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On the anniversary of the first national lockdown, I wanted to talk about working from home. On that pivotal day in 2020, nobody could have predicted that we’d still be working from home and living under strict restrictions an entire year later. It seems like such a long period of time when you think of it as a whole year yet it hasn’t felt long, not for me anyway.
Last Summer I was hoping we’d still be working remotely over the festive period as I had romanticised the idea of being cosy at home with Christmas films on in the background while plodding through my to do list. The reality was slightly different as I was busier than ever with work and didn’t get a chance to indulge as much as I had anticipated but I loved being at home all through the winter. Each day when I woke up and it was dark, wet and cold, I was so grateful I didn’t have to leave the house. Maybe it’s the homebody or introvert in me or a combination of both. Of course I missed all the usual gatherings, celebrations, quality time spent with family and friends including our rituals, traditions and general freedom however not having a single cold, virus or bug for the last year and particularly through the winter period is pretty incredible.
Aside from the luxury of working remotely, I’m more productive at home, completing tasks quicker while maintaining quality. Truth be told, if I was still in the office, I wouldn’t have been able to take on all the additional workload which has become part of my day to day remit. There’s so many distractions in an office environment, some good while others counter productive. At home, if I’m in the middle of a time critical task or working to a deadline, I can control the volume of interruptions by marking my status as ‘busy’ on teams or closing down my emails to enable full focus. It’s way easier than trying to politely excuse yourself from informal conversations with co-workers who want or feel the need to have your attention at the drop of a hat for trivial / irrelevant chat. Don’t get me wrong, I love office banter but there’s a time and a place and it can be difficult to strike the right balance in a busy open plan environment.
I think it’s unlikely we’ll get back to the office before October 2021 and I know I’ve probably jinxed myself by writing that but I’m always a realist. In the latest roadmap out of lockdown the Scottish Government has proposed a phased return to offices from the end of June however by the time everyone gets their two doses of the vaccine, it’s likely to be at least September/October unless of course anything changes with the current pace of roll out/scheduling. With that being the start of the next flu season some businesses may continue to act cautiously by holding off on a a full return to the workplace until 2022. There are wider considerations about shared facilities such as kitchens and toilets to take into account as well as the desk spacing/sharing ratio. Some roles may not ever require to return to the office, being able to operate flexibly or use hot desk facilities as and when required while others will still need dedicated workstations.
I appreciate not everyone enjoys working from home. At first it might have been a novelty and through the summer enjoyable to sit in the garden on breaks or clear your head with a walk but with the prolonged period of time and constantly changing circumstances with having to homeschool kids etc, it can be a real struggle. Everyone’s situation and personal circumstances are different and it can be isolating especially if you live alone. Weeks can pass without seeing anyone and the weekly food shop becomes an escape. It can be hard to find the motivation and concentration levels can dip through the lack of physical interaction / stimulation as everything happens through a screen. It’s important to remember these are truly unprecedented times and we’re all still navigating it as best we can. Productivity is not an exact science and naturally some days will be better than others. There were definitely days in the office previously where I would procrastinate or have a total lack of motivation and it’s no different when working at home although it’s perhaps more apparent as there are less distractions.
I’m hopeful I’ll be able to maintain an element of home working as the norm going forward. I’d go as far as saying I’d be concerned about my performance reducing by a return to the office and while I know that will need to be taken into account by employers, it’s not necessarily the direction I’d want to go in. I’m always striving to do things better and more efficiently and the thought of tasks taking longer simply from a change in environment doesn’t sit particularly well. I accept there are occasions where it’s beneficial to see people face to face and of course the social side of it is another factor but I’m hopeful the workplace will truly become more flexible as a result of this.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you working remotely and do you love or loathe it? Let me know in the comments.