Remote, Remote Working

I’m not new to remote working.

Before I started in my current job, I spent a great deal of time travelling back and forth across the country, working out of coffee shops, train tables, and, once, the lobby of the Rosewood in London. Being able to work on casual terms was one of the few great perks of bootstrapping a startup, despite the constant need to scrape together enough money to keep the dream alive.

Even when we started to rent an office, it was a gathering place rather than a constant. I frequently worked from Scotland, where my girlfriend at the time lived, and my friends & co-founders were off doing their own thing in various parts of the world whenever they could. Whilst we did eventually decide to base ourselves in the office permanently, in an unfortunate quirk of timing I moved onto pastures anew shortly afterwards.

There’s not so much travel nowadays. I traded the slightly-nomadic lifestyle to work on a product that I think has huge potential and lead a team that I love. It was a simple enough transition, and I would be the first to admit that I’ve adapted rather splendidly to working in the city centre - I rarely miss sneaking a sandwich on a train when the likes of Grindsmith and Dishoom are a 30 second walk away!

Despite all of this, setting up a desk at home and returning to the company of my own thoughts, hammering out a few hundred lines of code in the process, would ordinarily be a walk in the park.

But this isn’t ordinary. None of this is ordinary.

We are living through the biggest crisis most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. There is absolutely no shame for feeling a bit distracted when you switch on the news and see the kind of headlines that are our new normal.

Sometimes, I catch myself staring at an email I wrote to my team on day one. 17th March. 57 days ago. In particular, this passage catches my eye:

No person is an island. This situation will continue to get worse before it gets better. Working from home in usual circumstances can sometimes be lonely: in this predicament, those feelings will only be amplified. Please feel empowered to reach out if you need help, are stuck, or just need someone to chat to.

In that message, I warned our staff about the loneliness, but I naively thought that the long hours at work I did anyway would be enough to stave off those feelings myself.

Man, I was wrong.

There is an inescapable truth to countenance the fact that it’s been two months since I last saw another human who didn’t live in this house, though, and it’s the fact that I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’m lucky to be back at my parents, surrounded by family. I’m lucky to have enough space to not get in each their way all day, and a garden to scream in if it all gets too much. I’m lucky to have a life where my COVID-19 plan can be simply to carry on working, switch to contactless deliveries for all my shopping, and have a chance to finally finish Arkham Knight.

I have no right to complain, and I shan’t. I will spend the rest of my life grateful for being in the position where I can shield my family, and to those working tirelessly on the front-line against this terrible disease.

The only reason I write is because I feel it’s important to reiterate that this isn’t what remote working is usually like. When you’re starting to feel a bit lonely when you’re working remote, you head down to a coffee shop, or go out for lunch with a friend, or get chased out of the Rosewood after you’ve finally been spotted by the duty manager. You can’t do any of that right now, and Zoom isn’t an adequate replacement.

If you’re working remotely for the first time, and you’re feeling like it isn’t for you, remember this. This isn’t remote working. It’s remote, remote working, and you’re doing well to have adapted at all.