Continuing our series of Adviser Diaries, giving a glimpse into the experience of our team members during lockdown, we meet Heather McCutcheon, Digital Marketing Manager.
Heather is responsible for developing the Progeny brand strategy and implementing creative solutions to generate strong brand engagement. She specialises in the social media management and graphic design of Progeny’s marketing.
How are you finding lockdown so far?
The first few months in the height of lockdown were challenging. I felt a lot of anxiety over the scale and impact of the virus, as well as missing my family and worrying for their health. For the first four months I was quarantined in a high-rise flat in the centre of Croydon, which was a really badly affected area at the time with local hospitals under a lot of pressure, so it was hard to ignore the constant ambulance sirens and not worry.
When our tenancy was up in June, we decided to pack up and move out of London into a house in Hertfordshire about 20 minutes’ drive from mine and my partner’s family. Now that the strict lockdown has been lifted, we have been able to socially distance hang out and spend some time going on country walks and gardening in our new garden. I’m now growing tomatoes, strawberries, mint, basil, spring onions and pak choi! Having the green space on our doorstep and some peace and quiet has definitely helped alleviate some of the anxieties I had felt up on the 13th floor.
What does your lockdown office look like?
When we were looking for a new house to rent, we made sure to find a place with enough room for a home office as we are now both working from home full time. Tim very kindly hand delivered my desktop screen and office chair to me before the move so I have everything I need to work as normal. Ernie (our cat) often wanders in the room when I’m on a video call and commands everyone’s attention by sitting in front of my webcam – he’s a very needy rescue cat so he has absolutely loved spending all of this time with us during lockdown!
Talk us through your new daily routine.
Now that I don’t have to spend 45 minutes to an hour commuting into London, my mornings feel a lot less rushed. I’m up and breakfasted, usually check Progeny’s social channels first thing along with my inbox and then the rest of my day is filled with video calls, writing copy and managing content, publishing blogs and graphic designing with an hour for lunch in the garden if it’s not raining. From my office window I can see a little village pub across the road, so when the gardens start filling up I know it must be around 5:30pm and time to call it a day!
What are the biggest professional challenges you’ve faced during lockdown?
Since the start of lockdown, the amount of communication our department has been publishing, both internally and externally, has increased tenfold. We wanted to make sure that our clients and team members felt, and continue to feel, supported and informed while the business adapts to the uncertainty and ultimately flourishes with everyone’s hard work and dedication. Acclimatising to the increased workload and a more independent style of working meant I needed to take initiative and ownership of a lot of the work to support the team, but I’ve loved having the new responsibilities.
Since lockdown I’ve stepped into a more senior role from Marketing Executive to Digital Marketing Manager, and I now have a new Junior Graphic Designer who starts next week! I’m sure it’ll be a learning curve getting used to training and managing a new starter via video calls, but I’m really looking forward to welcoming a new member to our Comms team.
What are your proudest achievements of the lockdown period?
I’m very proud of both the quality and quantity of content the Marketing and Communications team have been producing, from our video updates to all of the blogs and articles which have offered guidance from our specialist advisers on navigating these turbulent times. I’m proud that the business has adopted a such a forward thinking, proactive approach to working – rather than furloughing staff we’ve all embraced working from home and have focused on expanding our capabilities with new hires and technology.
On a personal level I’m proud the work I’ve done towards receiving my promotion, and I’m proud of the time I had to present to the entire company on a Town Hall meeting (around 140 people on the call) on the importance of social advocacy. I usually really hate public speaking, but it wasn’t so bad when you’re just talking into your laptop!
What has changed about your role to enable you to continue to operate? What has stayed the same?
Back in March we left our office in Wandsworth and the next day moved to video conferencing for all of our team meetings, which we do now about 2-3 times a week. We’ve since handed our rental notice and will not be returning to the office building which has been the biggest change.
As a team we’re always available on instant message to discuss ideas, chat and joke around which I really appreciate hasn’t disappeared since moving to WFH. I still feel a sense of team camaraderie even if we’re not in the same room anymore.
What have you learnt from working remotely?
I’ve learnt that just because you’re not in an office space doesn’t mean you have to run yourself into the ground to double or triple your productivity. At the start of lockdown, I felt like I needed to overload myself with work to make up for the fact that I was at home, instead of working at the manageable pace I would usually work in an office environment.
There are only so many hours in a working week, and you can only do what you can do! Maintaining a good work/life balance is so important for mental health and wellbeing, so I try really hard not to reply to messages and emails after hours that can wait for the following morning.
What will you/we continue to do once lockdown is over?
The Marketing and Communications team will carry on working remotely now that we have closed our office and we will continue to publish frequent, helpful content to support current and future clients. Our high level of internal communications will also continue with the help of our brand new Intranet as well as Town Hall conferences and group wide training sessions.
Personally, I think I will try to continue doing yoga with Adrienne – I started as an easy way to exercise while I was stuck up in the flat, but it turns out I actually quite enjoy it! That, and making banana bread every week which has turned into a bit of a habit (and kind of defeats the purpose of the yoga…)
What are the positives we can take away from it?
I think generally speaking people’s attitudes to working from home have changed when we have all demonstrated it can be done with the same level of productivity. I feel very lucky to work for Progeny who have been so supportive of this and have always put our health and wellbeing at the forefront of any decision.
Another positive takeaway from lockdown life has been the reduction in global emissions from the lack of road and air traffic – hopefully something we can all continue to work on as we adopt a new, more sustainable way of living and working.
What are you looking forward to doing most once lockdown is over?
When it’s totally safe to do so, I’m looking forward to seeing my little nieces who live in Paris. It’s been about 9 months since I’ve seen them and they’ve grown up so much in that time!