“No Travel” Tales #11: The home office

This week marks over 100 days of lockdown in the UK, an anniversary that many of us won’t be celebrating, instead continuously baffled at the concept of time. With travel starting up again, the time has come to bring this series to a close, a diary of sorts to be revisited in post-pandemic times when explaining the concept of social distancing to future generations. 

That’s not to say that signs of this world will disappear, with working from home in place for the foreseeable future. The home office is still as relevant as ever, as businesses plan to rotate staff at company headquarters and draw up schedules for part-time working.

Just as you might pick names out of a hat when allocating rooms in a flatshare, the same applies to securing the site of your makeshift office, with a ranking scheme in place for various rooms visited during this series. The living room holds the top spot, allowing you to separate your workspace and sleeping quarters, while offering ample procrastination activities via the TV – it’s called “remote” working for a reason. 

Next comes the bedroom, a comfortable (albeit cluttered) space and the strongest contender for a professional-looking zoom backdrop – just make sure to rearrange the shelves with the smartest books on show, and remove the drunken festival polaroids. The lack of commuting to your workspace also promises an extended hibernation.

The kitchen takes third place, a spot that satisfies your caffeine intake and biscuit cravings but comes with highly disruptive beeping timers, tear-inducing onions and clattering plates as the rest of the house prepare their lunch aldesko. Last, and really least, is the bathroom, the only consolation being that you have exclusive access to the sink to wash your hands. If all the above don’t work out, who’s to say that WFH can’t be done from another country? Location’s no longer a deciding factor, after all. 

Once you’ve got your space and made the necessary adjustments – propping your laptop up on books, hampers or ironing boards, and plying your chair with cushions – it’s time to confront our recently outdated work jargon. Now that remote working is ingrained in our lifestyles, “out of office” has become extinct, with OOO emails now a hallmark of pre-corona times. We are never truly offline anymore, our eyes perpetually glued to the screen while personal phone numbers are now handed out for work purposes. That said, broadband doesn’t always mirror our strong work ethic, skiving now and then, inadvertently issuing you with a day off. 

“Hot desking” is no longer a savvy cost-effective option, a clear violation to social distancing, while expenses unfortunately don’t cover a weekly supermarket shop – at least we get to buy our favourite biscuits though. Other expressions have reverted to their literal meanings. “Backburner” no longer alludes to deprioritising but rather describes the pain endured from long periods of sitting, slouching and staring at the computer screen. Meanwhile, many of us have been “blue sky thinking” when trying to get a wifi connection outdoors.

Then there are the new terms which have entered our working vocabulary. Perhaps the most apt among them is “quarantini”, which many of us will be enjoying in a few hours time for Friday’s virtual happy hour. It is an anniversary, after all. 

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