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Working from home during Coronavirus

Opinion

And then Coronavirus happened

As with everyone else, the past few months haven’t been typical. Stuck inside with the nicest weather we’ve had for a couple of years, no toilet paper or pasta for the first few weeks — until I found out my corner shop seemed to have its very own supply and was always in stock! — and working from home full time.

Luckily at Interconnect, we were in a position to be able to work from home, before Coronavirus struck, a day or so a week if we needed to. Skype, Google Meets and Github make the process a lot easier, so moving to that full time wasn’t a huge shift for us. But nothing quite prepares you for the sudden change that lockdown brings to all aspects of life. 

Human contact, even just walking past someone in the street goes. Being in a house of six should mean I have people to talk to but with two working for the NHS, and being cautious about being around the rest of us. And the others being furloughed, leading to them keeping different waking hours to myself. There isn’t a huge amount of interaction from day to day with them. So actual human contact has dropped dramatically. But, with work, to help keep us all sane, there are daily team calls to chat and check in. Topics range from radiator valves to some 80’s reference I almost definitely never get. Normally an appearance from a pet or two and people applying filters to their video always goes down well too.

Hidden surprises

We were also sent a care package from the company full of biscuits, chocolate and other treats. A lovely surprise that reminds you that there are still people out there, even after my delivery man left mine in the bin as the safe space…

Dealing with change

I also didn’t fully appreciate how useful an office is.

You can get people’s attention a lot quicker if you’re sitting next to them. Now you occasionally have to wait as they do their food shop, teach the kids or take a break to get a walk-in. It’s not the end of the world but it’s something I took for granted. It’s also a lot easier to explain your issue when they can sit next to you and you can walk them through it. Writing something down can lead to ambiguity, so debug sessions are now best done with a call and shared screen. Not too different, just make sure there are no incriminating tabs open!

There have also been other challenges you don’t notice when you only take the odd day working at home and everything is set up at work. At the office I’m treated to a comfy chair, sit/stand desk, 3 monitors, a nice keyboard and mouse, and most importantly a fast reliable internet connection. It’s not quite the same at home. In fact, it pales in comparison.

I rent a room in a shared house and with my fellow housemates now being at home the majority of the day, with not much to do except watch TV and video calls. The internet speed has struggled to be reliable or fast. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal and I could hotspot my phone. Or if it’s just one day at home a slow connection is workable. Neither are suitable for the long term though. But even testing can be useful in web development. As Dave has said, I can see how our sites load on slower connections and use that to improve the performance of them. Thankfully my landlord sorted a better deal so I can now artificially slow my connection in the browser to test this and don’t have to suffer from intermittent connection with everything I do. As a backup, the company is offering to provide a wireless router that uses 4G to create a faster Wi-Fi network for people if the workflow is disrupted significantly. Thankfully, the most important issue was resolved and I could work efficiently again, as much as I would like to think three screens is the main issue with that.

It’s also become normal that I spend the majority of the day in my room, working and then relaxing there once I’m done for the day. There’s nothing quite like spending up to 20 hours a day in one room to make you realise how dull it is. It did finally mean that I bought some stuff to liven it up a bit. A few canvases to hang on my wall and some succulents to give it some colour have made a difference. A positive of working from home I didn’t expect. I did go back to my parents for a few weeks to break up that monotony, but this led to its own issues. Slow internet, again! Moving rooms to work each day to accommodate where my parents felt like working that day. And now being their go-to live-in tech support if something went wrong for them. Something that I forgot, for some reason, is a regular occurrence. Lesson learnt!

Although my life has been affected, I haven’t got many responsibilities outside of keeping myself alive and paying bills. So I’ve kept my routine as much as I could’ve hoped for. And working from home has meant I have seen some improvements to work-life balance. I still work 9-5, but not having to walk to work has meant I’ve gained an hour during the day. My main hobby is running, and while I can no longer go to my club for training, I still get out. Relaxation of the lockdown rules and being able to meet friends outside has meant that I can go out to see them or we can go for a run. 

And I use the extra hour gained to walk still, but now it’s around the parks near me. Or to explore parts of Liverpool I haven’t been to before. Which is a welcome change to the same residential roads that I used to walk along everyday. Working from home was a change of pace at the start and there is a place for it in the modern work environment. But having somewhere you can go and you can separate work and the rest of your life is underrated to me. There is a balance to be found between the two.

Who would’ve thought I would actually miss going to work though?