friendly with no compromise on the quality of the advice.
Children seem to learn very well via Skype. I’d even go so far as to say they engage more confidently via a computer screen than they do face-to-face. When mentoring them for up-coming senior school interviews, planning their UCAS application or goal setting and revision planning for GCSE or A levels, they don’t seem to mind at all that we can be talking from different time-zones at home.
Compared with office-based consultancies, we have always been able to keep our client fees reasonable. The investment is spent on securing advice from the right experienced consultant and not on paying high-end office overheads.

by Catherine Stoker

#homeworking #coronavirus #education #consultancy #parents