5 Ways to Look after your own Engagement – Part 1, Know Yourself 


Written by Cathy Brown, speaker, catalyser & energiser with Capability Brown and Engage for Success.

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about making the transition from office based, big corporate working to home/coffee shop solo working. and how that was impacting my own engagement. It’s been an interesting challenge for me and I thought it was worth an update.

I was already aware, from previous experiences of trying homeworking, that it doesn’t suit me and it was probably the aspect of my career change that I was most concerned about. When isolated, my engagement (with task, team and organisation) plummets, I am very easily distracted and get less work done (although I do watch lots of Stargate SG1, sadly that doesn’t bring the money in).

I’ve tried various options in my new working situation:

Making sure I get out for (semi) regular Tweet ups with friends (that’s not necessarily work related, but is one of the delights about managing my own time and makes sure I don’t feel too isolated).

Making sure I have regular phone catch ups with the people on the Engage for Success team that I work most closely with, or Yammer chats.

Doing something in the morning (gym, taking the boys to school or bus, a bit of food shopping) before I properly start work for the day so that I have a ‘this is work’ start point rather than just drifting from ‘not working’ to ‘working’.

Attending Shropshire Jelly when I can – Telford & Shrewsbury mostly. These events are great for connecting with other workers and can result in either actual business or useful contacts.

I also looked at renting office or desk space locally. Even in the wilds of Shropshire this is not cheap though, and I do a fair bit of travelling so renting somewhere on a month by month basis is not cost effective for me, plus, if no one else is in then I don’t get the buzz of activity and company that I’m looking for.

Still, I’ve been managing. It’s not been as negative an experience as when I’ve tried home working before. I have realised that I certainly don’t need to be co located with a team of people doing what I’m doing, or even working for the same organisation. I just like being with people full stop!

Now, my work life has changed again. Engage for Success, the organisation I have worked for as a secondee and then a volunteer for the last 3 years, has employed me as Interim Director for the next few months. This means regular trips to London, but this time I have no office to base myself in.

I thought long and hard about this. Working from random coffee shops and train stations is not the best! Engage for Success is run entirely from donations and can’t afford the cost of office space. Some of the supporting organisations might offer space, but the logistics of security and regular access for a visitor can be problematic in a large corporate.

I looked at paying for hot desking. Crikey – if I thought that was expensive in Shropshire!!!!

Finally, I had a slightly off the wall idea and had a chat with a group of old friends who run a company in Farringdon. Luckily, they didn’t tell me I am bonkers (they’ve all known me long enough for it to be unnecessary…) and were open to the idea of letting me hot desk in their office on a regular basis.

So, it’s my first day back in an office in 8 months. There’s a nice atmosphere, it’s airy and light, people are friendly and there’s free Diet Coke in the fridge. I’ve got more work done in a couple of hours this morning than I would have done in twice the time at home (hence the space to write a blog entry!) and I’m feeling very motivated & engaged. Huge thanks are due to Capacitas for supporting me and Engage for Success. I’m hoping they’ll let me write up a case study on their own employee engagement – the experience of a SME is so helpful to the many others out there.

Really glad that I didn’t listen to the little internal voice that was saying ‘don’t be silly,  no one will agree to that. It’s not how things work in the real world…’

So the lesson is – Know what you need, then go out and get it! For some people that might be the solitude and flexibility of home working, for me it’s the buzz of office working every time.

Next time: I revisit my own Strategic Narrative – how am I giving myself purpose and meaning in my own venture?

Cathy Brown is a speaker, catalyser & energiser with Capability Brown and Engage for Success.

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