Sunday, 29 March 2020

Surviving WFH - Counting My Blessings

Everyday, on every news broadcast we see the real implications of this crisis. The deaths are expected but no less awful, and there are so many other implications.

People are loosing their jobs, the UK is trying to help here and whatever your politics they are making an effort. 

People are loosing the businesses, I have family who have successful small businesses who have had to stop trading. I have relatives who have had to let people go.

My job is safe, I suspect it will change after all this, and that worries me but I have a job and I am being paid. I did have to ring my oil supplier, to explain I may need a delivery of oil. Normally one delivery a year is enough for me but I am now heating the house everyday. An extra cost for me, but other people will have increasing bills and perhaps not the income or savings to support that.

I can leave my house if I need to. I am not self isolating, I have had no symptoms. My last travel was to Madrid, which is now the 2nd worse city in Europe. I am blessed.

I have many friends including my daughter working on the front line in hospitals. Each are taking many risks and I am so proud of them. Again here in the UK our NHS is handling it much better than others, yes they have shortages but they are doing their best. I have a friend in the US where that is not the situation.

I have friends and family who are supporting the population. Those in distribution who are keeping the shops and hospitals supplied. Those in residential homes to are keeping safe those whose own families are not even allowed to visit. I have one friend who has closed his place of work and he and his workforce are now volunteering as drivers to keep the supply chain going.

I have signed up to volunteer, not sure what I will be doing, put I've registered.

I have no one in my house 'shielding', that must be very scary, I have family and friends where this is the case, and it isn't easy.

My wider family recently setup a 'whatsapp' group when my grandmother, who is 100, was in hospital with respiratory issue. Just typing that sounds awful. It was before coronavirus, she recovered and is back at home. Anyway that group is a great comfort, and I am chatting with cousins and aunts that previously I spoke to just a few times a year. Everyday we try a quiz and it is fun.

I have had a few video calls with friends and most days with my daughter. Thankyou so much for the internet. How would we survive this without that connectivity?

I wish my household was more than just me, but I also know that people are having issues with domestic and sexual abuse more in these dark times.

So whilst I am still struggling with isolation, I know I have it easy. 

Surviving WFH - Week 3

I am writing this post on Sunday 29th March. I have been working from home for 3 weeks. My company stopped us travelling a week before the government recommended it.

That means I have been in my house for 23 consecutive nights. I have not spent that much time in this house since 2008. I live on my own, my job includes lots of domestic and international travel. I love that balance of working in cities and living in the country.

Now I am struggling. Not with the WFH, that is easy, although I am working much longer hours.

Thankfully most calls for work are video enabled and I see people. My own UK team have 'huddles' every other day, just to check in and goof around. Wednesday it was wear a wig or hat day, loved it.

I am trying not to work all hours, and am trying to find a routine.

I have osteoarthritus in my knees and my surgeon says I should do non weight bearing exercise like cycling or swimming. It isn't a big deal, it was but I got a steroid injection almost 2 years ago and it was a miracle. So I try and do the exercise. If I am in a hotel there is normally a pool and at home I have an exercise bike. I get up early but regardless of the time, I cycle then, watching the BBC 6am news (thank goodness for iplayer). I don't do a lot, normally just 20 minutes although I have increased that a little now.

My own cuddly coronavirus creations

I love crafts so have tried to do some of that. This week I saw a coronavirus on facebook and adapting a pattern I found for Mike from Monsters' Inc, made my own and a few for some friends. I won't be doing any more they are really fiddly but it was fun. I also made a rainbow for my window, and then for a friend who runs a nursery. 

I have a small yard at the back of my house which has recently been cleaned and the walls painted so I painted a bench and some pots and made a little area to enjoy the evening sun. ( N Ireland is quite far north so on a good day we stay light quite late).

I have tried not to go to the shops. I now have enough food to feed me for a couple of weeks but milk and fresh vegetables was getting low, so I ventured to the village on Thursday. Down to the little shop and back in about 2 1/2 miles, and it was a lovely day, so I walked. Oh dear, it was like having been on a dive boat for a week, my legs, despite the cycle every day, were not used to walking. It was really weird. I think I will try a walk everyday without going to see people.

The shop itself, and the other 2 shops in our village, a greengrocer and butchers, both had long queues. Everyone was stood the right distance from each other but I expected more conversation, it was weirdly quiet. What was lovely was seeing lambs in the fields as I walked along the lane.

Next week I am going to try and work less, and do more of the personal things on my list.

Surviving WFH - escaping, just the once

The first week of social distancing went OK. WFH was really easy, as I said I have everything needed for that. The isolation is hard but even harder is the routine of not being on the go all the time.

