Cath Poucher is the Sales & Marketing Executive for Oxford Town Hall, working directly for Oxford City Council. Under normal circumstances she is responsible for driving the venue facilities (for weddings, commercial and community venue hire) to the next level in terms of brand, marketing, participation and income. The role develops the brand, ensuring the City Council are market leaders for venue choice. Here she is interviewed by our very own ETV consultant Chris Whaley, previously Macdonald Hotels & Resorts and Curious Group of Hotels.
ETV: How are you finding working from home during these challenging times?
CP: Like most of the Sales & Events Team here at Oxford Town Hall, I was already set up for homeworking so the technological changes have been straightforward. Working together has provided new challenges, such as getting to grips with virtual meetings, sharing information in new ways, rather than relying on discussing across an office and getting to grips with a new routine and a different way of working. I’ve had to make adjustments to my working environment, which is my living room. I’ve invested in a “lap desk” to ensure I’m maintaining good posture now I’m not at a desk!
ETV: Have you found anything difficult? Do you have any tips for your colleagues also working from home?
CP: I don’t have a garden so getting time outdoors has been very difficult, especially as the sun is finally starting to come out! I’ve found the transition to homeworking is much simpler when I get a routine and stick to it. And although this routine is different to my “normal” routine (primarily as it doesn’t involve a commute!) it has helped with some sort of normality. I’m also making sure I factor in some exercise time using videos online and a daily walk or jog outside. This outdoor time is also hugely beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.
In our team here at Oxford Town Hall, we’re having daily video catch up’s each morning where we go over changes, challenges and things we’re working though. This helps ensure we’re up to date with developments and that we stay connected. We also allow time on the call for a non-work activity, whether a quiz, or dressing up, to ensure the wellbeing of staff while we are all isolating and unable to see people during the current situation.
ETV: What is Oxford City Council doing to spread positivity around the work place?
CP: Our communications team are working very hard behind the scenes to spread positivity amongst Oxford City Council staff, who are spread across the region, working both remotely and on site across Oxford in critical roles. This includes championing staff ‘heroes’ who are doing excellent work and are out helping our community in these challenging times. We’re also spreading positivity amongst ourselves – many staff are being very versatile and adapting quickly to the new situation, happily working in any way we can to support our community.
For example, one of our ‘Staff Heroes’ volunteered to deliver hot meals to the homeless at a hotel in the evenings for the next 2 weeks, as well as doing deliveries from our Locality Response Hubs during the day. In addition, he put himself forward to be the lead of face to face deliveries, picking up meals in Bicester and delivering them to multiple locations in Oxford.
ETV: What are you and your colleagues doing to help out in the local community?
CP: Both I and my colleagues in Oxford Town Hall and across the Council are very keen on supporting the local community. One way we’ve been working with our community is to set up Locality Response Hubs across the city of Oxford. These hubs were set up in record time, and are there to get emergency support to those most in need. They are providing food bank deliveries, picking up groceries and prescriptions for those unable to leave the house, arranging for volunteers to check in by phone to combat loneliness. Staff have been seconded to work in these hubs from across the Oxford City Council (including the Town Hall), so it’s a real team effort.
ETV: What do you think of the “Clap for our Carers” which has been taking place at 8pm every Thursday?
CP: A lot of my colleagues are on the front line providing vital services to keep the country going during the Coronavirus Crisis, and the physical display that has happened over the last few weeks is a wonderful way of bringing local communities together to show support for frontline carers who, like some colleagues, are working tirelessly to support those in most need of care. The atmosphere on the first ‘Clap for our Carers’ in my street was amazing, and cheers could be heard from the entire town! It really lifts spirits in a time where uncertainty and negative mental health can dominate, if we let it.
ETV: What lessons do you think we can learn from this situation when we return to normality?
CP: I think that now more than ever, we have learned about the importance of community and the strength of our communities here in Oxford, who have responded fantastically to support those most in need. We are looking forward to opening our doors again to businesses and local communities who can use our fantastic spaces we have here right in the heart of the city. We’re already putting many lessons in place now, working with existing customers to find solutions to problems with their events caused by the current situation and I’m sure we’ll continue to take these forward when we return to normality, whatever that may be…
ETV: What are some of the things you’re most looking forward to being able to do?
CP: Gosh, there are so many things I can’t wait to do when the crisis is over! I’ve had to cancel a holiday I had booked for April, so I can’t wait to finally get away (and revitalise the tourism industry, which has suffered from the crisis). I’m also looking forward to doing the little things – I’ve got a National Trust membership so I can’t wait to get back to exploring on my days off. Finally, I can’t wait to go and see people; while you can use Skype or Zoom, nothing can match catching up with friends and family in real life!