It's all been a bit of a blur really. I was fishing one Saturday in early March, and I recall asking Dad if he was worried about this coronavirus that’s been in the news. “No” was his reply, “it’s being blown way out of proportion, nothing worse than the flu”. Two weeks later, the country is in lockdown and he’s on the phone to me saying “son, this is serious – get surgical gloves and hand gel… don’t go out”.
In my 11-year career at Blackadders, I had never worked from home for a single day prior to 18 March 2020. In case the boss reads this, of course I have done work from home such as emails on the smart phone, or reading productions manically the night before a hearing. But nothing like the full-scale upheaval that was to become the norm over the next 5 months.
How have I found working from home?
At first, I hated it. I like routine, and had my weekday routine down to a tee. I had just forked out for some new shirts that have yet to be worn and now probably won’t even fit me. It felt alien not getting in the car every morning. Not having a morning team meeting and “cuppy tea”. I missed the hustle and bustle of the office and felt a bit isolated. Not having colleagues around me to discuss problems was also challenging. The nature of the work was tricky too, dealing with employers who were facing all sorts of challenges. Advising on new furlough schemes that we had never heard of before, and having to react to the drip-fed guidance that came from the Government.
However, gradually the home working routine started to grow on me. Technology was a blessing as we were able to re-establish our team meetings thanks to Microsoft Teams. It’s still not quite the same as an in-person meeting, but a very decent substitute. We were also able to use technology to do some online presentations to various organisations.
Has the ability to do the work been hampered by being at home?
In a word, no. As a bit of a technophobe and someone who doesn’t always embrace change, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to jump straight in and keep working as normal from home. I am sure that massive work went on behind the scenes by our colleagues to ensure that this was possible. However, apart from the odd teething problem here and there I have to say that, as a team, we have been able to do everything that we used to do in the office. The gradual easing of lockdown also allowed occasional trips to the office to do the odd jobs that cannot be done at home – checking the mail, printing, scanning. A weekly trip in has proved more than sufficient for this.
How have I coped?
I did find it tough at the start. Watching the news as the pandemic escalated actually gave me “the fear”. A few more mid-week drinks than I would usually consume were being partaken! However I quickly knocked that on the head. I started to exercise, for the first time in ages. I found running and hitting punch bags was a great release. One of the benefits of home working being that I could do these things during the lunch break – as opposed to the norm of just powering through at the desk. Another perk, although I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, was being able to get a sneaky wash hung out during the day, or cleaning the bathroom to free up time on the weekend. Though I miss the daily walks to Costa, I have no doubt saved a few bob there.
These have been very challenging times, and no doubt there is more to come. I have been very fortunate to continue working throughout. Nearer the start of lockdown, I would have said get me back to the office pronto. However, the longer time passes, and the more I become accustomed to the productive ways of home working, the less the burning desire to get back to the office. Surely there can be no better case study for the benefits and feasibility of a flexible working regime than what has been forced on us during the last 5 months.
Jack Boyle, Director
Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Specialist in Employment Law