My working week – CIWM

CIWM CEO Sarah Poulter and membership marketing manager Gemma Smith outline their roles, and explain how they have adapted to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sarah Poulter, CIWM CEO 

What does your working week entail?

My working week involves leading the team at CIWM, working with the trustee board, our volunteers and centres to achieve our objectives. Every day varies – from team meetings, writing reports, driving projects through to completion, and meeting and working with stakeholders and partners. I usually travel to the office three days a week, and to London or other UK locations on the other two days.

How has your daily working life changed since the lockdown?

Although I’m used to working from home, I’m not used to combining working with home-schooling three children – this has certainly been a shock to the system.

Carrying out our business continuity plan and sending our team home to work was not something I was expecting. Luckily, with the help of our exceptional outsourced IT team, we managed to implement our contingency plans well without disruption to the services we provide for our members.

We have a very clear priority to help our members through this crisis so, instead of juggling a long list of priorities, the work has been very focused

My daily commute is now a trip to the dining room, where I’ve set up my temporary office (my daughter is camped out in my actual home office). All my meetings are now held virtually, and every day starts with a team meeting.

We have a very clear priority to help our members through this crisis so, instead of juggling a long list of priorities, the work has been very focused. We’ve had to find ways to be more dynamic and creative, and to work much faster than normal, to be able to respond to the changing and evolving situation to support our members.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy many aspects of my job, and working with a team that is passionate about what they do is definitely one of them. I also love the variation of my job, from coaching the team and seeing them develop and grow, working with great stakeholders, partners and suppliers, through to the impact CIWM has on the sector and the difference it makes. Seeing the passion and commitment from our volunteers and members, and watching our membership community grow and evolve. It’s a thoroughly rewarding role.

What have you learned?

I’m much more adaptable and resilient than I thought, and I’ve learned to adapt my leadership style to manage through the crisis. I’ve mastered the use of various technologies to help me do my role (for someone useless with technology, this is no small feat). I’ve been amazed at what can be achieved in a crisis when we all pull together and focus on one goal. I’m thinking about what the world might look like post-Covid-19, and will be taking the positives and the lessons learned to ensure CIWM comes out of this in a stronger position to continue its support for our membership and the wider sector.

What is your top tip for home working?

My top tip is very simple – take a break at lunchtime and get some fresh air. Something I’m terrible at doing, but it makes such a difference when I do.


Gemma Smith, membership marketing manager, CIWM

What does your working week entail?

I’m responsible for overseeing the marketing of all CIWM products and services, including membership, events, training courses, resources and publications, webinars, and our recruitment website. On a day-to-day basis, this involves working with our marketing executives, Luca and Misbah, to plan, develop, implement and analyse a range of multi-channel marketing campaigns. We spend much of our time brainstorming ideas, creating marketing plans, developing visuals, writing copy, scheduling marketing activity and reviewing KPIs. I also work closely with the wider CIWM team to contribute a marketing perspective to a variety of projects, and to develop member and non-member communications as needed.

How has your daily working life changed since the lockdown?

One of the biggest changes for me is that I’m no longer commuting for an hour to and from work each day. I’ve been trying to use these extra hours productively; in the mornings, I’ve been using the time to exercise before work and, when I would normally be driving home in the evenings, I’ve been dedicating this time to professional development.

I highly recommend the pomodoro technique, which involves breaking up your day into intervals of time for focused, uninterrupted work, followed by short breaks for quicker tasks

Another difference is the type of work that I have been doing during this period. The Covid-19 crisis has affected our members in many different ways, and we are working hard to support them, and the wider sector, as best we can during this challenging and uncertain time. My colleagues and I have, therefore, been contributing to a number of new projects, often in ways that go beyond our usual day-to-day roles. It has been very rewarding to be involved in creating some new resources that, I hope, will be of great value to our members, now and in the future.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really enjoy the amount of teamwork and collaboration that my job involves. None of our marketing activity is planned in isolation, and it’s always interesting and insightful to seek different perspectives, both from my marketing colleagues and from the wider CIWM team. Brainstorming can be particularly fun – there’s nothing like the feeling of working together to come up with exciting new ideas. 

What have you learned that you didn’t know before?

Having joined CIWM just two years ago, I’m relatively new to the resources and waste sector, and it would be difficult to overstate how much I have learned during this time. One of the things that has struck me most is the number of complexities involved in resources and waste management. What might seem straightforward to the general public is often incredibly complicated, and I have a huge amount of admiration for the professionals in the sector who work so hard to ensure that we manage our resources and waste effectively and responsibly.

What is your top tip for working from home?

I highly recommend the pomodoro technique, which involves breaking up your day into intervals of time for focused, uninterrupted work, followed by short breaks for quicker tasks, such as checking and responding to emails. This technique can be used anywhere; however, I find it particularly useful when working from home where, often, there can be more distractions.


As the leading professional body for resource and waste professionals, CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) is the voice of the sector and represents over 5,500 individuals in the UK and overseas. You can find out more about membership here.

This feature appeared in the May/June issue of Circular.

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