Where I Work: Sally, a jewellery designer working in her one-bed flat

Our new mini series Where I Work is taking a look at people’s home offices, from the makeshift standing desks to the laptop trays precariously balanced on the sofa.

The idea is to give all of us now working from home thanks to the spread of coronavirus some inspiration for our current way of living and working.

So far we’ve peeked at the desk of a comedian, seen how one writer is working on a houseboat, and met a barefoot athlete who has no chairs in his home.

This time around we’re in the home workshop of Sally Norman, 21, who’s an interior design student and the owner and designer behind small jewellery business Sally Rose Norman Jewellery.

Hey, Sally! Tell us about making jewellery.

I learnt my jewellery-making skills whiled at Nottingham Trent University. I used my final year to major in precious metals but I have learnt much more through practice, patience and sometimes getting things wrong.

Jewellery-making for me is a hobby that pays the bills and equally keeps me sane!

All of my jewellery pieces are handmade from sterling silver, semi-precious gemstones, and pearls and include hand-stamped personalisation.

Have you always worked from home or has coronavirus changed things?

I have worked from home full-time for four months, so I’m quite used to it now.

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Get Living’s New Maker Yards neighbourhood with my boyfriend Jordan, an IT Project Manager, originally from Wigan. This is our first time living together!

Jordan is working from home because of coronavirus, and I would say it’s definitely taking its toll on him more than me, as we’re not used to sharing the space as a working environment.

I usually like to spread out so sharing the dining table is our biggest obstacle.

What’s your working setup like?

For my jewellery business, all of my tools are portable, which is great because I can put them away when I’m not using them and the apartment doesn’t constantly feel like a workshop.

I can work from any table, so here I use the kitchen table.

The main equipment I use includes a bench peg, which I attach to the kitchen table, soldering equipment, a toolbox full of forming mandrels, mallet, tweezers, pliers, burnishes, metal stamps, a slow cooker – random but it is solely used to hold a metal cleaning solution – and a barrel polisher (quite noisy, sorry neighbours!). It’s not very glamorous.

Tell us about a day at work for you.

I get up at 7am, do any house jobs that need doing and have a shower and get dressed. I get myself a coffee and aim to start working around 8ish.

I start the day answering emails/DMs and making my to-do list for the day and begin around 9am.

If I have jewellery orders, they are always my priority, whether it’s physically making, putting in a silver/gemstone order or designing a piece for a client.

I try to be as productive with my time as I can, so if a piece I’m working on is in the barrel polisher (getting super shiny!) for an hour, I’ll use that time to work on new designs or take other finished pieces to the post office.

It can vary how long a piece takes, but any remaining time I have before lunch I’ll start to study; still being creative but this time with floor plans, material samples and interior mood boards.

1pm is lunchtime when I stop working for half an hour and have a proper break.

I always use the afternoon to study: as easy as it would be to make jewellery all day, I know it’s important to chip away at my interior design course each day.

I work until 6pm-ish (tidying everything away to close off the day), because that’s when Jordan is done for the day and it’s time to start tea or to go to a gym class.

What are your personal rules for working from home?

First of all, I have a shower and get dressed for the day as if I was leaving to go to work. This definitely helps my mindset for working and sets me up for the day.

I also make sure I get up at the same time every day, at the time Jordan goes to work. Having a morning routine helps a lot.

I make sure I’ve done all my ‘house jobs’ before I start to work; make the bed, unload the dishwasher, put the washing on… this way my mind is clear to focus on work.

To be honest, I really enjoy both aspects of my work; learning and making, so staying motivated isn’t too hard.

I try to get jewellery orders posted out as quickly as I can to keep my customers happy and keep ticking things off my to-do list regularly.

It’s easier said than done, but I try to be strict with myself to maximise productivity. I turn my phone off if it’s distracting me too much, work from the table, not the sofa and don’t work with the TV on.

Going to the gym helps me to get out of the house but get moving. I can find I’ve sat down nearly all day so I need a good workout to boost my energy.

Have you come up against any challenges working from home?

I’ve found it surprisingly okay working from home! I was quite worried at first, making the transition from working within a work environment to being on my own at home for long periods of time.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few days along the way where things haven’t gone to plan, but with Jordan at home now I’ve realised I work so much better when I’m on my own.

On days when I feel like I’m getting cabin fever, I’ll either go for a walk, work from my parents’ house, or give myself a little break and come back to my work when I’m feeling more focused.

It’s also nice to go to the apartment building’s Club Room to work, it’s still in my neighbourhood and so I can get a change of scenery without really leaving my home. I find it better for my productivity if I take a break for tea and biscuits, than if I sit in front of my laptop or bench peg not doing anything

What advice do you have for people new to working from home?

As I said before, it helps to stick to a routine, similar to if you were working out of the house. Every day I get up at the same time, shower and get dressed as if I was leaving to go to work.

Make sure the environment is right for you. Start the day with a clear workspace (and consequently a clear head!).

Personally, I like to work facing the window, with a candle and a good album/radio station on. I make sure I work on a proper table and limit the sofa and bedroom to only ‘out of working hours’ to train my brain into associating the table with working and other spaces for relaxing.

Set goals. Make a to-do list for the day the night before or first thing in the morning, and be realistic with what you can achieve and make sure you get through all tasks.

Set working hours. This is something I’m still working on, I try to stick to a 8am-6pm-ish day, but as a creative person I find it hard to stop and switch off in the evenings.

Have a proper lunch break. Give yourself an allocated time for lunch and use this time to do anything but work! This is normally when I’ll ring my mum or catch up on Instagram. This should help you come back to the afternoon’s work with a fresh mind and more motivation.

Fresh air. Normally I’d recommend physically going outside, even if it is just a 15-minute walk, nipping to the shops or sitting outside with a coffee.

At New Marker Yards, there’s a podium courtyard area with seating which will be nice in the summer, but we can also go for a quick walk along the canal. Close by is the University of Salford grounds with a really nice garden/park.

I often walk around at lunchtime or before I start work in the morning. We’re also a 15 minute walk from Manchester city centre so can pop into town easily!