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Working from home during the lockdown is nothing new for voice over artist Marcus Hutton


There’s nothing new about working from home for voice over artist and actor Marcus Hutton. He’s been doing it for 20 years.

Based on the south coast, Marcus keeps connected with his advertising clients from a recording booth in his Georgian flat.

The Covid-19 lockdown has created a surge in home working, and in order to keep up productivity, businesses are having to quickly find solutions for their home working staff.

Marcus says:

“Working from home is nothing new for me, I’ve been doing it for 20 years and am very glad at the moment that I invested in my own studio, as all acting work has stopped for at least the next three months. The media businesses and advertising agencies I work for need to keep themselves going and to also be able to keep their output up to the professional standards that their clients expect . The studio enables me to deliver high quality audio and clients are appreciating that. I either self record voice overs and then ftp the audio files to audio engineers for mixing or the client records me via a live link. Engineers are able to do their work from home. The technology and quality, even when run on a laptop, is amazing these days. I am noticing that media folk are becoming very inventive , very fast. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams are being used everywhere. We are more connected now than at anyone in history”

For live recordings he uses a high quality IP based audio service called Source Connect, with a fast fibre broadband connection . This enables him to record voice overs for commercials and business videos with other studios all over the world, while agency clients listen into the recording session remotely via Skype. In the past week Marcus has recorded live sessions with Swiss, Dutch and Croatian clients.

Marcus’ voice is easily recognisable from TV, radio and online commercials. From TV commercials for L’Oréal to Kelloggs to business films for Rolls Royce and KPMG, to museum guides and phone systems, he has an extremely diverse list of credits.

“An ability to be versatile and available at five minutes notice is a requirement in voice over. At 10.00 am you can be recording a medical video with your best serious doctor voice and an hour later be playing a hyper excited animated character for a confectionary company. It’s never boring”.

“In the past couple of weeks I’ve been recording a lot of voice overs for explainer videos about the coronavirus for clients in Europe , as well as a large numbers of telephone prompts for IVR systems, explaining why there are call delays or why no one is available to answer the phone”

Marcus’ acting career has been extensive; working in Theatre, TV and film. Highlights include playing regular character Nathan Cuddington in Brookside, as well as appearing in Midsomer Murders, Made in Dagenham, The Inspector Allen Mysteries, Doctor Who and Holby City . His most recent film appearance is in the Film 4 and Studio Canal produced “Saint Maud”, starring Jennifer Ehle and Morfydd Clark , which was due for a worldwide cinema release this month and has now been postponed.

“I am sad for the director and producing team that the cinema release has been postponed as Saint Maud is a fantastic film and was generating a lot of heat after big successes at international film festivals. The entire acting, film and tv drama industries have been put out of work in the past two weeks, as has been the case in so many other sectors

There is an established network of professional voice over artists in the UK with home studios, working in audio books, e-learning, radio, video gaming, business video and commercials.

“There’s a tight network of home working VOs in the UK and we mostly know each other. We keep in touch on Facebook forums and all try to meet up a few times a year, just to get out of the house. Obviously we can’t at the moment. We are people who spend a lot of time sitting in airless booths and not seeing anyone apart from family from one day to the next, so the lockdown experience is not all that novel for us. Lately everyone has been Zooming each other. Freelancers have been hit quite badly by this. There’s a lot of uncertainty about work, whether invoices will be paid and whether people will be eligible for government support. These are testing times for everyone and the video chats are comforting. Perhaps there will be an upside to businesses having had the home working experience once the dust settles. The outbreak is showing that it can be done and for a lot of people that could well improve their overall work life balance in future”.

Website: www.voice-overs.cc
Imdb link: https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0404648/
Spotlight link for CV: http://www.spotlight.com/9494-0166-6156

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Experts warn coronavirus remote working may impact employee wellbeing

 13th March 2020…With an increasing number of UK employers joining Google and Amazon in restricting travel and requesting remote working, British businesses need to get prepared or brace themselves for a potentially significant impact on employee wellbeing.

