After over two months of working from home during this COVID-19 pandemic there now seems to be an easing of the restrictions put in place by the government. It may be some time before my colleagues and I return to our ‘normal’ office environment, but this period of change and upheaval has brought about some positive opportunities that may never have come to fruition without these enforced precautions.
Prior to lockdown GBA were not set up for ‘working from home’ as we now do, with staff having to take whatever work they needed on a hard drive and then transfer files once back in the office. In the space of a week we had managed to set up a remote server for accessing and sharing all our files, and with the use of Microsoft Teams we have been checking in on each other through chat and video call functions. With all this technology enabling us to efficiently work from home the only stumbling block for myself was finding somewhere to work!
With my partner also needing to set up a home office, we decided to convert our spare room into a joint work space; removing the spare bed, ordering a new desk, rejigging furniture and hastily waiting for a number of deliveries, meaning we could work effectively in the same space (albeit not when we are both taking calls – I’m loud apparently) for the foreseeable future until safe to return to our places of work. This has provided positive opportunity Number One: I now have the option to work from home on a more regular basis, cutting down my weekly commuting hours and maintaining the healthier work/life balance that I currently have during lockdown.
As I am sure many people will agree, if this period of restricted movement and isolation had been during the wet, miserable winter months then it would have been a lot harder on us mentally and physically. Living close to a river has been a blessing during this time, providing me with a direct link to nature to help with my mental wellbeing and a respite from the four walls that now form my office. Watching the riverbank trees blossom and the wildlife beginning to take hold during this beautiful spring weather has made the social-distancing and avoidance of contact seem like force of habit – almost normal – which for me is not an issue. Although we are in testing times, people are still smiling in the sunshine, children are actually playing outside for the first time in years, and a sense of community has gathered momentum as local, independent shops diversify and deliver hand crafted delights to your door as soon as they can. Positive opportunity Number Two: Shopping at the local supermarket on a Sunday morning is not where it is at! Strolling down the river into the city centre on a sun-drenched morning and buying produce from butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers is much more gratifying – almost as gratifying as knowing I can now order my favourite blend of coffee and have it delivered in the space of a few hours by someone on a bicycle! Some may say ‘how middle class’, but isn’t this how it was for all terraced house, inner city dwellers in the past?
Work can be taxing sometimes, and everyone needs some time away on holiday to relax and recuperate. Unfortunately, due to this current crisis, I have had to postpone a holiday to Spain until next year due to flights being cancelled, restrictions on travel and ever-changing quarantine laws. This, coupled with a postponed weekend away to our beloved Lake District, has meant having to find something else to look forward to for the year ahead to soothe our souls and offer some kind of relaxation. As a keen gardener, it would have been useful to use this time (and now unused holiday) to move on with the grand plans for our garden (it’s a concrete yard but I’m not allowed to call it that). This involves the removal of all the gravel that according to our neighbours has been there for over 40 years, and the lifting of a large chunk of concrete ready to turn into flower beds. Due to the restrictions in place, we have not been able to hire tools, skips or even visit the household recycling centre to be able to dispose of any waste material. On top of the that, with everyone in our terraced street either working from home or self-isolating there has been no movement of vehicles for a substantial time (it’s bad at the best of times) meaning no room for any trade vehicles, deliveries or skips. All of which is very frustrating given the fact the sun has been shining non-stop and we do not have somewhere lovely to sit in.
All this brings me to positive opportunity Number Three: make the most of what you can do, not what you cannot. Utilising skills I use in day to day life as an architect we have managed to plan, design and cost a garden that will transport us to holiday destinations and create a relaxing space that we can use all year round, not just the two weeks away in the sun. Rejuvenating the back gate and shed door, tending to plants in pots that now give us something to look at and eventually buying the beast of all barbecues has helped to ease some of the frustrations. Our hiatus from fell and mountain walks in the Lakes has meant researching and finding routes closer to home, places we can access from our doorstep at weekends that take us places we have never been – we do live in God’s Own County after all. ‘Love where you live’ had always seemed like a sickly sweet cliched phrase found on coir doormats and fake chalk boards in entrance halls. As an enjoyer of the simple pleasures in life, I had always been content with wherever I had lived. Now that we are restricted to the confines of our own back gardens I have discovered that there is a lot more to love about where you live if you involve yourself with the communities, independents, neighbours and nature that surrounds you – all at a safe distance, of course!