Note from Jackie:

2020 and beyond!  I am sure you will agree that we are in a changing world and nothing nor no one could have predicted where we are today. However, it is so important that we continue to connect, support and motivate each other during these unprecedented times. Be that change agent and continue to learn. Thank you Fiona and Aisling for this opportunity. You have been at the heart of Ireland’s platform in supporting Office Managers, PA’s, VA’s and business support professionals.

Working from Home

Background on Jackie

Company: Link Group, Belfast (Financial Services Industry – Banking and Credit Management)

Role: Office Manager 3 years in April 2017. I am first point of contact with overall responsibility for the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) well-being of 70 staff in the Belfast office and part of the wider facilities team based in Dublin and  Maynooth. I view my role as a three pronged approach: People First: with day to day HR duties, processing leave, training, travel and expenses, diary management. Systems and processes: updating various management information systems including eFinance / Epurchasing, IT support, corporate communications/ events management Facilities: carry out all risk assessments, monthly SH&E checks regarding office facilities. I am also the Qualified Display Screen Equipment (DSE) escalation assessor, Fire Warden and First Aid representative

Speaking from your own perspective, how have you adjusted to life working from home?

Under normal circumstances I have always had a positive attitude to change – a real change agent who adjusts and can focus on other people and their interactions however this is not normal circumstances so it has taken some time to adjust to home working.

No commute! Gone is the early morning 2000 step count made up by a brisk walk to the Park and Ride for Public Transport and in its place 30 paces down stairs to my home working station. During my 30 minute journey into the city centre I would check out Twitter / LinkedIn or read my book or have a chat.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

There are 5 adults and one teenager at home, and all but one (front line worker) was jockeying for a work space! Prioritisation, delegation, time management and conflict resolution skills were put to the test to find a resolution that met everyone’s needs!

How do you organise your time and space in the home , home v office?

At first, I didn’t take regular breaks including lunch. I had a real case of presenteeism ( that is a word?) I had to be accountable and reachable. I didn’t want to miss a call, I had to be at my PC, or checking my phone. Now I am more settled and realistic in terms of flexibility. I go for a walk at lunchtime and now when I am on the phone I get up from my PC and walk around the house or the garden. I am going reaching my 10,000 step target which to me is important. I read Niamh Smithers’ interview and bought a white board so I can visually keep my ‘to do list’ up to date.

I really miss the social interaction with my colleagues, waiting on a response or resolving IT issues

What opportunities have you seen?

Working from home can work. Keeping in contact with conference calls, Zoom calls for both staff and family is important especially for people who are self-isolating at home alone. The difference between lone working and working alone. Knowing your colleagues and providing support even if it is a call. Not everyone is IT savvy! Continuing with Belfast PA Forum committee meetings via Zoom.

What positives have you seen?

We will all be impacted on in some way or another from Covid 19 whether is working from home, family working on the front line, job chances etc.. Be careful with what you absorb. Feed yourself with positivity and know that this is short term.

I am now seeing all of my family together (mum, brothers and sisters 8 of us) on a weekly zoom on Monday evening, Bingo on a Friday evening and then my own family, husband, 3 sons and 1 daughter take part in the Bara Best’s (UTV weather man) Quiz on Sunday evening. On our virtual coffee morning we get to see families, pets, etc.

Another positive I am noticing is that my children can see and hear me in work mode and appreciate that I ‘work and work hard’. I didn’t realise I had a telephone voice! Although they still expect me to come out of the office and into the kitchen. No commute time!

Can you tell us a couple of things that you are doing to improve staff morale?

Five for Friday –

  • good news stories,
  • office updates,
  • share webinar links,
  • posturite tips,
  • Virtual coffee mornings via zoom.

I share all webinar links with staff.

Any recommendations for any of the following (in terms of apps/programmes/software that are free / good value / only if you have budget

For teams Microsoft teamsFor tasks/to-do lists (personal and/or professionals): White boardFor video conferencing

Recommended webinars?

Lilly Shippen Homeworking – Managing your well-being

Lily Shippen – Prepare for normality after lockdown

Learning from Covid 19. Driving large scale cultural change around mental health from Unmind

Consensa MS Excel Webinar – Pivot Tables

Tips for a positive mindset?

“Guard the door to our mind”. Transform negative self – talk into positive self-talk and be your personal best.

Anything else that you’re finding really helpful/cannot live without?

Alexa! Not only do I listen to the radio every day but set reminders.

Any TV series/Netflix recommendations?

SAS Celebrity Who Dares Wins ( My son and I were due to see Ant Middleton’s Mind Over Muscle tour in November!

Note from the editor: Over the coming weeks, we’ll be interviewing a number or Ireland’s EAs, PAs and Officer Managers. If you would like to share your experiences with your peers then please get in touch. Email Aisling on