Aloe vera, bell peppers, lemon trees, banana plants... Every day MullenLowe Profero senior planner Ellie Boxall sits on zoom calls in her 18th floor flat surrounded by plants. In the latest instalment of our Today’s Office series, she tells us what it’s like working from her jungle in the sky.
I’m sat at my kitchen table, 18 floors up in Battersea, my laptop is balanced on a pile of cookery books. Also on the table (and on the floor and on pretty much every other surface) are house plants – I’m surrounded! There’s probably twice as many now as there were in March when I started working from home as we’ve propagated and grown a lot over lockdown.
And out of the window, I can see the River Thames, a cute little church and Lots Road power station. I’ve been trying to ignore the building site that surrounds it, but it has been fun to see the building pop-up over the last few months.
It took me a while to get used to sitting at the kitchen table for such long periods of time. Normally, I would be running up and down stairs, going to meetings and briefings, but now I sometimes only do a couple of hundred steps in a day.
The main things I miss about the office are the people and the serendipity of conversation. Working from home you have to plan conversations, even just chatting. I’ve only been into our offices once since lockdown and it reminded me just how much easier it is connecting with people face-to-face. Video conferencing will never match that.
I am excited for a more flexible working future though, and we had already started introducing things like core hours at MullenLowe Group before lockdown. But being forced to work from home has shown us that not everyone needs to be in the room every day. I like the idea that we might be able to be more flexible, with a hybrid approach to where we work.
My days often start with quick 15 minute updates from the whole of MullenLowe Profero, discussing any news or exciting briefs people are working on, which is a good way to try break down potential silos between different accounts as everyone is in their own little world right now. Then I’m likely to dive into some research for a new brief for a few hours or attend a planning team meeting. I like working with other people to chew over a problem, so I’ve had to adjust how I approach strategic thinking – either by talking to myself (yep, I know!) or by grabbing a few minutes with my wider team to discuss different ways into something.
One thing I noticed recently is just how often I sit in silence tapping at my keyboard, so I’ve started to put the radio on (Poolside FM) to recreate the vibes of our office on a Friday. I also try to get outside every day, either before or after work, just to try wind down a bit. I miss the commute for that, so I’m trying to recreate it in a way. On energetic days, this is a run or a gym class. Other days, it’s just about escaping the house for a few minutes and maybe sitting on a bench with a coffee. It’s getting harder and harder to do though as the days get shorter.
At the beginning of lockdown, I did try to be good, but it became less of a priority once the pubs reopened. Maybe now that we’re only allowed to sit outside with our friends I’ll get back into more regular exercise.
I definitely spend more time thinking about what I am going to have for lunch, but that’s mainly to avoid having strange, cobbled-together dishes like baked beans and crackers. I also spend a lot more time watering plants than I ever used to, checking they are still all alive and happy, but that feels like a positive. We are even growing bell peppers at the moment!
When it comes to work/life balance, it is a little strange because my boyfriend and I are both in the industry and have effectively become each other’s colleagues, giving advice and providing a listening ear when it gets too much. But I try to make sure I clear all of my work stuff away every evening so our living space feels separate. Still, it is odd working right next to the room you sleep in. My morning ’commutes’ to the bench outside for a bit are helping a little though.