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On the morning that this blog post was published, my son presented himself with a temperature and a cough.
Previously the UK Government had issued advice that if you have a temperature and a cough, the entire family should self isolate themselves for 14 days, because of the recent outbreak of COVID-19.
Because we didn’t want to overreact and instantly keep him away from school, my wife called his school, and the advice was clear, stay away for 14 days.
My wife called her work, and was given the same advice. Do not come in, work from home if you can.
Since this blog post happened, the entire world has been put on lockdown, because of the danger of this new coronavirus!
Me? I live in self isolation. I am a remote worker. I have spent the last 6 years of my career, founding and then eventually working for a business that only hires remote workers.
Other than the distraction, novelty and dare I say challenge of having my wife and child at home, nothing really changed.
My Experience of Remote Working
To be successful at remote working, you have to be disciplined.
Temptation to do that little bit of house work, or flicking on the TV while you work can be a challenge for those who are new to it, and these things lead to distraction and slowed productivity.
I’ve found that remote working has made me more productive than I ever was in an office environment. Giving benefits such as:
- No phones ringing
- No annoying music (that you haven’t picked yourself)
- No office chatter that you end up being dragged into
- Nobody bugging you at your desk, when you need to get that damned report out
There are of course some drawbacks to remote working which can build up in the digital space. Here is a guide I wrote to improving productivity and focus by removing distractions which outlines some of them, and may help if you are new to remote working.
The Loneliness of Remote Working
I am a natural introvert, so I find the space of an empty house amazing for focusing on my code. However more social people may struggle.
If it wasn’t for the whole self isolation aspect, there are plenty of opportunities for being social, in the form of co-working spaces and coffee shops.
However I am lucky enough to have a wife and son with me during my isolation, so I don’t have the slightest worry of being lonely any time soon.
Work when you are Productive
One of the biggest sales for anyone who is a flexible worker is that you can juggle work around your life, and not the other way around.
My motto as a flexible worker is work when you are productive. So if you are too tired to work, stop working, get some rest and come back to it when you are able to.
Why waste hours on a small task that would usually take your fully working brain 10 minutes to complete?
My company has always embraced flexible working, but now that COVID-19 has started to impact several team members lives, we have taken further steps, doing things like:
- Letting our clients know that we may be working odd or late hours, so their updates may not been as regular as they are used to.
- Moving our daily project management stand-ups to virtual asynchronous stand-ups, so if we had no sleep that night, its fine, just check-in when you are online.
Because of this flexible working policy, I was able to get some sleep while my wife watched the little one (might I add while she was also remote working, and thankfully he was very very good), and I then kept him entertained while my wife worked.
Coping with School Closures
With the announcement of school closures in the UK from Friday, flexible working is going to be key for our family. My day will likely end up something like this:
- 9:00 – 15:30 – Homeschooling
- 15:30 – 17:00 – Playing / Cooking
- 17:00 onwards – WordPress engineering
I may be able to slip an hour or two of tasks in there somewhere amongst self-paced learning and play.
It will absolutely be a major disruption to my life, however on the plus side, this should give me some great bonding time with my son that I would never have had.
Working flexible hours will present its challenges. Because I will be working asynchronously with my team, communications will have to be clearer than ever before, as we cannot just jump on a call and work through things.
Tasks will have to be discreet and handled like mini work-packages.
Both these ways of working are actually beneficial to any business, so in a way this could be a boost to any team that may have slipped away from these principles.
Controlling the Situation
I always try to remind myself not to worry about the things that I cannot control, but instead control how I react to them.
Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail in doing this. But it’s always good to see advice that reminds me of this.
I came across this tweet the other day, that sums up what I believe is the best advice to deal with this whole situation: