In the third in our series of Q&A articles with Darke & Taylor staff, we talk to operations manager, Tanya Webb, about:
- the ‘new normal’ of remote working
- the role of an operations manager
- connectivity using Microsoft Teams
- the benefits of working from home.
Working from home – the day-to-day reality
Tanya Webb has been the Operations Manager at Darke & Taylor (D&T) for almost seven years, during which time she has taken on a huge variety of roles… in fact, Tanya gets involved with just about everything that happens in D&T at some level!
We caught up with Tanya, at her home in West Oxfordshire, to find out what’s changed – for better and for worse – what the ‘new normal’ looks like, and how D&T will be arranging its working practises going forwards.
Q. So Tanya – what did your normal working day look like BEFORE lockdown?
I suppose it wasn’t too different from a lot of other peoples’ working day? I’d work normal office hours of 7.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., with a 30-minute commute each way from my home to D&Ts office in Long Hanborough.
I used to work in the office every day – never from home – as I needed to be constantly there in person, communicating with people face-to-face in order to organise, arrange, plan, and cajole them into doing things.
My role was varied and involved most of what went on behind the scenes at D&T, namely:
- Simon’s right-hand person [note: Simon Newton, MD of D&T] and helping out the other directors as & when required
- Health & Safety – assisting our Health & Safety officer, James Thompson [see H&S blog]
- Accreditations – completing the documentation and being the point of contact with external providers/auditors
- Compliance – managing the ISO9001/Quality system processes and documentation for the company and carrying out internal audits to ensure staff are in compliance in order to ultimately reduce risk to the company
- Training – documenting and running D&T’s training (more that later)
- Recruitment – resourcing candidates, organising interviews and coordinating inductions
- Apprenticeships – recruiting, coordinating & attending career fairs (more on the Apprentice Scheme … also a bit later!)
- Marketing – including charity, press & social media liaison
- Office administration – organising works & charity events.
Q. Phew, that’s a long list of responsibilities! How have you found managing that all from home during lockdown?
Well, I’ll admit that at first it wasn’t easy! There was a huge amount to get used to, as D&T wasn’t really set up for working remotely…and neither was I! Without a home office, I was forced to work from my living room and this looked like a tip after the first few days.
On the IT-front, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams (MT) which has been a great way of speaking with people and staying in touch – it’s been an absolute saviour! Nobody had ever used it before (well not properly), but our IT guys – David Thomas & Willem Butler – did a great job, got everybody set up, so now it’s like second nature…which I’d never have believed I’d have been saying a few months ago.
There have been a few issues – which I’ll come onto later – but by and large, once I adapted to working at home on my own, I’ve become a lot more productive and efficient. I think this has more to do with my personality than anything else – there are far fewer distractions at home compared to in the office, where I’d be up every few minutes, going over to talk to somebody about a job that needed doing, engaging in office banter…etc.
I used to try to juggle four or five tasks at a time and would be constantly pestering people to do things asap. However, this isn’t possible remotely, so I’ve reduced that sense of urgency that I used to inflict upon myself and have become a lot less stressed in the process.
For example, now when an issue or job arises, I’ll ping that person on Microsoft Teams (MT), and if they don’t respond I’ll send them an email…and then I’ll wait for them to get back to me …which they always do, rather than constantly chasing them. This is the new me!
Q. So, what does your working day like now?
“I’ve finally stopped to smell the roses, rather than rushing past at 100mph”
I still do my normal hours, but without my commute and the normal ‘getting ready’ each morning, I find I’ve got so much more time, which means I’m far less physically and mentally tired at the end of each day.
I’ll work up until lunchtime and then I’ll go out and do my daily exercise, which usually involves cycling around the local country lanes– I’ve got to know them all very well now!
Then, it’s back to work in the afternoon – I find that if I’ve got a big project on, I can now devote a block of time to it, without any interruptions. For example, we have to re-submit a CHAS application (an important Health & Safety ‘H&S’ accreditation) each year, which is a huge administrative task requiring 500 or more documents. This is often the bane of my life, as all these documents must be collated, scanned and uploaded, and I’m usually fitting it in around 1,000 other things…but this year, I’ve been able to sit down, block out time, and just get on with it – everything went incredibly smoothly!
D&T will continue keep you posted on its response to COVID-19 through a series of Q&A sessions with its directors, project managers, and front-line workers.
If there is a topic you would like to see covered in a Q&A session, please leave a comment on this blog post below and we’ll get back to you.
Thank you once again to everybody for your support during these unprecedented times.