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Pandemic Remote Working vs Working From Home

 

Everybody in the UK and pretty much the world has been flung into what seems to be the most surreal situation following the introduction of the COVID-19 Virus at the beginning of this year. Schools and shops closed with few exceptions, queueing for hours for your daily shop, the roads devoid of cars, staying away from family and friends who don’t live with us, homeschooling our children and office workers told to go home to work.

I’m Craig Pickles, technical director of Headland and I’m in the same boat as everyone. I’m having to work full time from home, but it shouldn’t be too much different for me should it? Any normal week I would have had a day working from home, particularly when I had a specific task which I could do without any major input from the team and I could ‘get my head down’ in the relative comfort of my kitchen. 

For many people, they would never have had the chance to work from home because they never felt the need or their company simply hadn’t the resources, systems or requirements to allow it. I’m not going to write yet another one of those blog posts giving you a list of points of advice, we all know them... but with this lockdown potentially lasting months, and a couple of weeks in, I wanted to give you my experience of what it’s like now, versus what it was like before.

Mindset:

The title of this post is “Pandemic Remote Working vs Working From Home” and as the title suggests they are definitely two distinct things, working from home for me meant the odd day out of the office where I could work in a chilling environment whereas we all now find ourselves in a scenario where we have to do the same job to the best of our ability for a number of hours every working day, and that’s not working from home, that’s remote working!

Family:

Previously while working from home, it was just me (and the dogs, two gorgeous miniature dachshunds) because my wife was at work and the children were at school or college and it was a very calming, quiet place to work.

In the current time of pandemic remote working, all of the family are home. Although my Wife works in a specialist school helping to teach and care for children with the most severe special needs and therefore is classed by the government as a critical worker so still has to work 1 or 2 days a week. But generally, there’s five of us at all times with all the noise and bustle that entails. 

Schedule: 

So once more, all the lists say that you should have a schedule which you should stick to as rigidly as possible. However, the difference in my schedule is remarkable, let’s take an average day from before, and from now when my wife is working. 

Before when working from home: 

  • Get up early, put the news on, have a cuppa
  • Wait for everybody to go to school
  • Shower
  • Have cuppa and breakfast
  • Set up laptop on the kitchen table
  • Put Music on loud
  • Work
  • Go out to town, food shop or a coffee shop and grab or make some lunch
  • Work
  • Wife and Children come home
  • End of the working day

I would check my emails and social media all the time throughout the day, mostly for the distraction.

Now with Pandemic Remote Working

  • Get up early, put the news on, have a cuppa
  • Shower 
  • Team morning video call
  • Check children are okay
  • Make breakfast for me and the children
  • Work with headphones on low so can hear what’s going on
  • Try to make sure the children are doing schooling
  • Work with headphones on low so can hear what’s going on
  • Check the children are okay
  • Work with headphones on low so can hear what’s going on
  • Make lunch for me and the children
  • Check emails and social media
  • Work with headphones on low so can hear what’s going on
  • Make sure the children are doing something more productive than youtube
  • Work with headphones on low so can hear what’s going on
  • Team late afternoon video call
  • Wife comes home from work
  • Have evening dinner with the family
  • Work

Clearly, pandemic remote working with family around is a lot more fragmented with so much less ability to focus and yet you have a full day's work to do, every working day. 

One of the most important things that I’ve found now is not to check your emails/slack/social media and news sites regularly, they are just another distraction that you really don’t need. Give yourself time in your schedule and stick to it if you can. 

Working Environment:

As mentioned earlier, when working from home, I would just perch up on the Kitchen table or sometimes on the sofa depending on the type of work. But one thing that is key to Pandemic Remote Working is that you have your own space, somewhere you can shut off. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this, we have a great family home but no spare room to turn into a makeshift office so sadly I’ve had to evict my wife from her dressing table in the bedroom to turn it into my workspace. Somewhere I can close the door and shut out the world downstairs when I need to focus. 

Previously it was fine just to have my laptop screen, it was only one day here and there but when pandemic working full time, I really needed more than one monitor (which is the way I’ve worked in the office for years) and therefore, my setup includes my laptop, a monitor which I use as my main screen, an external keyboard and external trackpad or mouse. This mimics my office working environment more closely than a laptop ever could. This is my new office for the foreseeable future. 

Remember that having your own space is important, not just you, but everybody in the house who needs to work including the children when schooling. It’s hard enough to be productive at the best of times with all the distractions at home, never mind if you’re surrounded by children and animals who are wanting your attention. 

Entertainment:

Of course, to ease the solitude, you will probably want some sort or music or programme playing in the background. This is normal and when I was working from home I’d often have my favourite playlist on loud. However, I’ve found that it’s simply another distraction if it’s a radio station, the news or some other programme on live TV. Instead, consider listening to an album you love and know word for word, you’ve heard it a million times before right, you don’t need to concentrate on it. Likewise, if you prefer to have something on a screen then watch a movie that you love and could recite it backwards, again you don’t need to concentrate on it, you know the plot and glancing at it makes you think you’ve an old friend with you. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s not the news… You’ll never get any work done and just feel depressed!

Lastly:

Just remember, you'll feel this really is a surreal situation, and if you feel this way, then you can bet your manager or boss does too… In all likelihood, you will not be able to work at your usual pace or usual standard and that’s okay! Everybody understands and above all, just remember that your health and your family should always come first, they are also in the same situation and need your support when you can give it.

And when it all gets on top of you then take a break, talk to your family, video chat or call your friends and parents. Above all remember, it may feel like it’s forever right now, but it’s only temporary. Look after yourself, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Craig Pickles - Technical Director

Published: 5 April 2020

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