, ,  • June 22, 2020

We are talking to our members in these strange times to highlight the way their lives and work have been affected by COVID-19. This time we hear from Helen Denny from Not9to5.

Hi, Helen! What are you currently working on and how long have you been a member of TMP?

I manage my own small business ‘Not9to5’: we enable businesses and individuals to thrive outside of the 9-to-5. We do this through our training and consultancy services with a focus on the key skills needed to succeed within the changing nature of work. We work with people to access the benefits of flexible work, from improved productivity, developing diverse teams to increased profits.

We are currently focused on delivering events exploring the future of work (post COVID-19 and beyond), along with offering digital facilitated workshops which focus on areas such as leadership of remote/flexible teams, innovation and working collaboratively – all key skills needed in the future workplace. I’ve been a member of TMP since October 2016.

How did having access to a physical coworking space help you personally and professionally?

I loved the physical coworking space – it gave me an opportunity to expand my network here in Edinburgh when I first arrived from London. It also provided me with a different place to work outside of the ‘home office (my boat)’. When I was at The Melting Pot, I was far more productive and focused than working from home.

I love the events element of the membership, where you can get to know other coworkers and make connections that can help your business. I have made connections through The Melting Pot with people who have gone on to offer me work, and also have done work for Not9to5 (such as getting my blog up and running, through to creating my website).

The physical space to me was far more than just an office, it was a space where I connected with my community, others who understood what it’s like to work for yourself, who could offer advice and ideas over a cuppa, or give you a hug when you have a bad day. Every person I have met through The Melting Pot has helped me in some way (even of they don’t realise it); from a friendly smile off Rob to brighten your day, to magic Fridays with Jim, living vicariously through Hannah’s globe trotting adventures to generating new ideas for my business over the Friday night socials with Cleo and Hannah. The Melting Pot is very much part of my Edinburgh family and has kept me sane (and focused) over the four years.

Following lockdown, everyone was instructed to work from home. How did you initially find the sudden shift from a shared coworking space to working from home full time?

I found the shift from coworking to being at home full time pretty challenging at first. I get my energy from other people – so suddenly being told I had to stay at home and not interact in person with anyone was really hard. I went through a transition period of being unable to do very much, to feeling very emotional, and eventually finding a routine that worked for me. There were more bad days than good in the first two weeks, however a few weeks in I have definitely settled into the ‘lockdown groove’.

I knew that if I didn’t implement a good ‘home working’ routine I wouldn’t be very productive, so after the initial ‘crisis’ mode of trying to make sense of what was happening in the world, I made a plan, with a clear routine to keep me going. Getting some outdoor time every day, having a ‘fake commute’ either a walk or a cycle to signify the end of the working day, to ensuring I had some form of meeting or check in every morning (making sure I actually got up and out of my PJ’s :)). I even managed to find ways to recreate some level of ‘physical’ interaction with my coworkers, which often would help brighten up my day. This included Justin popping along on his weekly run for a chat across the canal, socially distanced breaks and virtual pub nights, which seemed to still finish as late as the real ones.

It’s definitely not been easy – the support from The Melting Pot Hosts and the wider Virtual Pot (where the community has been sharing their #littlewins to random videos of their pets) has helped to keep me sane.

As the weeks roll on, what do you miss most about using the coworking space?

The things I miss the most about using the physical space are (in no particular order):

  • Random chats over cups of tea in the kitchen
  • Magic Fridays
  • The different areas within the physical space; i.e if you need to focus or get some quiet time, you can choose a desk away from people or the pod. If you want a more social working time you can sit next to the chatty folk. It’s very hard to create different spaces at home in the same way – especially when you live on a 42ft narrow boat!
  • The connections that happen randomly, through an event or over lunch
  • Pip’s smiling face
  • The fish
  • The variety of different people who are doing such a range of interesting and awesome things!
  • And let’s be honest the Friday night drinks in the Abbotsford

Have you found any benefits to working from home?

I have found some benefits from working from home:

  • Making a mental shift of having to accept that this was my new ‘office’ for the forseeable future, having previously struggled to work well from home, I have now managed to find a routine and set up what works for me.
  • Looking out of my window to see the swans and their signets floating by (my tea breaks are spent with the wildlife these days)
  • Spending far less money, instead of nipping out at lunch to get a sandwich from Sainsbury’s or a coffee from Social Bite, I now make all my own lunches/coffee etc. My bank balance is much healthier (and probably so am I)
  • Discovering a million and one different ways to use technology for both staying connected and for my business
  • My commute is approximately 2 minutes
  • The zoom function that touches up your appearance, so I don’t need to put makeup on anymore

We have brought the coworking community online by introducing The Virtual Pot. What parts have you enjoyed the most?

The Virtual Pot has been great, I enjoy checking in and seeing what peoples #littlewins are – to the pictures of places where people have been on their daily exercise. On busy days I can’t always check it – but I always enjoy logging back in later or the next day to stay up to date on what is happening with the wider community. The Virtual Pot has made me feel connected still with my coworker. I know that if I am having a bad day, I could pop in for the virtual cup of tea and would instantly feel better. Or if I have a work related question, there is heaps of knowledge and expertise in the community who can help.

And finally, do you have a message or any advice for those that are finding it difficult working from home?

For anyone finding working from home difficult my top three tips would be:

  1. Create a dedicated space that you can work from, somewhere that you can clear away or close the door on when you have finished the working day. I have a small desk that folds away and immediately shifts my space from office back to home.
  2. Add a fake commute into your day – either in the morning or evening (or both) where you go for walk, run or cycle. It helps to shift from home to work mode and vice versa, it helps signify work has finished and now its your time.
  3. Create a routine that works for you. That doesn’t have to be 9-to-5, for many these hours are no longer realistic, especially if you are juggling home schooling and partners. Create a routine that accommodates the reality of home working in the midst of a pandemic.
  4. Be kind to yourself, some days will be more productive than others, if you are having a day that isn’t very productive, recognise this, stop working and come back to it the next day.
  5. Stay connected with your community, in a way that is manageable for you – i.e. a weekly video chat, a slack channel or even just a good old fashioned phone call. Don’t over commit to back to back zoom calls – find a balance that is right for you and your needs.

If you are interested in joining Helen and the rest of our community on the new virtual platform – The Virtual Pot – let us know more by filling out this form.

The Melting Pot members and staff celebrating our 10th birthday 2018. Helen is wearing a fake beard and a green and orange party hat – can you spot her?