Thanks to the pandemic, the world of work is changing – and it looks very different depending on where you’re based. In The Drum’s new series, Today’s Office, we ask adland to share what these new normal routines look like. This week, Ebquity’s managing director of global partnerships Debbie Morrison talks us through her dreamy Devon set-up, telling us what she misses most about the office and explaining how she’s become green-fingered in lockdown.
I feel extremely fortunate to be working in my office out of my Devon home, which is firmly out in the sticks, down the end of a two-mile, single-track lane, in the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty. I’ve been here since mid-March, a week before the UK government officially put us in lockdown.
I’m actually a veteran working-from-home aficionado, for the vast majority of my career having worked three days a week from home, so I have a fully functioning office already in place.
My day starts really early when I let my chickens out of the coop, feed them, open up my greenhouse, water my veg, fire up my laptop in the office, go grab my breakfast and come back to my desk to eat it while sorting through my emails, checking my diary and prioritising my day.
I’m used to packing in a lot of activity into my truncated week. I start work now at 7.30am and try to finish by 5pm. I make myself take a lunch break and if the weather is fine I sit outside. Otherwise, I just sit on Zoom calls and in meetings and work back to back.
The view from my office changes with the seasons, but at the moment I see rolling fields, trees and blue skies, garden and flowers, butterflies and birds. Sometimes, depending on my farmer neighbours, I can also cows and sheep. It’s never a shock to see chickens and cats walking by under my window.
One challenge I’ve found with this setup is that I’m not getting enough exercise during working hours, since I tend to stay in my office, at my desk, head down.
Internet can also be an issue sometimes – I’m so deep in the heart of the countryside that my house lands at the end of the broadband line. And because everything is virtual now, I have had to devise coping strategies for Zoom and Microsoft Teams buffering. And, of course, I miss real, human, face-to-face interaction with my team.
One thing I miss is the serendipity of conversations with people around the office, but you can always pick up the phone or drop in on a video call if you have an idea you want to chat through. So all in all it has been an easy adaptation.
While there have been challenges when it comes to working remotely, I certainly don’t miss the endless time I spent commuting back and forth to London. It seems like such a waste now and I’m not in a rush to return to that kind of normal. I think lockdown has made everyone realise how efficient and effective working from home can be. As it eases, there will be a lot of people seeking different modes of working going forward.
I’m sure I will migrate back to the office at some point, but maybe not on the same regular weekly basis as before.
Outside of work, growing vegetables has become my new hobby and my household is now almost self-sufficient. If you’d like to see my veg plot, take a peek at my IG account @greenfingerslegsntoes. I garden early doors and after work. I used to love cooking but I’m sick of my own food now, so my new great love is growing fruit and veg – and, of course, being outdoors all the time means I’ve developed the best UK-based tan ever.
Keeping work and home separate is the real conundrum. It’s much harder to separate the two when both are home-based and I’m terrible for just keeping on working and constantly looking at my emails. My family are always complaining.
I was like this before lockdown and I’m sure I will be like it beyond lockdown, but I’m getting better at switching off. Especially if I’m outside in the garden.
Debbie Morrison is the managing director of global partnerships and events at Ebiquity.