Remote working isn’t always as Instagram-worthy as it may seem. A global survey last year found that many remote workers struggle with unplugging from their work (22%), loneliness (19%) and communicating (17%)[1]. Another study in 2017 found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers.[2]

Business culture and remote working expert, Jane Sparrow, says “a little bit like when it snows, the first day or two of homeworking can feel quite fun – it’s different, you don’t have to get up as early, there’s no morning commute – but then the reality sets in and it can become a real challenge for people.

“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly. This new remote working environment can also affect focus, a sense of team and creativity. It’s not something that is often talked about but if we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy and ultimately productive, we have to recognise and manage the high stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”

Jane is founder and director at The Culture Builders who have been supporting China and Hong Kong based, global luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyle retailer, Lane Crawford, through the eye of the Coronavirus storm.

Andrew Keith, the company’s president, says “it’s hard to articulate the array of unprecedented challenges this situation has presented but at the heart of our response has been supporting people and keeping them connected – to each other and the organisation.

“We’ve been developing people managers on how to support their remote teams, providing daily top tips and inspiration to keep people motivated and working intensively with the top team on role modelling essential behaviours for effective virtual working. I started a VLOG a number of months ago to have an emotional and direct connection with every one of my people, during such a difficult time, which has had a huge positive impact.”

With millions of UK employees already working from home and millions more expected to follow, the challenge is on for businesses to keep their people positive, connected and productive. The Chancellor may have announced a £30bn package to “keep this country and our people healthy”, but the onus is just as much on employers to ensure their people are supported.

Jane Sparrow says, “There are so many benefits of remote working, for both people and business spanning wellbeing, productivity and the environment. A possible upside of this whole situation is that it may prove the case for more flexible working within companies who have  been slow to adopt it.

“However, many leaders, teams and companies come at remote working assuming that people will just do it well or adapt easily to it, if it’s new for them. The other thing we see a lot is businesses putting in a new or enhanced virtual working tool – and considering the job done.

“We need to remember that we’re all human – and so dropping people into a totally different way of working with just a new video communication platform – it doesn’t work. We have to think about how we keep people feeling connected, that they’re still part of a team and that there’s still a strong support network in place. On the topic of connection, we’ve been going to Lane Crawford’s virtual gin dens!”

JANE’S TOP TEN TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE REMOTE WORKING

  1. Don’t focus on tools alone

With video communication, webcasting, messaging platforms and more, the tech is there to make this work. But attitudes and behaviours are just as vital for a productive remote team.

  1. Create a third place

There’s the office, there’s home and then there’s the virtual third place. Agree as a team how you’ll behave there for virtual collaboration success e.g. it’s acceptable to send a quick message to say “I’ll call you back” if you’re deep in focus.

  1. Ensure social continuity

When we work remotely, our exchanges become more formal and task focused. Pick up the phone, or ping a message, just to see how someone else’s day is going. Virtual team check ins at the start and end of each day replicate the usual social greetings and create connection.

  1. Adapt working structures

What works in the office may not remotely. Instead of lengthy meetings, have short virtual huddles with a strong chair so people don’t get lost because they’re not physically visible. Apply this thinking to team resourcing, scheduling and action planning.

  1. How are we feeling?

Keeping in tune with how teams are feeling is even more critical when they’re remote – have five minutes on the start of every virtual meeting to say hello properly and see how people are.

  1. Help people to manage distraction

Distractions are the biggest reason why many people say homeworking wouldn’t work for them. Get your leaders to talk openly with people about how they’re managing theirs – specific break times are a good start!

  1. Say thank you more

We have a human need to feel valued and when we work remotely the opportunities for this diminish. Make sure your business is seeking out and actively sharing success and your managers are dialing up the appreciation.

  1. Energising – your way

What gives us energy is different for everyone but your people need to work it out fast for success. A tried and tested formula is breaks + movement + fresh air (every so often). Plus avoiding the lure of the biscuit cupboard with healthy snacks instead.

  1. Walk the virtual walk

There’s a critical role for leaders and managers to connect, support, coach and role model. Task your managers with choosing two different people to call each day for a 10 minute check in.

  1. Be realistic and honest

If schools and nurseries close, the impact on how we are able to work will be even greater. Businesses will need to respond quickly and empathetically – leaders being open and honest about their own working patterns (and limitations) can really set the tone.

For more thinking and top tips on effective remote working subscribe to The Culture Builders podcast.

