Julien Cozens – Director at Spreckley @JulienCoz
Back in the late 2000s, with the advent of good home connectivity, for the time, and decent laptops, working from home was suddenly do-able for a swot.
This became a blessing for many, enabling them to concentrate on a vital piece of work without office distractions, or giving them more time for work by not commuting.
It also saw the advent of WFHF – Work from Home Friday – allowing people to finish work early and get a head start on the weekend… according to some cynics! Admittedly, contacting anybody not in the office on WFHF after 3pm was virtually impossible.
COVID-19 and the WFHF
Suddenly, COVID-19 has heralded a new form of WFHF – the Work from Home Family – which I’m now part of.
Having freelanced in the past I’ve experienced working from home, with nobody around, apart from two dogs, who generally sat in my “office”, under the desk, gently snoring. The non-work highlights of the day tended to be chatting with my neighbour about his amazing revolutionary caravan concept, exchanging pleasantries with Mick the Postman and a coffee at Peggy’s Pantry, which is actually owned by Tony!
My new working from home experience, with my wife and children, however, has thrown up some interesting challenges and a gradually evolving etiquette.
As some background, there are four of us in the family and this is the first time in a couple of years of us all being together for an extended period. Three of us are in full-time work in various sectors and one is a final year university student, who has come home to work on his final dissertation as his university has shut down.
The WFHF challenge
The house feels very small, especially as we are all quite tall and the way that our home is built means that to minimise disturbing one another, we are on three different floors.
This set-up automatically has challenges. Our router is at the top of the house so connectivity there is probably the best, but it’s a bedroom which feels a bit odd to work in. It does, however, offer a good view across people’s gardens – and it seems that many people are using their self-isolation as a chance to do some garden pruning.
The “study” is on the first floor and has a desktop, a slightly wonky chair and feels more like a workspace. On the open plan ground floor, one person can work at the kitchen breakfast bar, and another the dining table. On the first Monday of working at home I started in the study, my wife worked at the dining table, my daughter at the kitchen breakfast bar – giving them both some musical distraction, with our teenage neighbour playing some White Stripes, Coldplay, The Entertainer and a range of classical pieces on the piano. My son took the top bedroom, which currently has a “work” table.
This immediately threw up some challenges. Both my wife and daughter needed to make calls, whether phone or conference, so had to be aware of each other talking, which wasn’t helped by me coming downstairs to make coffee or grab a snack.
My son needed to take part in online seminars so it was more sensible for him to use the desktop, with its larger screen – banishing me to the top of the house.
Overcoming WFHF teething problems
There have been some teething problems, which we’ve generally been able to overcome, apart from stopping Margot the Jack Russell puppy barking from behind the safety of our kitchen window as people walk by…..but she’s getting better!
The key to making the best of this situation, like so many others, is communications:
- Talk to one another, making everybody aware of when you need some quiet time for important calls
- Before you go into anybody’s area check they are not on a call. It’s always best to assume they are
- If somebody is working behind closed doors knock gently and only go in when they say it’s OK
- Give people space and where possible let them alternate workspaces to break things up
- Offer to make tea and coffee
- Come together at lunchtime if possible
- At the end of day, remember you are family… and then perhaps contact your friends and neighbours and take part in some of the excellent “virtual pub quizzes” going around!
With weeks, or even months in front of us, WFHF will inevitably become slicker, more productive and easier. What will be interesting, however, is how Workforce UK will operate when we come out of the COVID-19 challenge.
Will things have changed forever or will we go back to the status quo?