Tilhill Forestry, April, 2020

Challenges and Opportunities of Working from Home

Tilhill Forest Manager Mike Page

N.B. This is a fast-evolving situation and guidance may have changed between writing and publication. The light-hearted tone in no way reflects the severity of the threat posed by COVID-19 or Tilhill’s attitude towards it.

Challenges and Opportunities of Working from Home - A blog by Tilhill Forest Manager Mike Page in Central Scotland.

One of the benefits of working for Tilhill is the company’s approach to home-working. Most technical staff are issued with a laptop and a mobile phone, and in general terms working from home is allowed on occasion. As a father of an energetic three-year-old and a noisy 9-month-old one of the things I was looking forward to about my partner’s maternity leave ending and both children going to nursery for a couple of days a week was the chance to work from home from time to time. Now that home-working has been foisted on us all for the foreseeable future I thought I would look at some of the challenges and opportunities this new life presents.

First, let’s take a trip into my imagination…

Homeworking involves walking down the garden path to the purpose-built home-office. We had it put in last year after my debut novel enjoyed unexpected commercial success. It’s chilly first thing but I always wear chunky knits to keep me warm until the wood burner gets going. I check and update my various social media feeds, answer my correspondence then get down to the hard graft of writing a second blockbuster.

I switch between Radio 3 and 4 for intellectual and creative stimulation. The blinds automatically adjust to keep the sunlight off the screen but it’s still beautifully light and bright in here. Full bookcases line the walls and I will pause from my labours to read a line of Wordsworth or Proust. Lunch is always the same: grilled fish on rye bread with a salad and a glass of Riesling. I take my exercise after lunch, put in another three hours in my ‘cell’ then lock up and engage with my home life. It’s a full, satisfying way to work and live.

And the reality…

Homeworking involves going back up the stairs to the spare bedroom. It's well over 40C because the heating in our house is working through some really dark stuff right now and I want to give it space. If I adjust the heating in any way it bombs to single digits and I lose dexterity for typing. I deleted all social media at the beginning of this year because they were taking over my life, so checking and updating those doesn’t take long at all.

I look at my emails, look at my list, work out what the day’s priority is then a colleague rings and we chat for 20 minutes. I go downstairs to get some tea, which I am sure will kickstart the day, but I get waylaid by the three-year old who wants to build a den out of sofa cushions. The house looks like it’s been turned over by a gang of looters (probably after toilet roll).

I get back upstairs and get some work done then it’s lunchtime. It’s always the same - chocolate digestives and juice. I struggle through a bit more work in the afternoon then get panicky at about 4pm because I know the tea needs to be cooked and I’m sure I could do a better job. I can already smell burning onions and I know if I don’t intervene now I will be eating in an hour, filled with anguish and regret for not having taken over. 

Challenges

The fundamental skill is intimately mixing home and work locations, but keeping home and work life strictly separate. That’s a neat way of putting it and it seems like it shouldn’t be that hard to put into practice. It is. Here’s what I’ve found difficult so far:

Opportunities

In a neat trick of management training, let’s see if these can be turned into opportunities:

I hope everyone is well and variously enjoying or enduring their time at home. Stay safe, stay healthy and I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

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