Cat Davis of The Mission Group shares what work now looks like since lockdown let her quit the commute and set up shop by the sea.
At the start of lockdown, I traded my four-hour daily commute into London for a five-minute stroll and a spot on Hove Lawns seafront.
I’ve done this most days since lockdown rules allowed (and the British weather permitted) and will set up shop with my laptop for at least part of the day for my daily dose of Vitamin Sea. I now have a ‘desk’ with a sea view that I’d never been able to enjoy before during daylight hours because of the commute.
I find the sea air to be invigorating and a great leveller – especially on days when I have a lot on. Sat on a rock or on the pebbles on a beach or settled outside one of the beachfront cafés, I crack on with my work as usual, whether that’s a new business proposal or video calls with my colleagues. I’ve even gone in for a swim at the end of work some days. The water is warm at this time of year, so no wetsuit required! When the sun gets too bright for the screen or my Mac starts getting a bit too hot, I decamp home and set up indoors instead.
Working on the beach is not without its challenges and the seagulls will try to steal my lunch. And, of course, you can’t sit on the beach all day. The rain can start at any minute, my battery pack can die and the midday sun can make reading the screen tricky, so I always go as early as possible.
The good thing about lockdown is that it has proven our ability to keep calm, carry on and work in different environments. Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing my agency buddies and clients face to face, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed not being on ‘Southern Fail’ for four hours a day and I’m working much more efficiently and effectively as a result of the stress that has removed.
It’s been a liberating experience and as a result I’ve become much more productive. I can determine the hours that best suit my working style best and a 6.30am home start versus 6.30am walk to the train station start... well, you do the maths!
Speaking of maths, the only other challenge I’ve found throughout lockdown has been teaching mathematics to my gorgeous 9-year-old son and realising that methods have changed since I was at school!
Like many others, I’m juggling work commitments with being a full-time mum and, now, a primary school ‘teacher’, but I’ve found I’ve become rather adept at switching between work calls and questions from him as he works his way through the week’s topics.
For a break in my day I’ll do an online art class with him and take him to the beach so he can practice boogie boarding, enjoy his lifeguarding or surf lessons, or meet friends. While they’re running in and out of the surf at low tide, I’m tapping away on my laptop! Oh, to be nine years old again!
In place of the evening commute, I get to spend time with my family. We go to the beach for sundowns, cook together, watch movies and plan our adventures for once quarantine restrictions lift.
Of course, I miss chatting to my colleagues face to face, but Zoom, MS Teams, Hangouts, Blue Jeans and the rest have all done a great job in filling that void. Whenever this never normal world in which we are operating in has a new normal, I will ensure all calls are done over video so we can get that sense of togetherness and personal interaction between us regardless of geography.
Working in the creative industries is all about collaboration, but being physically separated just means finding new ways to do things. I’m sure I’ll go back to the office at some point, but I’m in no rush to do so.
At first it was hard to maintain any kind of work/life balance. Routine went out the window on day one, as did exercise, as did hobbies. The house often looked like a tip, but I just went with it as you can’t be ‘queen of all trades’ and the priority had to be our physical and mental health.
Lockdown was a bit like the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt book by Michael Rosen. “We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We've got to go through it!” And that’s exactly what I did.
The boundaries of work and real life are so blurred now that trying to separate the two doesn’t always work. And while I think boundaries are important for us all, so is flexibility and positivity. Great wine is also an absolute necessity, as are giggles! Friday night work drinks with fizz and seafood on the beach watching the sunset is also rather special.
Cat Davis is the group marketing director at the The Mission Group and Krow Group.