Our daily mini series Where I Work is taking a look at people’s home offices, to give us all some inspiration for our at-home working spaces as the coronavirus lockdown makes working from home the new normal.
We’ve gone inside a home office on a houseboat, seen how a working mum has set up her daughter with a mini desk of her own, and met a barefoot athlete who has no chairs in his home.
Today we’re hanging out with Ofe, 32, a stationery designer, graphic designer and professional calligrapher.
Ofe lives and works at home in Cheltenham with her two children Olivia and Zachary as well as her husband Godfrey.
Hey, Ofe! What do you do for work?
I’m a stationery and graphic designer and professional calligrapher.
I also teach live modern calligraphy workshops at locations all over the UK, Ireland and West Africa.
How has coronavirus changed the way you work?
I’ve run my business from my home studio for the last few years, but I also have a 9 to 5 that I commute to. With the new safety measures in place, I’m now doing my 9 to 5 from home as well.
I’ve had to cancel all my workshops and live gigs but I’ve set up online alternatives that students can join using Zoom, Google meet etc.
With nearly everyone being stuck indoors, lots of people are looking to pick up creative hobbies to pass the time.
What’s a typical work day like?
We get up between 7 and 8, brush our teeth and then grumble our way through some exercise.
Then it’s shower, breakfast, my husband starts work upstairs, and I do activities with the kids until lunchtime. I try to set them some stuff they can do independently so I get some time to work too.
My husband and I will swap sometimes when he’s between calls so I can have a rest or get some work done. He single-handedly looked after all of us when I was unwell too. An actual legend.
I get the kids to help with lunch, we eat, more activities and sneaky work until about 5pm when we get downtime and we let the kids watch TV or play with their tablets while we sort out dinner.
The kids’ usual bedtime is 7, and if we stick to the schedule, I start work again at about 7.30pm and work until about 10, often later.
We don’t always stick to this but having a loose structure helps.
What are your personal rules for working from home?
I find that it helps to be flexible.
My youngest only just started preschool so up until last year, I was working and caring for my kids full time. I pretty much worked around nap times and bed time, unless I had urgent deadlines. Lots of late nights but I don’t mind them.
I started my 9 to 5 when my son started school so I now do all my studio work after the kids’ bedtime.
I try to keep my work area clear and tidy as it helps me stay focused. I also either have music playing in the background or something mindless on Netflix. If I really need to get something done quick, I’ll work in total silence.
I also use scheduling and calendar apps like Acuity to help me keep track of things, and make lists either on paper or using apps like Wunderlist. Trello is another great tool for staying organised and managing projects.
I’ll also light candles sometimes to get me in the zone.
Can you break down your working area for us?
I have a pretty decent sized studio and it gets great light during the day.
There’s enough room for my shelves, desk, and a chill out area for the kids (because they’re never far away, just obsessed with me).
I do most of my work on my laptop and tablet but also do a lot of calligraphy by hand so I have about a million calligraphy pens, inks in every shade of the rainbow, brushes, brush pens, markers, etc.
I also have lots of samples of my work, paper swatches, workshop booklets and supplies, packaging supplies, a printer and a vintage book press.
I’ve got drawers full of props that I use to style my stationery flat lays, and backdrops to change things up.
For decoration, I love plants but cannot keep them alive, so I have fake succulents.
There are also quite a few gold trinkets and bits. My favourite decoration is a sign I created a few years ago. It’s a large laser cut out of my handwritten calligraphy that says ‘laissez les bons temps rouler’ – let the good times roll.
Have you come up against any challenges while working from home?
I’ve been ill since the start of the lockdown with possible coronavirus so I’ve been isolating in my room. I haven’t actually been able to do much work until yesterday.
Now that I’m better, the main challenge really is finding the time for everything.
Between homeschooling, my 9 to 5 and regular house chores, it’s been a bit busy and a few things have fallen by the way.
I’m also trying to be more on the ball with housework because a messy house can make an already difficult situation intolerable.
So far we’re all getting along and really happy to be home with each other. Everyone is helping out and being really positive. Now we just have to design a schedule that works for all of us.
What advice do you have for people who are new to working from home?
Don’t work in bed. Get up and get dressed everyday, even if it’s just to put on fresh pyjamas.
Work in blocks and take breaks often. If you have kids, you’re going to have to be more flexible and get used to working without set time blocks.
Sometimes, the TV will be your best friend, and that’s ok.
Homeschooling can happen outside of books too. Involve the kids in the chores and cooking, give them responsibilities and be ok with things being imperfect. Try to help them see the lessons in everything.
And if you haven’t tried this already, give your kids a bucket of water and a paintbrush and ask them to paint the fence. You’re welcome.
Outside of work, take advantage of the freedom that working from home gives you. Sleep in, get more rest, eat really good breakfasts, find a free workout that you enjoy, or hold spontaneous dance parties with the people you live with, or over skype. Pick up some new hobbies and catch up with people you’ve been meaning to talk to once your work day is over. It’s not like they’ve got anywhere to be lol.
And for the love of cake, if you’re going to go to the toilet or get undressed during a conference call, make sure your camera is turned off!
Do you have a pretty home office to share? Get in touch to get involved in Where I Work by emailing [email protected]
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