Meet the Workingmums team: Annika Williams

Introducing the Workingmums.co.uk team who all work flexibly and remotely. This week marketing manager Annika Williams.

Workingmums.co.uk was set up in 2006 by Gillian Nissim to act as a bridge between professionals looking for flexible new jobs and employers looking to attract an experienced, talented pool of candidates. Since then it has grown to be the number one jobs and community site for professional working mothers. It has over 320,000 registered users and works with thousands of employers. It also now offers advice, support and inspiration to those looking to set up their own businesses and franchises. Workingmums.co.uk is a fully flexible employer. It operates as a virtual business so everyone in it works remotely and with various degrees of other flexibility. We wanted to give you an inside view of how it works and who the people are behind the website. To kick off, we have Annika Williams, our marketing manager who works as a job share.

What do you do at Workingmums?
I work around four days per week in the two-woman marketing team as part of a job share. This includes everything from sales support, event organisation and creating marketing collateral to SEO, web development, customer service and new product development.

What's the best thing about your job?
Variety. Working for a growing business means things change all the time, which is great. You can get stuck in to new projects and help shape the future of the business. You can be creative, involved in new ideas, but also occasionally grab a coffee and sit back to do something less taxing when needs be. I also like working as part of a team in a job share. I would say both my job share partner Arline and I are both quite naturally ambitious and dedicated workers, which translates into us both wanting to achieve a lot for the business. But we leave egos at the door, support each other on everything, communicate an awful lot and also complement each other with our skill sets. We can both do most of the work if we put our minds to it, but quite organically we have grown through the years to understand each other's strengths and ensure the workload is pitched between us in the right way. There are, for example, tasks to do that I know Arline is much better at doing or enjoys doing way more than I do, so I am happy to hand them over and visa versa.

How long have you been at Workingmums.co.uk?
Seven years.

What motivated you to apply to Workingmums?
I began working with the company on a freelance basis when the business was just starting up. Around then I had taken a leap of faith and left my job of nine years, as I was living far from London and found the commute difficult with a small child. Don't get me wrong, my last company was very supportive – I had a staggered return to work after my first baby, then ended up doing a four-day week with one day working from home – but at that particular time I was finding it stressful due to personal reasons. It was also around the time I was having to start negotiating school runs – difficult if you leave at 7.30am and don't get home until 7pm. So I left and decided to be a freelancer. Eventually the freelancing turned into a permanent contract as the business grew.

What did you do before?
I was a marketing manager at publicly quoted publishing firm. I had worked my way up from marketing trainee to sitting on the management team. I managed a small team, reported to the board and managed all the marketing and subscriptions for a fairly large portfolio of websites, events, email newsletters and magazines.

Workingmums is a virtual business. What’s the best thing about homeworking? And the worst?
The best thing about working from home is not having to commute! It means I get to take my kids to school instead of leaving them at 7am. It means that I can finish at 5.30pm and be cooking dinner for them five minutes later. It's brilliant! Also, I find office environments very distracting now. I am positive – honestly – that I get about 10 times as much work done as I used to when interrupted all the time, distracted by other people talking etc. I like a quiet work environment these days! The worst thing is definitely the COLD in the winter. I feel very anti-environmentally friendly if I put the whole house heating on, although sometimes I cave in when I can't feel my fingers any more. There is also a big draught right under my desk. In the winter it is all about hot water bottles, a small heater by my desk and even at times working in a slanket, fingerless gloves and a hat!! The other bad thing, but only sometimes, is cabin fever. The rest of the family go out to work/school all week, so tend to want to hang around at home at the weekend whereas the opposite is true of me. It is the same four walls and if we don't do much out at the weekend I can get a bit stir crazy.

