'Out of Office'
14 Days ago we received the call. ‘Time to pack up and work from home’ instructed Jess, our Operations Manager. ‘As soon as you can’ she repeated, more than once. While everyone else was pretty much ready to go, Donna and I had lots to do before we could even consider leaving. After all, we had no clue as to when we would be back and although we can do 99% of our work from home there were a few tasks that required a physical presence. With the assistance of Ashton, I described every piece of clothing left in the building that could potentially be launched in the coming weeks while Donna tied up her accounting and customer service responsibilities for the day. We said our goodbyes to the Warehouse Girls, they reassured us that they would keep themselves as safe as possible and that was that. We left the building, unsure as to when we would next step foot inside and drove home.
The next day an announcement was made that Boris was closing the schools at the end of the week, shortly after followed an instruction to shut down restaurants and bars then ultimately the entire country was ordered into lockdown on Monday 23rd March. These were strange and unprecedented times of which none of us knew the protocol. By this point all office staff at Tilletts had been working from home for a week, the stores were closed completely and the warehouse had begun running on skeleton staff.
Whatsapp became our lifeline of communication between us all, with several groups set up to specifically liaise with those we would have ordinarily have been in discussions with face to face. I couldn’t help but wonder, could a clothing business amongst all this chaos actually function when only 10% of the staff were physically in the building? If so, how was everyone coping with this adjustment, how were they making the best of it, what new systems had they put into place in their departments to ensure the business would continue to thrive?
I reached out to my colleagues (via WhatsApp of course) and simply asked them, how are you coping? Some people thrive in their home environment whereas others struggle with the lack of human interaction and find it difficult to create a space for themselves where they can focus. I wanted to know about their set up, what is and isn’t working for them, how are they managing their workload, the pros, and cons of this new system?
Independent Sales Manager, Helen came back to me almost immediately, she was a pro when it came to working remotely. Living in Rotherham, she has a 130-mile round trip to make every time she comes to work at HQ in Humberston so, in order to combat that, she works from home a couple of days a week. Helen was fully prepared for this and had only positive tips for those newcomers amongst us:
“You should always get up and dressed as if you’re physically going to work, it puts you in the right mindset for the day. It’s really important to follow a routine so make a plan for the day, making sure to schedule regular breaks from your screen. It can be too easy to get carried away and before you know it’s 5 pm and you haven’t moved from your seat. Finally, when your working day is done, switch off and get your Pyjamas on, it’s time to relax. Don’t let work crossover into your time just because you’re working from home, you still need to maintain that work/life balance.”
Not everybody has taken to remote working quite like Helen. Head of Creative & Photographer, Chelsy thrives in a studio environment and understandably finds it difficult to be confined to one place. Although she recognises the benefits that working from home can offer; the company of new co-worker ‘Ronny the Shih Tzu’ is a huge bonus but the additional time you find to plan and ponder without the distractions of a bustling office has made a world of difference. Ultimately a Photographer does need her set, her models and the freedom to be creative but it’s nice for the world to slow down every now and then, it provides us with the space to think and come out the other side refreshed and rejuvenated.
Following the loss of my Mum in January, I had recently begun to take one day a week to work from home. The peace and quiet it provided enabled me to write without any distraction or noise. Sometimes a buzzing hive can be completely overwhelming so having that one day a week break from HQ made a vast difference to my ability to function well. Now during this enforced lockdown, I have realised just how much work I can actually do from home, except for writing product descriptions where I physically need the clothing, this set up works and I think a lot of people will find that. I miss the team of course and my new colleagues are not fans of anything that takes me away from fussing them but they do make very good stress relievers!
Taking comfort in being surrounded by her family during this time, 21-year-old Buying Assistant, Ashton has adapted well to home working. As a result of Buyer, Emma and Ashton’s pre-planned procedures they have been able to carry on working as normal. Although not having the physical samples and being without access to HQ does have its downfalls, for the most part, the Buying Team has embraced working remotely. Emma loves her new commute and the fact she can sneak cuddles with her little girl during the day but was surprised to discover just how much work she could get done at home.
“I feel very lucky that I am able to still carry on with my job from the safety of my home. It’s been great seeing the Tilletts Team and our customers all pulling together during this time and sharing their experiences on our VIP Facebook Group.”
The biggest adjustment for Ecommerce Exec, Olivia has been dealing with her Cat, Astra. Astra has not taken too kindly to Olivia invading her space during the week and has made it clear that every cup of coffee is hers for taking while her laptop makes for the perfect walkway. In spite of that, Olivia is enjoying the time with her new assistant who happens to be the perfect angel once she’s asleep.
With a set up of three phones, a laptop and usually a cold cup of tea, Head of Customer Service and Accounts, Donna is just as busy as ever. Spread between Home and HQ, the hardest thing is not having everything in one place. Store Manager, Stacey is also living life a little in no man’s land at the moment, having vacated the stores and emptied them of all stock she has now set up home at HQ where she is assisting with anything and everything in the Warehouse.
Which brings us to the wonderful warehouse girls who are doing the most amazing job every day while keeping the business functioning on the front line. Supervisor, Millie has described the strange and eerie atmosphere in the warehouse now that it is practically empty of people;
“Every day feels like a Saturday/Sunday in the warehouse now as that is usually when it is mostly empty. We are doing everything we can to ensure everyone is safe, following hygiene procedures and social distancing is our top priority right now. The strangest thing really is how we are now all in contact via our phones when we don’t normally use them at all. I have to say though that the vibe is really positive, we are all in high spirits supporting each other through these difficult times.”
So there we have it, as a business and as individuals, we hope this pandemic will soon be over and that the country will recover and rise once again like a phoenix from the flames. We hope the NHS will be able to take a breath and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. We hope that everyone will continue to support small businesses, local communities, carers, teachers and every other key worker. We hope the newfound closeness of families remains. We hope the spirit of togetherness lives on…..We hope.
By Sheryl Gibson-Hill