Our mini series Where I Work is looking at how people are working remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
We’ve chatted to a barefoot athlete, gone inside a home office on a houseboat, and met someone running a film production company over video.
Today we’re (virtually) meeting Carlie Parkinson, 33, and Jennie Jones, 35. They run a wedding and event styling company together, called Willow & Fig, that they set up two years ago after years of friendship.
Jennie is currently on maternity leave with her second baby and usually works as a commercial lawyer in Manchester, while Carlie recently left her job to work full-time on Willow & Fig.
Since lockdown began Jennie has been working from the home she shares with husband Ian, children Henry and Edie, and her dog Toby in Houghton. Carlie is living in Chorley with her husband Jordan, little boy Jude, and cat Willow.
Here’s how they’re working in lockdown.
How has coronavirus changed things for Willow & Fig?
We house our stock in Jennie’s basement at the moment, so work partly there and partly from home. The business is quite admin heavy and so that can easily be done at home but we need to be present to style the weddings and events.
With the current situation with coronavirus, all of our weddings and events have been postponed and so we’re focusing on liaising with our clients over email and phone to try to accommodate their alternative dates.
We’re quickly running out of room in Jennie’s basement and we were just about to invest in premises (offices and warehouse) before coronavirus hit us.
Talk us through your working space
Carlie: I work in my kitchen; we’ve got a little breakfast bar with high stools which looks out to windows over the garden so it’s bright and ideal.
I like to work where I can see things going on and where my husband is pottering around.
I’m not so keen on being locked away to work although I know Jen likes complete silence in a room on her own away from Ian, the kids and the dog! All I need is my diary.
Jen has setup a brilliant online shared diary for all of the team, but I still love a pen and paper version too! I also can’t do without my laptop and a notebook (pen and paper again – I’ve just learned I’m pretty old school actually).
What’s a working day in lockdown like?
Carlie: Work has obviously slowed down quite a bit for us in the recent climate, but we’re so lucky that no one has yet cancelled all together; people have just postponed. So our usual quieter months (October to March) are set to be very busy indeed.
We have had a lot of new enquiries (which I’ve put down to people having time to plan their weddings later in the year and 2021) so I’ve been doing lots of Zoom calls and virtual meetings planning for that.
So with that and not being able to have any help with childcare (my husband is a key worker), I’ve not been working as much as I usually would.
A usual day looks like:
- 7am – Up with Jude for a big play and breakfast for him (and tea for me)
- 9am – Exercise, a run if my husband is home but if not I’m absolutely loving the Joe Wicks workout. I love that it’s live and there’s 200,000 other people doing it across the world too.
- 10am – Jude naps so I get myself breakfast, plan my work for the day and crack on.
- 11am – into the garden (how lucky have we been with the weather?!) Both Jen and I have jumped on the planting veg bandwagon! Or a walk if we’ve not already been out. We live in Heapey so there are some really beautiful walks right on our doorstep.
- 2-4pm -Jude sleeps again so I get a good chunk of work and admin done here. It’s been quite a large piece of work to rearrange all of the paperwork for the weddings and events so this is how I’ve been spending my recent afternoons.
- 5pm – more playing, dinner, bath and bed for the little one (god, sorry, this is so boring!)
- 7pm – the day is usually wrapped up with Netflix and wine… isn’t it for everyone?
What are your personal rules for working from home?
Carlie: Jen is somewhat of a night owl so tends to work in the night after the kids are in bed. My little boy is still at the golden age of two long naps, so I work while Jude sleeps.
I love working from home, though you have to be disciplined, I suppose. Disciplined to start work when there’s the distractions of home life around and there’s always something that needs doing at home, isn’t there? And then disciplined to put your work away and not check emails every 20 minutes through the day.
How do you separate work from rest when your home is your office?
Carlie: It’s quite tricky to switch off with modern technology when you essentially have a work station at your fingertips, isn’t it? Especially in lockdown where you’re at home and the temptation to keep checking your phone is there (nothing worse than getting into a scroll-hole and getting the brain fog that comes with it!)
I try my best to keep focused on Jude when he’s awake and not be on my phone.
Not the most high tech solution but since lockdown I’ve taken to putting my phone into a drawer!
How are you doing mentally with lockdown?
We’re glass half full kinda girls… we’re enjoying this time to pause a little. We’re helping older neighbours, growing things, relishing the time with our children and thinking about the future of the business.
We’ve been chatting and getting excited about diversifying and growing the business (and having to rein each other back in!).
We feel lucky that all of our clients are just such lovely people – it’s been a really tough time for some of them who have had to postpone.
Our clients become friends to us as we work quite closely for months or sometimes years so this has been so tough for us to hear, but we have seen this as a brilliant opportunity to give absolutely excellent customer service. We can’t stop our clients’ weddings days having to be moved, but we can make the transition as easy as possible for them, offer solutions, quick responses, offer our help in any way we possibly can, be flexible or just be a virtual shoulder to cry on.
The responses from clients saying this has really helped them out has really been a positive for us. When times are dark it’s nice to offer a little light and brightness where we can.
Do you have a working-from-home setup you fancy sharing? To get involved in Where I Work, email [email protected]
Share pics of your working space in the comments section below.
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