This is currently my 23rd week working from home. At the beginning of the government’s lockdown advice on working from home, I set up a makeshift workstation at the kitchen table with my laptop, notepad and a positive mindset in my futile attempt to keep working as I had always done before yet in such strange circumstances.
Later, I bought a desk and found a mouse, which made life a whole lot easier and brought a bit of comfort to the equation.
It seems that many people are beginning to return to their places of work nowadays, whether full time or only a couple days a week. As my place of work is a hospital, I’m still working full time from home, although there are rumours of various admin departments beginning to return in the next month or so. For me, it has been tough, but the more Microsoft Teams meetings I have each week, the better it seems to be. Even the act of seeing other people’s faces and being seen by other people makes a huge difference to my day. It reminds me that I am a part of something and that I’m not alone.
Every week my team holds a virtual meeting, which is often sprinkled with awkward silences, and the bare minimum of personal chit-chat. We stick to work, mostly. People will ask about weekends and politely answer but there is little camaraderie that can be fully experienced through a screen. There is no comparison to being in the office though, and chatting with my colleagues, asking opinions and sharing ideas, and generally having a bit of banter.
WFH and lack of teamwork
The isolation of working at home can sometimes feel palpable. The lack of teamwork and day-to-day talking with colleagues can be a tiny bit demotivating. So it takes extra effort to get past the demotivating vibes and get some actual work done.
I’ll look forward to returning to the office even if it is for only a couple of days a week. And in the meantime I’m saving money on petrol and the endless coffees and snacks that I would usually purchase from the on-site shops and cafés. There is talk about how all this affects local businesses who rely on people like me buying coffees and snacks, but then again, maybe we could all do with changing our behaviours and perhaps saving a bit of money for more meaningful purchases such as experiences, day trips and hobbies.
I sense that my colleagues are feeling the pinch too, and I guess everyone who is working from home is feeling a bit deflated. Then again, there are those who don’t have the option of working from home; the people in key roles, such as those working in health care, delivery services and supermarkets. So in a sense I am one of the lucky ones, depending on your viewpoint.
My commute to work takes about an hour from door to office, and I’m currently using that time working these days so it feels like I’m doing all I can to keep up the workload. And then when the time comes I make sure to drag myself away from my workstation and remind myself that it’s time to wind down.
It’s difficult to know what’s for the best, but it feels as though the downsides to working from home outweigh the positives, and even though I’m benefiting financially from working from home, socially, it’s affecting me detrimentally. Then there’s the coronavirus threat.
The thought that it is not forever is keeping me hopeful. Seeing people wear their masks and try their best to keep each other safe is also a reason to hope. Heading back to the office one or two days a week is a positive step and one I hope to take in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed.
— Christina Curran is freelance writer based in Northern Ireland.