From Theatre Life to SmartWorking | Nell Jerram

From Theatre Life to SmartWorking | Nell Jerram

13th July 2018 Off By Guest Blogger

In this personal and humorous story, today’s special guest blogger Nell Jerram, describes her journey: 

“From touring theatre performer to raising twins; how motherhood is the ultimate ‘working from home’ and how I’ve come to embrace SmartWorking.” 

As a mother of young twins, I am often admired by other first-time parents who watch me cope with the chaos and tell me ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ The truth is, I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I do understand where they’re coming from. There’s always someone else to compare yourself to if you want to make yourself feel better/worse (delete as appropriate). For my part, I put mums-of-three on a pedestal, especially if they have triplets. Most of us are victims of our own sense of inadequacy at some time or other, but as new parents we can become real experts at this.

Lightbulb Moment

So when I discovered a friend of mine with three kids, her youngest not even one, was managing to find time to work from home for a pharmaceutical company, I was pretty impressed. ‘They’re very understanding,’ she told me, ‘they only look at my output rather than at what time I work.’

She might have been one of the many thousands of qualified parents whose experience and potential would have remained untapped, had her employers not embraced the benefits of SmartWorking. As more and more companies are adopting innovative ways to build their global workforces, many individuals, like my friend, are now able to continue putting their skills to use by fitting in their working hours around their home life.

The Sceptics

Flexible hours and remote working are things that freelancers and the self-employed have been used to for years. But for many businesses, SmartWorking is still a relatively new concept. And because of this, the sceptics remain cautious:

  • Managers don’t think it lends itself to their particular industry
  • Employees don’t consider themselves to be the ‘working from home’ type
  • Technophobes just can’t get their heads around it all

I can personally relate to the last two categories. As an extrovert with a background in theatre, the idea of sitting at home with no colleagues to interact with, held zero appeal. Having worked for many years as an actor, being stuck at home felt too much like unemployment. The aspects of the job that inevitably required a spell at home, such as writing application letters or completing tax returns, soon became my least favourite. I’d obviously much rather have been at an audition or in a rehearsal room, but I’d take temping in an office or staffing a corporate event as the next best thing. Just the act of leaving the house and joining a team of people made me feel productive and connected. I’d much prefer to learn my lines with a friend than a tape recorder.

The Shift 

But as the years progressed and my skillset diversified, I became more and more exposed to the benefits of SmartWorking. After a bit of coaching in the technical side of things, I learned to channel my inner pop princess and really embrace the headset. I would find myself video calling into meetings with a client based out in Hong Kong, a project manager in Italy and a media director working from a converted barn in Somerset. No complicated travel itineraries or piles of expenses, just a split screen with four very different visual backgrounds, like journalists reporting from various locations for a TV news broadcast. If it’s good enough for the gorgeous George Alagiah, it’s good enough for me.

No one can deny that there will always be some aspects of a job that require you to show up in person. An actor can’t ‘dial-in’ his lines for a play a shoot (although if you’ve witnessed a really terrible performance, you could argue that some do), but it is now quite common for casting directors to accept self-tapes from actors auditioning for a part by recording themselves on their smartphone. Theoretically, this should help keep to tighter budgets and broaden the pool of talent from which to select (although there is still a lot of work to be done to address the lack of diversity in theatre, film and tv – but that’s a whole other blog topic).

Work : Life Harmony

Now that I’m a full-time parent – the ultimate ‘working from home’ role – I can appreciate the importance of being able to carve out some time to think, write and be creative without having to contend with the stressful logistics of childcare or commuting. Becoming a stay-at-home parent should no longer mean you’re out of the loop. When you’re just about getting enough sleep and feel ready to take on new projects, there are all kinds of opportunities out there if you’re willing to ‘embrace the headset’.

Guest Blogger Bio: Nell Jerram is a professionally trained actor, with a freelance portfolio that includes writing, role play, workshop design and facilitation. Over the years, she has built up an eclectic CV across many fields of work, taking on temporary assignments and short-term contracts to support her career as a performer. More recently, Nell combined her existing set of skills and enjoyed four years at a drama-based training consultancy, working with clients to help create engaging experiential training programmes that focus on the wide spectrum of human behaviours in the workplace. She is now busy raising twins, developing her writing from home and exploring how to overcome her fear of driving in her current blog Driving Miss Crazy.