Where I Work: Chris, the tech CEO helping small businesses from a garden office
Many of us are adjusting to working remotely, without a traditional office, in lockdown.
Our Where I Work series is exploring this new normal by chatting to people about their home-working setups.
Today we’re (virtually) hanging out with Chris Giddins, 39, the founder of a tech business called Uniqodo.
Chris’s clients are based in travel and tourism, so coronavirus has slowed that side of his work to a halt. He’s been filling his days by creating a new platform called Forlocal, which allows people to buy vouchers pledging to support a small business when it reopens or as gifts for NHS workers.
While we’re in lockdown, Chris has been working in the back garden of the home he shares with his partner, Sarah, and their 11 geckos in Hereford.
Hey, Chris! How has coronavirus changed the way you work?
Before the crisis hit, Sarah and I would normally spend four days of the working week in London. We’d then travel back to our Hereford home on the weekends, working one day from there.
As the whole team is now working from home, we’re back in the Hereford home full-time.
Talk us through your working space
We are incredibly lucky to have our office in the garden! We thought it would make sense to have this as we usually split our time between London and Hereford, so we built a small oak-framed out building last year.
As we’re working from home full-time now, it’s amazing to have somewhere to keep work separate. I feel incredibly lucky to have this extra space and that we were already well set up to work remotely.
Although, when we have conference calls I have to go outside or to the kitchen as my partner says I’m too loud!
What’s a working day in lockdown like?
So typically I start my day at 8am, I like to get an early start as I’m trying to run two businesses at the moment!
My day starts with lots of calls to make sure everything is on track with both my Uniqodo team and our plans to reach independent businesses through Forlocal. I like to have a clear picture of what can be checked off and what still needs doing.
I’ll have a few virtual meetings, this might be with potential new business keen to sign-up to the platform, or status updates on projects.
For the past few weeks, my main focus has been getting Forlocal off the ground and reaching out to as many communities and local businesses as possible.
How do you stay focused when you’re working from home?
I find that the sheer volume of work keeps me focused! My days keep getting fuller and fuller as we work to get Forlocal off the ground.
I’m the type of person who needs to have a full diary and keep things structured, so I usually work from 8am until 6pm and have everything booked in to stay productive.
Starting a new business means there’s constantly something to be doing so this keeps me focused during the day. Although my other business is still a little slow, there are still things to be keeping an eye on.
How are you doing mentally amid the pandemic?
I’m actually pretty happy, it’s very peaceful being in the countryside although, like everyone, I would like a bit more variety!
I’m also getting on well with my partner, we’re not annoying each other and we’re enjoying seeing each other a bit more, so that’s great… although it’s helpful having been together for so long.
I think if anything, I miss going to London. I always found that variety of pace quite energising, something I’ve always loved about the city.
How do you separate work from rest when your home is your office?
I like to wind down at the end of the day by cooking dinner and I try not to take the laptop to the sofa in the evening by leaving it in the office. As I’m juggling two businesses at the moment, that’s easier said than done!
At the weekends me and my partner have started to sort our garden out, and I must say it’s never looked better! Our garden beds and borders are all looking neat and tidy, and I’ve purchased a new lawnmower to keep on top of it.
Have you come up against any challenges while working from home?
Our main difficulty has been the internet has been a bit patchy, which is a hindrance when we’re both on video calls. We have to do most of our calls over the internet as well as we have really poor phone signal as we’re right in the country! In the end we had to switch internet providers and that’s made a big difference.
I have to say I quite like working from home as I’ve been taking the time to enjoy the countryside. It’s made me consider what the future of our London office might be as we haven’t really needed it and everyone’s been working well from home.
If we do return to the office, we might turn our meeting room into extra office space to enable us to adhere to social distancing measures.
And what advice do you have for others newly working remotely?
Isn’t everyone an old hand at this point? If I had to give some advice I would probably say that you need to fill your calendar with things that give your day structure.
If you start your day without planning it, you won’t be as productive as you could be. Have dedicated blocks of time where you focus on one project without jumping to something else.