DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOME WORKER It’s week 81 and I’m now officially a hybrid worker, and a happy one too, even if I’m still getting used to the new morning routine
• IT’S been a big week and I don’t mind admitting I’m pretty wrecked from it. After no less than 18 months of working from home, myself and thousands of others found ourselves back in our establishments’ HQs with the latest loosening of Covid restrictions. Not surprisingly, it was a moment I had thought about often since the pandemic hit – at various times I both fantasised and dreaded it. And when the moment finally came around on Monday, like most other things in life, there wasn’t really any time for anything else except to just get on with it. I had completely forgotten how quickly those minutes tick by in the morning and will definitely have to leave the yoga and smashed avocado on sourdough for the weekends from now on. Strangely enough, though, after just 10 minutes or so of being back it felt like I had never been away, even if I was feeling a bit antsy as I wasn’t 100% sure if I had Sky plussed Home and Away or not (turns out I had).
• There were, of course, a few subtle differences to being in the office, as opposed to the home office. The most obvious one was that the top half of my outfit (vaguely) matched my bottom half. In other words the blazer with leggings combo was off limits. Finding something that fit the bill (and fit my pandemic paunch) was challenging enough on day one, and even more so by Wednesday, but I got there. Shoes, though, were the major stumbling block. I’ve never been what you’d call Imelda Marcos but I’m not sure how my collection became so streamlined that it comprised mainly Uggs, Birkenstocks, sneakers and slippers. I did find one pre-pandemic pair that I was pretty confident I could resurrect for the office, and decided to road test them one morning on the school run last week. That was until the five-year-old took one look and with a withering stare asked: ‘You’re not wearing those are you?’ Thank God for next day delivery is all I’ll say.
• My lunch box also looked a bit different. The fact that I had one for starters. WFH was an especially messy business at lunch time as you were either (grudgingly) feeding your ‘colleagues’. or powering on through before the people you shared your working space with returned, demanding to be fed. For those reasons mine generally featured toast, or other people’s leftover pasta pesto and was a mainly joyless affair. However, I can say without hesitation that there was a lot of joy surrounding my lunch this week; even the day I brought the leftover pasta pesto with me. I think lots of us had forgotten the concept of a lunchbreak over the past while and it was certainly nice to be reminded.
• Personally, it is also a major, out-of-this-world luxury to be able to make and receive phone calls from the desk. My home office doesn’t have phone coverage so I’ve had to leave my mobile in the hallway outside, where it would ring alright, but the person couldn’t hear me. So then it was a mad dash to the nearest space with coverage, the utility room, where I’d have to squash myself into a corner by the door and breathlessly announce ‘Oh I have you now!’ (if the washing machine was in the final spin mode God help us all).
• One slight (-ly large) drawback is that time is up now on that whole ‘Oh, I never got that email’ drill. You know where you’d get an awkward email from your boss (or just a perfectly reasonable one asking you to do something well inside your job description but which you didn’t feel like doing, not even after a nap) and you basically ignored it and pretended it never landed. ‘Email? Let me check – no nothing. That’s very weird,’ followed by lots of huffing and puffing about your broadband provider, drawbacks of living in a lovely but remote place, ‘try it there again, oh yes, I have it now’ routine. Don’t come over all innocent, we all did it. Yeah, it’s definitely trickier to duck and dive when there’s no cameras to switch off. At least we have the masks until October 22nd to disguise any pursed lips or clenched jaws (mental note: book a lip wax for October 14th).
• In all seriousness, though, we all rose to the challenge of WFH in a way we could never have imagined, so I guess what would be nice now is an acknowledgement, within reason, that work isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ model which is where the hybrid approach comes in. Of course you’re going to get people who will take the p*** and will want to WFH on Monday, start late on Tuesday, finish a bit early on Wednesday, do a split shift on Thursday, except for the third Thursday of the month, and they’ll see how they feel when they wake up on a Friday.There’s always one (or two). Let’s not forget, though, this is a big enough step forward so remember to be gentle and patient with each other to start with and under no circumstances should anyone mention the Christmas party yet. The next few weeks are about helping us settle back in and not have us running for the hills.
• Helping us process all of this will be the 37 new emojis and smiley faces which have just been announced. I’m drawn to a melting face, face with hand over the mouth, one with a peeking eye, a face holding back tears and a new biting lip emoji. They won’t be out until early next year, though, so in the meantime I’ll stick with the old reliable trio of the see no evil monkey, face palm and rolling eyes. Between them, they sum up my life pretty accurately.
• Finally, has anyone else noticed their pets have been strangely upbeat this week? I suppose you would be too if it was the first time you had a free gaff in 18 months.