Parent Zone office blog: how I devised a home-working strategy in 24 hours
Tamara Miller is Parent Zone’s Head of Digital. Here, she outlines her experience of moving the company from its office in North London to dozens of front rooms, bedrooms and studies across the UK as the COVID-19 pandemic developed
When our CEO, Vicki Shotbolt, announced one Thursday morning that the whole company was going to work from home from the following Monday, I did a double-take.
In fact, I needed to read the email twice to fully grasp what was happening. And when it did sink in, that set me off on a rollercoaster of emotions.
First, I felt relief for a few seconds: it put an end to all the uncertainty and confirmed that we'd have 24 hours to prepare the technical setup, train the staff, and do some test runs. That only lasted until reality woke me up and I realised that as the Head of Digital it would be my job to come up with a 'digital emergency plan' for the whole company. And suddenly 24 hours didn’t sound so long!
A few minutes later I got an invitation for a meeting with Vicki in the afternoon, to discuss the next steps. In my mind, every minute counted – so I immediately started work on the Parent Zone Digital Emergency Plan. This was, necessarily, a complicated thing: it had to include everything from device management to software solutions and from technical setup of company devices to data security, and rules around the PZ team using their own laptops. Moreover, we had to consider how we’d all stay calm and connected while working remotely.
Fortunately, I embrace challenges and don't mind working under pressure. After I crafted my first draft of the plan, I met up with the Digital and Logistics Team to run through it. Without the help and support of my cherished colleagues, it wouldn't have been feasible to arrange the whole setup. Finally, the plan was ready for Vicki to review and sign off in the afternoon – and, as always, she helped me find solutions to some tough and complex questions.
What we decided was that we would implement the following plan:
- All staff would use Google Hangouts to communicate. We already use Google Suite, so this wasn’t a big change – although it would be a wrench not hanging out in the kitchen together each day. Sticking with Google Suite was a deliberate decision, because I didn’t want to introduce any new communication tools – that would have meant yet more setup time, training and processes.
- We decided that we should have a daily meeting to make sure that everyone was up and running and to help us keep in touch. This has proven to be a great success. Every day we have a different topic, which each person has to speak about for 30 seconds or so. It can be anything from what their favourite recipe is to tips for staying happy. These daily huddles have helped us develop an even greater team spirit and we’re all enjoying seeing different sides of each other.
- We wouldn't usually allow people to use their own laptops, but in the end we decided it was OK in the circumstances, with certain rules. For instance, people have to switch off their computer when they aren’t using it, install a virus checker and use a safe Wi-Fi connection.
- And of course we’re constantly working on improving and upgrading our security setup.
Looking back at the last two weeks and at how the whole Parent Zone team has managed this smooth transfer to working from home, I couldn't be any prouder to work here.