My Seasearch group suggested shore diving. Dive boats are closed down but I am blessed to live on an island where the coast is never that far away. So after 9 years of diving I invested in a scuba tank so I could go shore diving whenever I wanted.

thanks to Oliwia for the photo

3 of us met at a small harbour and the only other person out was someone open swimming - brrrrrr the water temperature was 5'C. It was cold, really cold and we only managed about 40 minutes in the water but it was wonderful. It cleared my head and made everything right with the world. Visibility wasn't great but I was so happy.

However when we got out there was many more swimmers in the water and a lot of walkers, it was a beautiful day. 

This was our first weekend under 'social distancing' but the weather was wonderful and people although intending to stay apart , naturally flocked to the coast. In other parts of the UK it was national parks or beauty spots. So unintentionally we were still at risk. In this fast moving crisis the rules are now that we can't drive to our place of exercise. So that is the end of the diving for a while.

Yesterday the local police introduced fines of £5,000 for breaking social distancing rules.

Very disappointing, I know the diving is my go-to thing, and once a week would keep my mental wellbeing in a good place but I also know the risks of unnecessary interaction.

I'll just need to look at all my photos.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Surviving WFH - Social Distancing

Monday, week two at home. Work is going well, my internet is holding up and I certainly have plenty to do.

I had lunch with an old friend. We met in a restaurant that was almost deserted, but it was great to catch up. I might even grow to like this #WFH.

But then it all changed. Social Distancing. No going out to coffee shops. No Zumba. Church cancelled. Nothing.

My employer is amazing. Accenture have > 500,000 employees and many of us can work from home.  What we are doing depends on the projects we are on, each customer has their own challenges and we will do what we can to help each one.

The team I belong to, is having regular 'huddles' on line. Just a 'hi, how are you?' share a joke, just keep in contact. I love it. They are encouraging us to be on camera, to make the human interaction feel more real, and from tomorrow we will have online meditation sessions, armchair exercises and virtual yoga classes. 

I shared this photo, it looks like I am living in a bubble. Taking social distancing really seriously, but actually I am having my house painted and they were masking the windows. The view has now returned to normal.

I am incredibly busy at work, refining my role as we have just had a big reorganisation and I do feel I am managing that very well. I have been supporting poor colleagues who have been doing large presentations online to customers, and have to do it myself next week. 

But I am lonely. I live on my own and it is really quiet when I take off my headphones at the end of the day. The weather hasn't been good for walking but they promise better tomorrow, perhaps I'll go for a walk. 

I chatted with my daughter this evening, thank goodness for the internet and social media.

Surviving WFH - End of Week One

I decided I would make into my second stage of the virus, the 'positive' stage. It is probably good I live on my own as I would have been hell to live with the last few days. As the governments of the world, shut the doors, country by country, I resigned myself that this was going to be a long haul but was determined to try and deal with it.

I started the weekend by buying some flowers for my house (why is explained in this earlier post).

I told myself I would shop in local shops, visit a different independent coffee shop each day and support those who needed it. 

I even thought, 'if I can't travel for a while', I can practise living at home full time and see how it will feel in retirement. Was there enough here to keep me busy? 

I actually got quite excited. Started making coffee dates with friends, thought I would go to the Zumba class just started at church and generally settle into village life.

This positivity, though was short lived. I decided to brave the shops. I don't need toilet paper, a pack of 9 would last me months, so even if I was home full time, as long as I didn't eat much of my own cooking I would still be ok.

But my cupboards were bare, needed the basics. Joke, it was unbelievable. Apparently the germans call this panic buying 'hamstring'. It is as if we are preparing for hibernation. Toilet paper wasn't on my list, but basic things like eggs and pasta, even coffee was all gone. Luckily I am only me and not a family of 4 or 5.

Sunday I drove a little further to a big supermarket, and it was just the same. The I got to the till, it wasn't too bad. A couple being served, and just one other lady before me. The couple were quite young and obviously expecting their first baby anyway. They had 4 packs of newborn nappies, each containing just 20 nappies. I am guessing there were no larger packs on the shelves. The cashier tried to ring them up but it only allowed 3, the limit for that supermarket. The cashier explained and the couple were not rude just bemused. The cashier offered to talk to a supervisor and get an exception, but was told no, it was the rules and the till was programmed to reject > 3 of any item. So the last behind them, said she would put the other packet in her shopping, which she did. Then as the couple walked away, the cashier burst into tears. She said so many people had been rude to her all day, and yet she still had to say no to someone really in need.

Church was quite busy, but we were expecting older people to be told to stay at home so I expect the numbers to be much lower next week. There was no tea or coffee after church and the collection was on the way out, no passing bowls around the congregation.

Trying to stay positive is going to be hard.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Surviving WFH - Cancel, Cancel, Cancel

The government, My Employer, the news and Facebook had new information and things to worry about several times a day.

Monday - I was told no work travel, and cancelled flights for that week.

