Beth Thompson

Our Head of Platform shares how she delicately balances between work, mum and teacher

It’s officially week seven of Visualsoft employees far and wide adhering to a widespread ‘work from home’ policy and we have to say, it’s starting to feel almost normal… almost. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to continue to check in with colleagues and maintain that face to face connection, even if that’s via a computer screen.

We caught up with Sarah Taylor, Head of Platform, to chat about all things virtual, her top tips to maintain motivation and how she’s smashing it playing the delicate balancing act between Mum and Teacher for her daughter, Poppy. Oh, and Animal Crossing…

Hi Sarah! We’re now into our seventh week of working from home. How have you been feeling through all of this - has the shift been difficult, or have you found it easy to adapt?

Anyone who knows me probably won’t be surprised to learn that I quite like a bit of alone time, so I’ve adapted pretty well. Remote working makes it much easier for me to get through tasks that need quiet contemplation (or just boring beige tasks that I always put off when I’m in the office), but I do find creative projects are a lot trickier because they’re often more successful if you take a collaborative approach.

With all of us being physically apart it can be tough to capture spontaneous feedback and ideas, so the main challenge is ensuring we use all of the mediums available to us to keep talking every day.

Working from home has been the norm at Visualsoft since 2014, however, it was hard to envision it becoming such a wide-scale reality as it is currently. During your time at Visualsoft working from home, did you stumble across any amazing tips and tricks to keep you productive while working from home?

Everyone has to find a rhythm and routine that works for them, however, in general, I’d say that clear daily goals, a comfortable setup that’s defined as your ‘office space’, and a zero TV policy are essential. I’m a big fan of to-do lists as they help me maintain a feeling of order, and I keep motivated by rewarding myself after completing tasks (right now, that usually means food).

Us too, Sarah! You manage a team - have you come across any challenges with doing this virtually? Are there any notable positives you’ve picked up on from this new, totally virtual work environment?

I work with a great bunch of people and the key thing that struck me when we first went remote, was that all of the time and effort they’ve put into building strong teams is really paying off now. Video calls - especially in groups - were initially quite awkward but the more you do them, the easier they are and in some instances, the format has definitely improved efficiency.

Another positive outcome of our current situation is the availability of free learning resources and webinars from across the sector, as now is a great time for personal development.

With quarantine, the feelings of confinement and boredom can sometimes rear their head. What have you discovered that has kept you motivated and happy throughout the lockdown so far?

If I’m hitting a motivation dip or just generally feel a bit low, it massively helps to just jump on a video chat with a workmate and have a quick natter about nothing in particular.

I also do my best to focus on the moment rather than fixate on the uncertain future, I keep the news to a minimum, and Poppy (my daughter) and I now have a new little ritual of telling each other our favourite part of the day before we go to bed.

We love that! While working your regular 9 - 5, you’ve also been working on keeping your little one educated as well as entertained. Have you managed to find a happy balance that works for both Poppy and yourself?

Poppy has always been a late sleeper, so I’ve usually got about 3 hours of work done before she even thinks about waking up, then we just share a desk during the day and she cracks on with her projects, I crack on with mine, and we down tools for meals and breaks together.

Her school already used an online system to dish out homework, so they’ve extended that to assign daily school tasks now which is working really well - her teacher even sends daily videos of herself reading books out loud for the kids to enjoy.

Other useful resources include BBC Bitesize and the Oak National Academy, plus DuoLingo which is helping Poppy to learn French.

In terms of entertainment, Poppy got a Nintendo Switch for her 9th birthday in February so on an evening she’s usually glued to that while simultaneously FaceTiming her pals.

I know it isn’t as easy for all parents, especially those with more than one kid, so I do feel really lucky right now to have a night owl that’s recently discovered the joys of gaming.

With lockdown meaning we’re unable to go for a quick pint at the pub, or to visit a friend, how have you been winding down and chilling out at the end of the week?

Every Friday I have a ‘virtual beer’ with some of the Platform teams as well as the SLT, and Lego, reading, painting and growing things are my relaxation mainstays.

As I see it, I’ve got two options right now - to pine for things I miss, or find new things to love, so I’ve also been enjoying virtual trips to the theatre, fascinating city tours and the odd class here and there - it’s incredible to see how people and businesses have pivoted to survive, and I’m very happy to support that where I can.

Like many people, I’ve also been playing a bit of Animal Crossing (when I can prise the Switch away from Poppy) so if anyone at VS would like to send over their Dodo code, I’ll drop by their island for a visit!

A huge thank you to Sarah for managing to also make the time to sit down with the Brand Team to chat about how she's getting on, whilst balancing being Head of Platform, Mum and Teacher!

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