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”

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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
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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
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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!

We must not forget our ‘Key Workers’ when COVID:19 is gone

Thoughtful Stu“We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them”

Since the UK was put into lockdown, the profile of NHS workers, care workers and those people who work in the food supply chain has rightfully been raised.  The weekly ‘clap for NHS heroes’ has expanded to be a celebration of everyone who must risk catching the COVID:19 virus in order to keep the rest of fed and in the case of the NHS, keep us alive.

One thing that really concerns me is that when normality returns, and we go about our normal lives, we will forget these ‘key workers’ and go back to worshipping vacuous celebrities on Love Islands, overpaid footballers and wealthy movie stars.

In the midst of the COVID:19 crisis, with most of the population confined to their homes for the larger part of the day, we have all had the time to take a look at the world through different filter and with the noise of normal life gone, and a very clear and present danger outside our homes, we have begun to see what really matters to us.  Separated from loved ones, we can see that it is time with them that we need and miss.

It is an unescapable truth that over recent decades we have worshipped the rich and famous.  Many  kids began to believe the lie that ‘wining the X-Factor’ or some other generic talent show was a career choice, and it was not about the music, it was about the fame.

Football players have been able to earn obscene amounts of money ‘because winning is what matters’, and actors earn more money pretending to be surgeons and doctors saving lives than real surgeons and doctors could ever dream of earning for ACTUALLY saving lives.  This is a world gone mad.

We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them.

Whatever the education level of an individual, they can find their place in the health sector.  Not everyone can become a doctor, surgeon, radiographer, nurse or any of the medical careers that require qualifications, but everyone has a chance to become a care worker and although the doctors and nurses get most of the coverage, it is often care home workers or home support workers who can make the biggest change to the quality of life for the elderly or those with special care needs.

Care workers can make a real difference and be real heroes, every day, to someone.

Surely it is time to look at the world differently and reset things.  It has not been film stars, footballers, city financiers, Youtube influencers or reality stars who have been making a difference during the pandemic.

We need our young people to stop feeling that the only measure of a successful life and contribution to society is fame and money.

We have seen ordinary people do special things, from medical workers putting their lives at great risk for others, shop and food warehouse workers pulling long shifts to get food delivered, through to individuals like the now famous Captain Tom and his charitable efforts in aid of the NHS and Care Workers.  Let’s keep that better side of humanity alive after COVID:19, lets make sure our kids see the value in working in health and care sectors and we must push our politicians to keep their word and protect our amazing NHS.  Oh yes, they could also make sure that NHS workers and Care Sector workers get paid properly for the care that they give and the real difference that they make….we will be watching Boris.

Merry Christmas….and a fascinating new year.

Merry Christmas everyone.  I suspect its going to be an eventful year ahead but for now I just want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Back to the battle in 2020 as the country comes together to celebrate shooting itself in the foot at the end of January.

merry christmas sign
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