What are your top tips for homeworkers?
Make sure you are fully set up with some form of instant messenger – especially if you have colleagues. It is useful, but also a chance to communicate when you feel a bit isolated.  Organise proper childcare – just because you work at home it doesn't mean you can also take care of a toddler. My experience (working when they have a day off ill, for example) is that they tend to interrupt rather a lot! Get a good workspace, one where you can shut the door both on the rest of the house, and on work at the end of the day. Make sure you are prepared with healthy food in the house. It is easy to pick at the kids biscuits if you are busy and hungry and need an instant snack. Get lots of fruit and nuts ready! Buy a hot water bottle and some serious slipper socks for the winter, or expect a big heating bill!

Where's your desk?
Despite my tips, my desk is not in a good position at the moment. We don't have a spare office space for me, so it is in the living room which is not ideal. In fact we are considering moving house and my one and only condition is that I have an office space with a door!

What does it look like?
*Hangs head in shame* it is usually a mess. Right now, as an illustration, there is a laptop hooked up to a large monitor, and on top of it a number of notepads and bits of paper. A keyboard and mouse, mobile phone, landline and headset. Some money, my cash card and (oddly) some dental floss. Empty coffee cup, a bottle of fizzy water and some nuts in a snack tube. Bizarrely also a woolly hat and a child's seaside windmill. I have some lovely pictures from the kids on the wall.

How do you stay in touch with colleagues?
Mainly instant messenger, although we have weekly conference calls and do speak on the phone quite a lot. It is nice to have a few calls a day with colleagues. It can feel a bit quiet otherwise. We do have face to face meetings now and again.

Do you take a lunch break?
Rarely. I will go and make some food, but usually bring it back to my desk. Very occasionally I will go out for a half hour run in my lunch break, or if I have to pop out for some milk or to the post office now and again I will take a lunch break, but it is rare.

How often do you see your colleagues?
It varies depending on the projects we are working on at any given time. Sometimes it will be very busy and I will have a meeting a week in London, other times I won't see colleagues face to face all month. We always get together for a meal at Christmas and also try to get together in the Summer for a night out too.

How do you avoid isolation?
I chat on instant messenger with Arline. We have a lot to talk about since our work loads cross over, and it is our preferred method of communicating as it can be immediate, plus allow you to multi-task, which is what the job requires. No-one understands better than my job share what the joys or frustrations are of the job so we share a lot and laugh a lot (even if via IM). I also speak to colleagues on the phone regularly. We talk about work most of the time, but it is nice to chat about other things too like the kids, social events or holidays. 

What’s your daily routine?
I get up at 6.45am and coax the kids out of bed. At around 7.45am I take my senior school daughter to meet a friend and they go the rest of the way to school on their own. I then take the little one to primary school which is a mile walk away. Then I walk back, get a cup of coffee and sit at my desk. Usually about 10am I get really hungry and grab some breakfast and at some point some lunch. I tend to then sit there working until the kids come in. They come and tell me a bit about their day for 10 minutes, then I get back to it until around 5.30pm and start cooking. I am usually back on after dinner just to finish up anything, but then I am quite strict about switching off and ending my work day (unless there is pressing business). I spend the evening cleaning up the house and hanging out with the kids, then get into bed about 9.30pm to read or watch whatever TV show I am currently addicted to. Sleep at about 11.30pm usually. And it all begins again… Gosh. My life sounds a bit dull!? Sometimes there is a glass of wine involved in the evening. Also some evenings I go out running and my partner does the dinner.

What are your hobbies [if you have time]?
I run. I have a love hate relationship with running. I have been known to crochet. I like seeing friends when possible and reading. I also like cooking at the weekends, trying new food. We do love to travel too and try to get away a few times a year, even if just in the UK. 

How do you balance work and family life?
I am strict with myself. I have been working for years at home so I am quite regimented about not working late into the night and sticking to my hours. I don't tend to take any breaks and can work more or less eight hours solid so I feel that I need to be strict about not encroaching on family time. It is tempting and I am not guilt free – I think my kids see too much of me at the computer/phone/responding to emails etc. I do try very hard to leave work at work though. 

Can you imagine doing an office job in the future?
I really can't. I think I would find it massively distracting. However, it is possible to get used to anything – humans are very adaptable – so never say never!





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