It’s a Thursday afternoon and I am on a Teams call doing some internal training. The front door opens with a gust of wind and rain. It’s Mr B and the dog returning from the park. I mute my microphone, so my colleagues won’t hear the sound of man and dog shaking off wet clothing and signal to Mr B to hold the dog up so I can see her belly. She is presented to me like the newborn Simba at the beginning of The Lion King and, as I thought, she is filthy. She needs washing off in the kitchen sink, located directly in the line of sight of my laptop camera. I switch the video feed off as nobody needs to witness this, or the inevitable escape of the dog and the ensuing chase around the house.
Whilst this is small fry compared to the man who was gatecrashed by his kids whilst live on the BBC, the fact remains that we are nearly a year into our intermittent lockdown, and home and work life have become inextricably combined. So how do you keep the balance between the two when living in a small two-up two-down terrace in the middle of Salisbury and your dining table-turned-desk dominates the downstairs living area?
As a senior project co-ordinator within the Makara client services team, I have always worked from our base in Salisbury, unlike many of the account-handling team who are more used to agile working. If anything, I have really enjoyed being able to move seamlessly from home to work and back again. There’s no forgetting your lunch. No last-minute dash to the office. No realising that you have put on completely inappropriate shoes that you are now going to have to struggle through the day wearing. But how do you put structure back in a day where you may be spending 24/7 in the same set of four rooms?
I have given myself a schedule, which means having to leave the house every morning before starting work. I have tried to implement some of the office routine into the home space – screen breaks are still important but instead of checking the stationery supplies, I can fill up the bird feeder or put away the remaining bits of last night’s washing up. On my lunchbreak, instead of walking through town, I pass the hour enjoying one of my favourite hobbies – cooking.
Filling the gap created by the hum of the office has been harder. I’m a bit of an introvert, but as much as I like my own company, it is hard for me to work alone. I miss the chit chat, the spontaneous conversation, the background noise. Some of these gaps are now filled with an early morning coffee with a colleague over Teams, while others are filled with podcasts, or listening to the Hamilton soundtrack… AGAIN (my poor neighbours!).
And sometimes work life bleeds into home life. But I am a multi-tasker, and it is not unusual for me to be checking my emails whilst simultaneously feeding the dog and warming up for my run. Occasionally I work later than I may have done if I was still in the office but there’s no more getting hangry! I can still have my dinner at 6pm, even if it is being eaten “al desko” whilst Mr B watches the news on the sofa next to me.
Will I miss working from home when this is all over? Yes, a bit. All those funny little pockets of time throughout the day when you are waiting for the kettle to boil or for the microwave to ding have been filled up with small tasks – emptying the bin or putting the laundry away. Incorporating them into the gaps in my workday have meant that they are not there waiting for me when I clock off. My home life has been enriched by the coexistence of my work life. And in the evening, I can shut down my laptop and segue from desk to sofa in five short steps. However, there will come a time when it will be good to have our living room back – and maybe even eat a meal at our dining table. And it will be good to get back into the office again – I miss laughing so loud the Finance team can hear me in the office next door. Perhaps I’m not so much of an introvert after all.