J Lawry | In the Interim (part 3) aka, Champagne on a Sunday
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In the Interim (part 3) aka, Champagne on a Sunday

In the Interim (part 3) aka, Champagne on a Sunday

Why are contracts so rarely on your doorstep?  I’ve worked from Guernsey to Great Yarmouth, from Lisbon to Brighton.  Oh the joys of the weekly commute.  The interim’s organisational skills start here.

I have a very independent partner who, I suspect, (after kissing my tear stained face and waving me goodbye) does a one man conga up the drive to settle down to a week of beer, pizza and Sky Sports.  For me, it’s the start of a 3-4 hour drive in a sweet wrapper strewn car.

 So, following on from my Freelancer’s Guide to working on the road (In the Interim part 2), here are my top tips for weekly commute.

 Packing.  Look at the BBC weather website for the week ahead, then take an umbrella and raincoat anyway.  Don’t forget your “down time” clothes, gym kit, trainers, jeans.  Chargers for mobiles etc.  Sat Nav.  Obviously work wear appropriate for your host organisation, bearing in mind that you are representing your agency/your own company.  Oh, and take a bit extra in case you end up wearing your dinner.

 Accommodation.  Research is the key.  Use Trip Advisor reviews, use Google Maps to “virtually” walk the area.  When you book somewhere test the water for the first week to see if it really is suitable and don’t be afraid to move on if it isn’t.  Recently I booked what appeared to be a decent, quiet hotel but £60 a night bought you a room with peeling orange wallpaper and bare light bulbs, plus a chain on the door, always a sign of a classy joint.  Needless to say, I looked elsewhere and I now have an off-season holiday flat with its own terrace overlooking the sea.  If you are happy with your accommodation, negotiate a rate for a longer term booking.  Is it safe, does it have free parking, does it have work space, decent wardrobe space, does it have an en-suite bathroom?  If your host organisation has an accommodation office, use it, if only for a bit of local knowledge.  And then, sometimes, it just all works out….when I arrived at my current digs last Sunday evening, my new week day neighbours invited me into their home with the words “we’ve just opened a bottle of champagne”  You don’t have to ask me twice.  Being a bit merry by 6.00pm on champagne on a Sunday is all part of the contractor experience, after all!

 Your new neighbourhood.  Talk to your new colleagues, put your trainers on and walk the “patch”.  Find a gym, a bar, the local cinema or theatre.  You don’t want to look back on a contract and say “yes, apparently it’s a lovely place but I didn’t see anything of it!”  Consider walking to and from work each day to your digs; the exercise will do you good, give you a breather from work and give you the chance to actually see where you are temporarily working and living.  When I worked in Great Yarmouth (for the James Paget Hospital), my day started and finished with a mile and a half walk along the sea front; it was perfect.

Getting Away (aka The Great Escape).  As interims we often work 5.00-9.00; make sure you get away at a decent hour on a Friday especially if you have to negotiate the M25 or public transport.  At the very outset of your contract, try to negotiate a Friday working from home or an early departure.  This is sometimes promised by agents only to be snatched away by the host organisation when you sign the contract.  Know your worth.

 And finally……Take some basic stationery with you to create an office wherever you happen to hot-desk.  Notepad, pens, post-its.  A USB stick still has its uses.  Keep a note of mileage, subsistence, start and finish times of your working day (yes really), and all your receipts.  Keep a supply of your business cards with you.  Keep a note of taxi phone numbers, train times and bus times.  Buy or download a local map.

 Find your own way to celebrate the end of each week – that great feeling of driving home.  Put your favourite music on, have a bag of sweets (essential; very therapeutic); when I worked in Guernsey a trip to the airport’s duty free shop was part of my Friday evening routine – I can thoroughly recommend the local gin, Blue Bottle.

 Enjoy your weekend – it’ll soon be Monday.