Listening to the news it’s hard to find any positives. The words ‘self-isolate’ are becoming a familiar refrain, and the world is coming round to the idea of more and more of us working from home. Of course many people can’t do this – plumbers, engineers, shop keepers, waiters, chefs, carers, teachers, doctors, nurses… the list is endless, but some of us can, and it really could, and should become the ‘new normal’. The idea that people working from home are skiving is nonsense. In my experience home workers are often more efficient and productive and work longer hours than their office based colleagues. Just think of the hours wasted commuting, or having a lunch break, or just chatting to the people at neighbouring desks.
As a writer, and before that as a journalist and producer of events, I’ve been working from home for decades. I occasionally had to go into the office for a meeting, but always considered that a huge waste of my time. It suited my life style to be at home: I had a growing family and I liked and needed the flexibility that home working offered me. And I worked hard - often at my desk before I took the kids to school, and again in the evenings. But I was also available to watch them in a match, or chat with their teachers and help with their homework, or just sit for half an hour and watch kids telly if that’s what seemed important at the time. The result was that I was happy and so, for the most part, were my kids. What I discovered is that I became hugely efficient at time management – something that improves with motherhood in my experience. I also found – and this might just be a personal thing – that I was more creative in my own space. Put me in an open plan office with fifty other people and my creativity drops to zero – and when you’re required to come up with inventive ways to raise the profile of a charity or a company that can be a problem.
Now I’m lucky enough to be a writer full time. ‘Self-isolation’ is my friend. I work away for 8 hours at a time in my shed in the garden, only emerging for a quick lunch and a listen to the World at One on Radio 4. I dash out for the occasional walk with a friend, and do Pilates once a week, but other than that it’s just me and the computer. And I love it.
So embrace home working if you are able to. Encourage your company to see it as the way forward – even after we are through the worse of the dreaded Coronavirus outbreak. Think of the office rent it could save… It could become the best thing you’ve ever done.