The Loneliness of the long-distance worker

5 tips for surviving lockdown homeworking

“…..so with a countrywide lockdown imminent we have decided that all field sales visits will end, the office will close and all team members will be home based until further notice”

Photo by Serpstat on Pexels.com

And breathe! 

For a busy field sales engineer, this announcement is a blessing in disguise.  I have the chance now to make CRM a shining example of self-discipline.  My company car will be restored to showroom glory and I can step up my weekly run to a daily challenge and turn myself into a healthy Adonis.

I don’t know about you, but the announcement of lockdown really felt like a chance to reset my work life balance?

There was something therapeutic about clearing all appointments from my Outlook calendar, removing tasks from the ToDo app which were now irrelevant since I was to work from my home office and no longer feel the pressure of filling my day with meetings.  And so this is how lockdown started, full of determination and self-motivation.

Skip forward a couple of months though, and now that early optimism was fading.  The occasional chat with a colleague on Teams was starting to be reminiscent of the depressed and clueless vultures in Disney’s Jungle Book.

After that initial phase of planning and tidying, the days started to drag out.  The weather was nice but being neither furloughed nor on holiday meant that being away from the mobile phone or laptop was not an option.  Very soon my Laptop and monitor had in fact come to feel like a wall between me and the sunny world outside, a world apparently filled with (socially distanced) happy families, joggers and car washers!

What to do?

I now had a clear choice, wallow in self-pity or find a way to break up the days whilst still achieving what my employer expected of me.  The first step was to ‘Get Out’.  Each day I would either run, walk or both, before work or often in place of the grazing that had become the norm at lunchtime.  I initially used this as a time to catch up on my favourite podcasts but in the end, I realised that the best therapy was to enjoy natures playlist.

With so few cars around, not only could you hear the birdsong and the breeze, but they were made perfect by the sweet-smelling air that had replaced the smell of diesel in the morning.

man in white t shirt and gray denim jeans outfit on green grass field
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

Next job was to tackle the loneliness of the long days, and Microsoft Teams provided the answer. 

It turned out that we were all feeling this isolation and the singletons amongst us felt this even more acutely.  At least I had my long-suffering wife to grumble to of an evening (she is a key worker so still had a life outside the house) whilst they had no one to share with.

So we setup a scheduled meeting on MS Teams twice a day that the whole team would attend. Work talk was forbidden, this was to be a sanctuary of idle chit chat, quizzes, and the occasional moment of inspiration.  And now it involved the whole team, so the bored silences ended and a real feeling of being in this together developed.

The final action that made the team rediscover its mojo was to stop hiding behind email.  This had become a bad habit that we had all slipped into.  We started calling our customers.  Actually talking to them! MS Teams meetings with these customers became a regular event and these developed into what one of my colleagues describes as ‘Deminars’ a combined webinar and product demonstration.  But the key thing though, was the human contact.

woman using laptop doing a video call
Photo by Matilda Wormwood on Pexels.com

5 Tips for surviving lockdown homeworking.

Here then are my 5 tips:

  1. Exercise – Make it a ‘must do’ and enjoy natures playlist
  2. Talk to colleagues daily – Not about work, about them & how they are
  3. Talk to customers – They are often at home too and glad of the human contact
  4. Don’t hide behind email – This can just make your isolation worse
  5. Routine – Keep a routine, it helps to avoid drifting into slob mode

So, how’s it going for me?

Well, I have stuck to my exercise routine (mostly), running most days, so I am slightly less moon faced than at the start.  I now see my Laptop as a useful tool again and not a barrier to the world, in fact it’s where my friends are to be found.  My car is only slightly less grimy than it was and the less said about CRM the better…..no one’s perfect!

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