Who else is bored of working from home??

By Russ Watkins, 7th December 2020

So, nine months in, anyone else bored of working from home? My first ever blog gave a bit of an insight into my world of getting grips with WFH as I never call it (anyone who knows me I hate that type of jargon), well I thought I would give you an update. I still hate it.

Before I start on my many reasons, I have to say I know I am lucky as I have a job, one that I like and more importantly one that has not required me to be on the front line grappling with the battle against COVID. Whilst as a nation we might not clap on a Thursday anymore, I am still very much in awe of those on the front line in the NHS who are all heroes. Thank you.

Does MS Teams run your life? It does mine – I am like a zombie. I get to the laptop at 8.35am (after the kids have left the building) and I momentarily leave at 12 to grab lunch for 15 mins and then finish around 5pm. In between I might venture down for the odd kettle boil although I do get them delivered most of the time. My only time check during the day is 3.15pm when the noise level increases in the house again as the kids return. Then suddenly again it’s 5pm. Where did that day go is my general sentiment, followed by – I haven’t even looked at emails…

Diary etiquette has been eroded to being a wall of appointments and if there is a slight gap it is filled instantly. I have tried a few things to combat numb bum syndrome:

  1. Cancelled meetings stay in the diary just to give the occasional respite. Mind, some organised people properly cancel them, and they get removed from diary (damn you organised people!) but those gaps are plugged rapidly.
  2. Colour coding: I try to categorise my meetings so some standard meetings, which if I have time and am not double booked I might attend, have a special colour (not that I tell anyone what the colours are – never do that as they fill them!). It does work.
  3. Try and protect time. I have an hour blocked out in my diary for lunch. This is essential. If you don’t do it, you must irrespective of using it. As I said above, I tend to use 30 mins of it. I need that to check in with life outside of work. Don’t eat at your work desk it will drive you insane otherwise.
  4. Email. I have got into a rut with email. All day on Teams, all night on laptop clearing emails was a bad habit. Easy to do as my unread emails peaked at 1750 this week. And that is with doing three hours a night on laptop. Enough already was my response, it’s just not sustainable. So, my combat was to protect an hour a day at around 3pm to try and bash through as many emails as I can and I spend only 2 or 3 nights a week with an open laptop. It has worked but you must be disciplined as they are an easy target to just slip a quick call in!!

The best remedy is to find things to amuse you during the day:

  1. Daily catch up themes of the week. We started these in week six I think, when we realised you could hack the virtual backgrounds. MS Teams have tried their hardest to spoil the fun by making it difficult to add a background. If a picture does not upload, we add it to the chat. These calls have been a lifeline to me over last eight weeks in particular. It allows me to check-in on the team but the unstructured nature of 15 or 20 minutes 3 times a week gives everyone the opportunity to have a giggle. So important. If you don’t do them, I encourage you to give it a go. Our next three weeks are Xmas films, Xmas songs and Xmas foods. Mine will feature Die Hard, Love Actually, pigs in blankets and a bit of Mariah. Can’t wait.
  2. BS Bingo is always good value. Fridays at 1pm provides me with a bonanza opportunity to silently say ‘Bingo’ . The entertainment on the calls are generally my facial expressions when the management speak starts as everyone who knows me knows to look at my face when battle rhythm or dancing on the roof tops is mentioned (seriously what does that even mean) – pitch rolling is still my favourite! I did actually ask what it meant one meeting and it is a cricket term for preparing the pitch for the match. Same as ‘Ducks in row’ I guess. Don’t get me started!!
  3. Nosey at people’s houses. Top tip – if you pin the person, you can get a better look at what’s behind them! DVD’s, books – it’s interesting to see what genres people like!
  4. Take pictures of places if you are out and about and add them as your background. So outside of daily catch ups, when most of the time the theme is not suitable for use externally, I have become the tourist board rep for Sycamore Gap and Hamsterley Forest as the comments I get for those two pictures are significant. Less so the one of the River Tees at Eaglescliffe but to be fair it was a rubbish one. I have one of Derwent Reservoir this week to introduce. It is certainly a talking point, so if you don’t want people to pin you and nose around your book collection get out and take some pictures.

I still wear a shirt as it gives me the sense of leaving the office on a night time and it really does help me.

You might well ask what I learnt in these nine months of working from home. I think the most important is you need to take control or it will of you. Protect time in your diary and allow time for a giggle. If you don’t, it will drive you mad and have a very numb bum!

In other news, there are positive signs that a vaccine might be on its way which is great news but the reality for me is that I will not be on any priority list to receive it which means WFH is just a reality I need to get used to…in the meantime, stay safe everyone!

Ps. I have been stuck in a lobby (title of first blog) and it was not much fun. If you are hosting a meeting please let folk in!!