Taking In the View from the New Office – AKA Home

By Melissa Jackson

So, it’s official… we are in the grip of a global pandemic that, within the space of a few months, has changed everything we take for granted, including work. The uncertainty and fear seem as contagious as the Corona virus itself, with cities becoming ghost-towns and offices devoid of people. How will we cope?

When my husband relayed to me last week that his company had advised everyone to work from home, I thought it sounded like a sensible precaution, but maybe a bit of an over-reaction.

Then, as the week progressed, and more of our friends were told to stay away from the office, I realised the health experts weren’t scaremongering. Their anxieties were real.

My son’s school was closed for a day for a deep-clean, after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19. The emerging climate of fear was palpable – no-one was really sure where we were heading. There was a real sense of doom and foreboding.

One of my friends, who runs her own business, was concerned about having to lay-off staff. Another friend, who runs a small high-street café said he’d had just one customer all day and had decided to shut-up shop, fearing that he may never return. We are hearing the word “unprecedented” a lot, which always sends jitters through the financial markets and the economy and our spines.

For most, remote working is something you do once or twice a week as a supposedly liberating (from the shackles of commuting) perk, but it can be, as its name suggests “remote” and isolating if continued long-term. My friend, Mark, who works once a week from the comfort of his south London pad, said he’d go stir crazy if he had to make a habit of it because he’d miss the social interaction with his colleagues – hang on in there Mark because here we are in a temporary (but unknown duration) lockdown, with no choice but to stay at home, possibly juggling child-care and domestic “stuff” while trying to appear professional… without the opportunity to “go out” and grab some head space – AKA “a coffee”. Oh, the luxury!

It’s going to be a challenging experiment in resilience to test the patience of Gordon Ramsay and likely to result in an “unprecedented” amount of self-control around the ones we (usually) love to spend time with.

Already, WhatsApp support groups have sprung-up to help friends/work colleagues keep in touch, feel valued and billow out moral support.

Some are having “virtual coffee breaks” where colleagues who’d normally be in the office, link up via Skype or alternative video conference system, down tools and do what they’d normally do… have a chat and a catch-up.

It’s these small semblances of routine – that we take for granted – that we’ll miss the most, but it is only temporary and in this age of social media, thank God, we can all stay in touch with ease. So, my advice is to keep talking, keep checking-in with one another, be it work colleagues, loved ones or family. We’ll all get through this together and just consider this… in 20 years’ time we’ll have some great “remember when…” stories to share with our grandchildren, just like those toe-curling ones our grandparents shared with us!

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