The radio alarm burst into life at 7am, the news headlines providing a sudden reminder that this was the start of a working week like no other.
Usually I’d wake at 6.30 but I had allowed myself the indulgence of an extra half hour due to the fact that, well, I didn’t have to travel far. Just to the kitchen to be precise.
At 15, my eldest was supposed to be sitting his National 5 exams this year. He’s now gutted that my endless nagging at him to work harder during his prelims fell on deaf ears – the landing zone for pretty much all my advice. Annoyingly for him, sometimes (though not often) I’m actually right.
Most impressively considering his age, he didn’t ask for a lie-in. He wanted to get into a routine and be at his bedroom desk for the start of school, ready to begin the day as normal. A part of him was excited to see how this new home schooling thing would work out. Badly, if the first half of the day was anything to go by.
His first message came at 9am telling him the Firefly system of sharing tasks wasn’t coping and to await further advice.
My 13-year-old was less keen to get up, the thought of maths at home just as unappetising as learning it in class, so I set it as his first lesson – there’s no point pussyfooting around in times of national crisis.
With my eldest hanging about waiting for his first task to be assigned, I seconded him into assisting his brother. Leaving them to it, I ran downstairs to make my first call of the day. It started with what has now become my default opening line. ‘Just to let you know my teenage sons are working upstairs so if you hear any sudden shouting, banging or possibly even fighting, please don’t be alarmed.’
To be fair, they made less noise than my husband the previous week who, on attempting to fix the garden fence, fell off our back wall when I was on a conference call. He could be heard in the background moaning loudly as he struggled to stand. I took immediate action of course, by swiftly shutting my patio doors.
Monday morning with the kids passed in a blur of running up and down the stairs to assist with their work, break up arguments and play-fights, keeping the younger one on task and providing snacks – including to the dog who had piled in on the act.
Any thought of regular office hours is out the window now. You work when and however you can, including in the evenings.
By lunchtime I realised I needed to come up with a new pattern of working where I could be on hand to help in the morning – making calls and answering emails when I can – then allowing the younger one to break for a few hours so I can get through my to-do list. Any thought of regular office hours is out the window now. You work when and however you can, including in the evenings.
Those times when I connect with colleagues through video calls have become the highlight for me. For my first one last week, I linked up with five other colleagues and it was fascinating to see their home set-ups in the background. I started oohing and aahing over one of the team’s new wallpaper in her lounge so she gave us a tour of the room.
Things then moved on to a more professional note until my chocolate Labrador, Daisy, started barking outside setting off one of my colleague’s dogs. Once they piped down we continued and I was just getting into full flight on my team briefing when my youngest son passed behind me in his Mario onesie.
Unlike those times where you have to work from home when your kids are sick and you are pretending on work calls that everything is normal when really chaos is unfolding all around you, at least now everyone is in the same boat.
This is small beer compared to a clip that has gone viral on social media of one poor homeworker overseas who is presenting via videoconference when her husband appears at the bottom of the stairs behind her in his underpants. So panicked is he that he then bumps into the wall before stumbling backwards in a daze – prolonging the exposure. The clip finishes with her holding her head in her hands. It will be a familiar pose to most of us over the next weeks and months – just don’t touch your face.
No, none of this is pretty, but unlike those times where you have to work from home when your kids are sick and you are pretending on work calls that everything is normal when really chaos is unfolding all around you, at least now everyone is in the same boat. There’s something about that I have to say I find liberating.
Right now we are all just trying to find a way through this overwhelming and fast-moving situation. There are challenges around every corner. But I think, I hope, that maybe, just maybe, we can make it work (ish).
Podcast: Home-working expert Glenn Fleishman shares his top tips
Lots of us are finding ourselves working from home for an extended period the first time, and it looks like that might be the case for some weeks to come.
Of course, many others do work that can’t easily be transplanted from an office to a home, but even if yours can be, it can be an odd and difficult experience – especially now.
You can, though, learn from the home-working pros! One writer and author who has worked from home for many years looked at our current situation and decided that his best contribution was to quickly write a book, sharing the wisdom that not only he has learned, but his friends and colleagues across the world too.
It’s called “Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily”, and it’s available for free from Take Control Books
Its author, Glenn Fleishman, also joined the host of one of our sister podcasts, Pass It On to talk about what you can do to understand how you arrange your working space and your life if you or someone you know finds themselves working from home for the first real time. Just search for ‘Pass It On tips’ wherever you get your podcasts.
Listen to a snippet from the podcast below
None of the advice – in the free book or on the free podcast – is preachy or patronising. It’s all really pragmatic stuff – from how you indicate to family or flatmates when you’re busy versus interruptible, making sure you’re being kind to yourself, and not feeling guilty about the second re-watching of Frozen II if you just need to get a solid hour’s work done when looking after your kids.
Download the free book for Kindle, iBooks, PDF and more from www.takecontrolbooks.com/working-from-home, and listen to the podcast by clicking here or searching for ‘Pass It On tips’ wherever you get your podcasts.