I was out of the country in the weeks preceding the first lockdown, so I missed the mass exodus from the office on that Wednesday last March.

None of us could have foreseen the way in which our working lives would evolve in the months that lay ahead. At first it felt like an extended ‘snow day’ when bad weather meant working from home for a few days.

And then, as it became clear we were in it for the long haul, I began refining my work environment. I became Goldilocks in my quest for the comfiest chair. (Got there on the fourth attempt).  Drawers were cleared of domestic clutter to make way for files and the typical detritus of an office desk. The need to organise this new work environment was strong, perhaps because it one of my life over which I had control. In came fancy coloured folders and smart notebooks.

Getting Vodafone and BT on the case to improve poor internet bandwidth helped tremendously with the frustrations of frozen video calls, and dalek-like conversations over Teams.

Realising that I like to spread my papers around meant buying another filing cabinet to give a bigger work surface area, but the best investment I made was £6 on a temporary paper blind to stop the glare of sunlight hitting my monitor at certain times of day. It’s still in place, a year later, having run the full gamut of positions as the sun’s path shifted.

So how do I feel, one year on?  I miss the company of colleagues, despite our frequent video chats. I have a tendency to take root and not venture outdoors, especially in inclement weather. I find the house too quiet but music tends to grate on me. There are days when my concentration span is shockingly poor and others where I am a whirlwind of activity. I raid the fridge far too often!

A picture of Hark Solution's CEO, Claire Higgin's, working from home desk space.

But on whole, working from home suits me. I am not a morning person and so embrace my inner sloth until the very last moment before the morning Teams meeting. I have more control over how my time is spent without a drop-by from a passing colleague (but oh how I miss them!) and I’ve relished having the headspace for strategic thinking without day-to-day office distractions.

It became clear that a blended home/office environment was the perfect solution for Hark. We vacated our large, unwieldy office and moved to a serviced office space, so we can offer the balance between working from home or being in a communal area. Lockdown restrictions permitting, we can come together for meetings, or when wanting to collaborate on a project or to simply connect with those people we’ve happily worked alongside for years, indulging in those daft, rambling conversations around old TV programmes or how to serve potato waffles gourmet-style! The best of both worlds.

While the challenges of the external commercial environment remain, Hark has thrived over the last 12 months. We’ve restructured the way we interact, with the introduction of Team Leads to promote effective cross-team collaboration while all working remotely. We’ve expanded our workforce, and have been thrilled that our commitment to working from home has enabled us to recruit bright, talented colleagues from outside our commutable area.

We’ve deepened our relationships with our customers as we’ve been on this journey with them, sharing our knowledge as to how they can use our software to overcome the challenges they have been facing. And I firmly believe that the increasing prevalence of video calls has introduced a new level of openness in our business conversations, rather than ‘hiding’ behind emails. Working from home, with its background distractions of kids, cats and doorbells ringing is a great leveller that gives rise to more honest and fruitful discussion. Business is all the better for it.

Claire Higgins, CEO of Hark Solutions

Let’s continue the conversation about working from home over on LinkedIn. Connect with me here.