Tuesday - I was told the conference I was speaking at in Norway this week was postponed. I knew it was coming and it was the right thing to do. When I speak overseas I can claim the costs back after the event, so here I was going to loose a lot of money. I have travel insurance but it wouldn't pay up just because an event was cancelled. Last year at the event I won a voucher for Norwegian Air and thought I would use it this year to travel to the far North of Norway and try and see the Northern Lights. All was booked, 3 days light chasing and then down to Oslo for the conference.

What should I do? If I cancel all of it I will be out of pocket for a lot of money. If I still go to see the lights, it will cost me more to change some of logistics, but at least I will have a short holiday and who knows when I will get the next one. This process took many hours, but finally it was done.

Wednesday - work contacted me and told me I could not travel to the US in April for a conference. They wanted to cancel my flight but it was very expensive and for a few hundred I was able to change it to cover another planned trip in October.

Thursday - Norway announced anyone entering would need to go into 14 days quarantine. Guess the Light chasing was off. Oh and the conference in the US was called off.

Friday - I cancelled as much as I could for the Norway trip. It was by now on their government website, so perhaps I will get something from my insurance. I did get through to them but all they said was, fill in the form and we will assess it. I cancelled one flight and then 4 hours later they introduced a voucher scheme for re-use.

I calculate I spent almost a working day, amending, canceling and understanding options. Very frustrating, and although it was hard I still believed it was just a blip.

Surviving WFH - Week One

My last work post was about 'Being Equal and Valued', a positive piece that summed up how I felt about my hand in life.

I love my job, I love being valued. 

I love my home, I live in a little village in N Ireland and despite the rain, I love the tranquility and almost quaintness about it, but I crave the hustle and bustle of my job.

For the last 15 years I have travelled a lot. At least 3 weeks out of 4, I will be in London for 2 or 3 nights and then the other week I will be further afield speaking at a conference somewhere.

I own my diary and I make it work for me. I am the luckiest mum in the world, my daughter is my best friend and I see her at least once a month. I add a day's leave here and there and get some wonderful long weekends and if there is any chance of a dive somewhere I take it.

I love the logistic planning, what suitcase(s) do I need? What currency do I need? Complex itinerarys are my forte. I can be on the road for 3 weeks and manage it well.

I don't spend a lot of time in my home, and in fact if I stay anywhere for more than 5 consecutive nights I buy flowers, and that includes my house. I probably buy less than 10 bunches a year.

So this idea of Working From Home (WFH) is so alien to me. Physically it is no issue, I have been able to work from home since the late nineties. I have a second telephone line that was for my dial up modem, when I did on call support for customers. I have a beautiful office, built for my needs, I have everything I need. I sit at my desk and have a lovely view out over some fields, my house is higher than the road (lane with no road markings) and I can watch the odd tractor go by for distraction.

Last year I had a few sessions with an executive coach and she told me my strongest trait was the need to understand everything, and hated anything outside of that. So true, I hate magic, the circus, things I don't understand. In fact in my job my best skill is taking something, distilling it down to the simplest components and building the story back up whilst educating everyone else on it. I do that in meetings and presentations.

So not knowing what is going on is killing me.

I knew Coronavirus was bad, but it sort of sneaked up on me. It first affected me at the end of January. I was diving in Mexico and the day before the dive company announced if you had been in China you could cancel for free. Nothing for me to worry about. We had two guys from Singapore on our boat but they had been in the States for a few weeks before the trip, so again no issue. We had no internet for 9 days and when we got back to port, things had really kicked in. The two guys couldn't get back to Singapore as their airline had stopped flying.

I came back to Europe and attending a training course in Madrid,Spain, even then it wasn't too bad. Italy was just realising they had a small problem. Two weeks later Milan was on lock down and and I was back in Madrid for another workshop. We all arrived on the Sunday but Monday morning we had an email from Head Office to say no more international travel. We stayed, we were already there, but knew things were getting serious.

When I got home that weekend, I was still meant to be in London from the Tuesday, Dublin on Wednesday for a conference and back to London. On Monday the event in Dublin was cancelled and I was told I couldn't travel to London, so I cancelled all flights for the week. I argued that Belfast to London was not international travel, and actually escalated it to the right person who agreed with me, but by then it was too late. On Friday he emailed me direct to say, domestic travel was also out!

So a week at home I didn't expect. Good chance to catch up on a few things, went to a Marine Life meeting, and meet a few friends in coffee shops. 

Surviving WFH - A Journal

Like many people I am working from home (WFH).

I am not ill, I am not high risk and I know I am lucky, my job and my income are not at risk and this is just a small inconvenience compared to many, many people.

I have decided to write a post every few days so I can look back and laugh at how stressed I got about WFH, but please always remember I am not belittling the situation we are in or anyone affected, or even how governments are reacting. By writing these posts I am trying to make sense of my situation and look for positives, thank those who have helped and probably moan at bureaucracy.