Holly Pattison, Mayvin Administrator and Programme Coordinator, shares her experience of joining the Mayvin team, working remotely and feeling connected in an office-less organisation.
It is a natural instinct for us, as humans, to interact with one another. This is something we all do on a daily basis: when we go to the shop, when we meet a neighbour or a friend. At work, it might be when we see a colleague in the office kitchen when making the first cup of coffee of the day (in my case I would silently beg them to avoid making conversation until I had finished at least half of said first coffee of the day and have managed to entice my inner chatterbox to come out of her slumber). However sociable you are as a person, it is understood (and there is data to back this theory up) that we are strongly shaped by our social environment. So the concept of completely shifting your day to day social environment, i.e. the workplace, could be a little daunting. In my case I have moved from an office environment to working remotely.
I have spent most of my adult life working within the legal sector surrounded by the general hustle and bustle of working in an office, as well as the usual exchanges at the kettle or in the corridors. Anyone who has worked in a busy office (especially open plan) will know that you gradually learn to zone out of the background chitter chatter and develop the art of selective hearing. You are able to somehow subconsciously assess the conversations that are taking place in the background and work out which of those you are required to be a party to and which of those you aren’t. You also learn when is a good time to approach a superior for advice and when it is certainly not a good time to do so (usually indicated by huffing and muttering coming from their direction).
One thing that was made very clear to me during the interview stages of applying for my new role at Mayvin was that it was a home-based role and that I had to ensure I was completely happy with the concept of remote working and no longer experiencing the usual social exchanges one might find themselves part of when working in an office. Before my interview the prospect of home-based working seemed perfect. There would be the much sought after work/life balance: no commute, being able to focus without too many interruptions and less prep required for a day’s work, such as packing your bag or making lunches. Instead of spending the morning travelling, you have the chance to catch-up on the chores so that you can start the day afresh and ready to focus, rather than knowing there’s a pile of washing you forgot to hang up, or coming home to the hoovering after a full day at the office and commuting either side. In my case, the biggest bonus was that because I would be home more, my husband Sam has agreed we can get a pooch! Something we haven’t been able to think seriously about before because we both worked away from home and so of course it wouldn’t have been fair.
I hadn’t thought much past these obvious benefits until my interview for the role with Mayvin, so being told that it was highly recommended that I consider the disadvantages of working from home and how I would feel not being socially connected on a day to day basis was a reality check. In practice, I have never felt more connected with my work colleagues than I do working remotely at Mayvin. The various tools and resources we use, such as Slack – an online communication platform – keeps contact flowing which means that we are always able to ask for help, have a quick catch-up, bounce ideas off each other and maintain the social aspect of a working environment. We are also able to see if someone is in the ‘office’ just by the green dots that appear by people’s names which indicate they are online and you are not ‘alone’. It also equips you with the knowledge that if someone is busy and doesn’t want to be interrupted you don’t have the awkward “I’m busy” exchange when you go to someone for help, as you know that the person you are messaging can have a look at your question at a time that is convenient to them.
Each week we have a team check-in call, which is a video conference, and it gives us a good opportunity to build rapport with each other. It is actively encouraged for us all to get stuff off our chest that we may have found tricky or challenging in the week that has passed, whether it be work related or personal. It’s also an opportunity to share successes with each other. The attitude of keeping work and personal life separate does not seem to completely apply – we are all in this together, and it is important that we all understand the experiences, both good and bad, of our colleagues and what is going on in each of our lives. As a result, this enables us to build a strong and dependable team, which is really refreshing to be a part of.
So, it turns out that you can still experience the hustle and bustle of an office environment if you are working remotely, except it is slightly easier to hit the mute button – you can enjoy your first coffee of the day in peace and there is less need for your selective hearing to come into play.