About Jane Sparrow

Jane is an organisational culture expert, published author, expert facilitator, performance coach, impactful speaker and global commentator. She has worked with businesses across the world, including Centrica, UKTV, Sony, Lane Crawford, Dyson, HSBC, Rugby Premiership and Sky, to create and sustain high performance cultures.

About The Culture Builders

The Culture Builders is a UK-based consultancy that works globally and specialises in building high performance teams and workplaces. Their client list includes global corporates, UK NGO & Government organisations, NHS trusts, charities and SME including Sony, NTT Security, Dyson, The Government Office, BBC and Arqiva. The Culture Builders is a carbon-neutral company.

For further information visit theculturebuilders.com[1] 2019, Global Survey, Buffer –  https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019

[2] 2017 United Nations report – http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_544138.pdf

Photo caption – Remote workers can quickly feel isolated, distracted and lonely” says business culture and remote working expert, Jane Sparrow.

Photo credit – remote working stress by Anton Korobkov, Shutterstock

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Coronavirus leaves businesses to work out working from home


With the emerging risk of Coronavirus becoming a global pandemic, more businesses are looking towards remote working as a solution to either stem the spread of the virus or enable teams to continue working if in self-quarantine.

Government reports suggest that up to 1 out of 5 could be off work due to COVID-19 in the UK, so preparations are being rapidly put in place by organisations which have perhaps never considered enabling their staff to work from home before, and large businesses like Google and Twitter are telling their staff to work from home to prevent the spread of the rapidly escalating disease.

As a result, many businesses are rushing into or being forced to get remote working set up adequately, and many technology platforms are jumping to attention around the media coverage, creating guides and recommendations on how to set up your work force to adequately work from home.

Little coverage, however, is being given to the emotional impact it could have on those who are suddenly having to work in this way, stuck at home whilst the quarantine period passes or until offices are reopened. Employees are developing guidelines and ensuring that sick pay will be paid – but for working parents, there seems to be little relief for those planning for school closures, and for the self-employed there is no sick pay – many won’t be able to work or maintain their livelihood – a concern to many of the UK’s 5m who work for themselves.

Therefore, some groups are looking to tackle these more emotional aspects of the pandemic.

Community project Leapers [www.leapers.co] has developed a guide for teams who might forced to work from home, tips and ideas of how to “work well” with a focus on maintaining positive mental health under challenging circumstances. Matthew Knight, founder of the project supporting the mental health of the self-employed, explains “Many freelancers deal with isolation and working from home every day, so we have plenty of experience of what is needed to work well when working remotely. Fortunately, for many who might be under quarantine, 14 days is not forever – but isolation can very quickly set in, so we’re encouraging everyone to prepare for working remotely, not wait until it happens”.

Other groups who focus on remote working are joining together behind the hashtag #remoteagainstcoronavirus – encouraging everyone to share their tools, tips, techniques and support businesses to take steps towards remote working sooner rather than later, such as remote agency Hoxby Collective, and Mind have published guidance on maintaining good mental health under stress during infectious outbreaks such as COVID-19.

Knight suggests a handful of suggestions to ease into working remotely, which is available online for free or as a downloadable PDF to share within teams at https://leapers.co/go/coronavirus

+ Get Ready: don’t wait for it to be necessary, prepare your technology and teams for remote working now, give it a trial run and make sure you’ve discussed how your teams will communicate
+ Eat, exercise, sleep: physical health is intertwined with mental health, make sure you’re getting good rest, eating well, and find exercises you can do from home.
+ Structure your day: put a routine in place, so you’re endlessly working, and don’t forget lunch breaks
+ Schedule in socials: put some time in the day where you’re catching up with others about non-work topics, just as you would as work. Share a cup of tea with someone via a video call, or just pick up the phone, don’t rely upon only typing and texting.
+ Ask “how are you?”: companies need to check in on their teams at home, and individuals need to check in with their colleagues, and for those who are struggling, share how you’re feeling, talking about the stresses really helps.

Leapers is a community project supporting the mental health of the self-employed. Founded in 2017, it supports over 2000 registered members to work well. Matthew Knight is founder of the project, and is available for further comment: press@leapers.co or visit https://leapers.co/

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