Week 53: reflections on the past year

Today is my one year anniversary of working from home, which has started me thinking about the last 12 months. For all its faults and annoyances, I’ve always loved working in an office. I enjoy spending time around people, the planned and unplanned interactions that litter our days, and the ability to communicate on many different levels. I like the sense of community that comes from being in an office with your colleagues, and the ability to go for coffee and chats with the ones who become friends. I also rather enjoy the preparation/decompression time that the commute offers.

But, of course, there are many down sides too. Not being able to get on with big tasks because of constant interruptions, unnecessary gossip and politics, plus the emotional and physical drain of the commute (especially for those who work anywhere in the Greater London area) are all reasons why working in an office can sometimes feel draining and far from productive. However, I have always viewed the positives as outweighing the negatives and so haven’t ever had a desire to work from home for more than the occasional day. This meant that being suddenly thrust into a remote working life felt rather odd. OK, so it has been something of an adventure, but one that featured a lot more self reflection than I initially anticipated.

I learnt that it’s possible to ‘fake’ some of the good aspects of working in an office, but not others. I have now got a WhatsApp group with the colleagues I was closest to in the office I shared, text chat on Teams has proved to be good at replacing popping into someone’s office to ask a quick question, and scheduling the occasional ‘coffee and chats’ with those colleagues you really miss is a great way to replicate the real thing. It just means I have to be a lot more intentional about making and maintaining connections than I might have been pre-Covid, when I could just bump into someone in the corridor and have a 15 minute chat about non-work stuff just for the hell of it.

I’ve also discovered that, despite gaining an extra two and a half hours every weekday and saving vast amounts of money by not having to commute, I do actually miss it a little bit. Not getting up early to fight for a seat and then squeeze myself onto the Tube at Canning Town, but the journey home at the end of the day which gave me time to reflect and appreciate life. I miss watching the sunset over docklands from the DLR or, if I wasn’t in a rush, the wonderful views of London from the Thames Clipper. I also realised that my jokes about the commute being my only exercise were in actual fact the truth, and so I needed to find something to replace walking to/from the station and up endless flights of stairs. Thankfully, my uplifting Spotify playlist I created on my commute also works well as an exercise bike soundtrack!

I don’t yet know when I’ll be returning to the office or what that will look like when I do (social distancing will most certainly mean that I won’t be doing 9.30am-5.30pm, 5 days a week in a busy office!), so I think that my home desk will be my base for a long time yet. Day one of working from home saw me perched at the dining room table with my laptop, but on day 366 I’m now sat far more comfortably at an Ikea desk in the spare bedroom with a two monitor set up* and extra lighting for video calls. It’s still a bit strange sometimes, but I’ve learnt a lot about my preferred ways of working in this last year and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds. Let’s hope that more flexible ways of working become the norm in a post-Covid world.

*Huge thanks to the ever amazing Topper for this, and for building the desk!

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