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Lockdown: inside story - Nicola Swanborough

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Nicola Swanborough

Lockdown: inside story

In the first of a new series of blogs, Lockdown:Inside story, our Acting Head of External Affairs, Nicola Swanborough, shares the joys and frustrations of working from home.

My workspace

I have no complaints about my workspace, although I am finding my dining room chair a less than  friendly work companion. I am predicting coronavirus coccyx in years to come. Often thinking wistfully about my lovely office chair at work.

New ways of working

I normally leave for work by 7am, so am instead using those extra hours to begin work early at home. It’s not that I’m a natural early bird – I just don’t want to lose the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn when we -hopefully – return to normal.

And I find it good for my well being to have done half a morning’s work by 9am.

I am lucky to be able to do virtually all of my job from home, addressing ways to support people with epilepsy with some of the new challenges they are facing around the coronavirus. Trying to establish why people whose seizures are triggered by high fever aren’t included in the high risk category is a tough one. But our conversation with DHSC and Public Health England continues as normal.

Initially I found working from home very stressful. Technology can be both your best friend and worst enemy, but overall, I think we have drawn a truce.

I really miss the informal chatter of the office, the impromptu exchange of ideas and bumping into colleagues in the kitchen. It’s great to be able to Zoom/Skype and call colleagues, but I don’t feel I should do this to talk about the weather. And I really do like to talk about the weather. It’s the backdrop to every day and – as we have seen through climate change – its significance cannot be underestimated.

Both my husband and elder daughter are also at home, so we have set up a new Whatsapp group ‘tea run’, although our whistling kettle can trump any social media in terms of communication. I have also become good at knowing how long I have to stick it out before my daughter will come and make the lunch.

I keep in text communication with my neighbours. None of us are in the high risk category, but we give each other the heads up if we are doing an online order, need baking powder or have spotted our cats up a tree. All the important stuff.

Boris has become a big part of my life. The whole household gathers round the television at 5pm like a 1940s wartime family, awaiting news on the radio from Winston Churchill. I’m a bit annoyed about the new signage on the front of the three Downing Street podiums. I found the peach, blue and muted red, delivering the ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS, Save lives’ just right for the end of the day. Cheerful without being nationalistic. The new signage, same message, looks like it’s come off a building site. I may tweet Boris later.

It’s reassuring to have an update straight from the top man. I haven’t really been a fan. I always thought of him as an attention seeker on a zip wire, but  I like that he defers to the scientific and medical experts. And he's doing his best to hold the country together.

My daughter and I always then head for the woods. We have a wonderful forest stretching for miles behind us. It really helps to put distance between myself and the day. And we’re all becoming adept at diving into the bushes to maintain a two meter clearway.

What I like about working from home

I am adjusting more than I imagined to working from home. I actually miss my commute, including Slough, the erstwhile bane of my life. Although I recognize that it is not good for the environment to drive a 60-mile round trip each day.

I like the fact that, as colleagues, we have found new ways to keep in touch and, in fact, I think I am speaking to a more diverse group of colleagues than I was pre-Covid-19. The virus has bizarrely knocked down some of the walls and doors.

And it is quite useful to be able to put the washing out, knowing that if the weather turns, I can run and bring it in.

What I don’t like about working from home and what I miss?

In spite of the new communication channels, I still miss seeing colleagues striding into work, or filling the office fridge with lunches I wish were mine. I miss the random conversations and work community and that welcome question ‘anyone for tea?’

I also love and hate in equal measure, the number of hilarious video clips that are shared across various online groups. I find them compulsive, addictive and a big distraction. I have no self discipline. If we’re all still on lockdown this time next year, I’ll definitely be giving them up for Lent.

Above all I miss my children. They are scattered around the world, so I have no expectation of seeing them on a regular basis. But with borders closed and planes grounded, it makes it that much harder. We meet on Zoom but a virtual hug doesn’t come close.

Lessons I have learned from this experience?

It’s early days, but we’ve been forced to press the pause button on the world. The cost to the economy and ourselves, will doubtless be enormous, but the benefits to the planet – less pollution, lower carbon emissions, wildlife returning to Venice canals – must be a lesson for us all. New ways of working could help form a more planet friendly blueprint that isn’t quite as human-centric.

The most recent things that made me laugh or smile?

A repeat of Would I Lie to You where Rob Brydon had never heard of ‘Tommy-K.’

Tell us your story

Would you like to share your experiences of being on lockdown as we fight the Covid-19 virus? Find out how to share your experience here.


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