I sit here in a hoody and jogging bottoms, at my makeshift desk (originally cobbled together with MDF and off cuts to extend the Christmas dining table), looking out on a garden that is slowly but surely rewilding whilst I can’t visit the tip. I’m twiddling with my shaggy, unkempt and greying mop of hair, reflecting on a very strange period of my professional life.
My lockdown experience has been a bit different to that of my colleagues in that I have a 21-month-old son and my fiancée works as a Business Manager in the NHS. In addition to this, it also started two weeks earlier due to Alfie having symptoms necessitating a period of quarantine. These factors and the closure of Alfie’s nursery left me locked down and holding the toddler, whilst also having to find time to continue my project work.
There were pros and cons to this situation and looking on the bright side, I think the pros have come out on top, for the most part. I am lucky to be afforded flexibility at GBA and work a condensed week in which I have Mondays off with Alfie to reduce our childcare costs. This is hugely appreciated and shows the ethos of the practice and the directors. But on the days I am in the office I leave home before Alfie wakes up (hopefully, he sometimes surprises us) and don’t return until after he’s gone to bed. So, the opportunity to spend everyday with him has been brilliant; to see him develop in front of me has been a joy. I have had the opportunity to teach him things, rather than just see what he's learnt (whether my lessons have been good or not remains to be seen – there's been a lot of climbing). We have ardently embraced the daily exercise opportunities in an effort to stave off cabin fever, spending lots of time in the woods and the local parks and learning to throw stones in the water and jump in muddy puddles (more questionable lessons on my part). We have been mostly lucky with the weather and as lockdown has eased and people have relaxed, we have been able to stop and chat with other parents (and lots of dogs) on our walks, further helping Alfie develop. It’s been fun and it’s been enriching, but it’s also been pretty tough at times.
Lockdown for my fiancée has been stressful, to say the least. Whilst not medical, she has been an important part of the effort to keep COVID-19 at bay. It fills me with pride watching her excel in tough times and seeing how well she has coped. Her crucial role has meant that, for me to find time to work, I have had to rise early, utilise nap times and work late. This has been difficult at times when I have also had to be a full-time toddler wrangler! My already dark circles have now achieved a shade somewhere between RAL 9004 and 9005. However, there is light and sleep at the end of the tunnel.
As restrictions begin to ease and we all adapt, Alfie’s nursery has reopened and has given me three full days to work in the more formal surroundings of the multi-functional back bedroom. This new, more regimented routine has replaced the ad hoc work when I can/where I can mentality of previous weeks and the late nights with my laptop. I am now able to be more productive during the traditional working hours and have some down time in the evenings.
As Ross alluded to in his own blog post last week; tough times often enforce positive change. Prior to lockdown GBA had no real requirement for remote access to the server or the ability to group chat outside of the office, but both of these developments have helped me to retain a connection with my work and my colleagues that may well have been lost due to my odd working hours. It has been a massive help to have cloud access to our server and not have my motivation impeded by not having the right information at my fingertips and no one in the office to send it over. Also, having regular team meetings via Microsoft Teams has brought some level of collaboration to proceedings, which I would certainly have missed.
Another byproduct of the lockdown is that those little day to day annoyances that we all have in our houses - the ones that we just live with - start to incite unbridled rage! This is compounded by the fact that you can't do much about them and you can't pop to the pub to get away from them. So, at least my professional knowledge has allowed me to start to plan for some home improvements later in the year.
Lockdown: it’s not been all bad or all good, but it’s brought about some changes for the better and given me some amazing memories with my little boy, so I have been luckier than some. In the morning I will don my chinos and dust off my Dr Martens for the first time in what seems like an age. I will fill my fuel tank for the first time in 3 months (another welcome positive!) as I will be making my first site visit to the new dwelling in Hornsea since lockdown began. It feels like we are approaching something that resembles normality, which is a relief, but we are in a unique position that we can reflect and choose which parts of normality are worth having back. One thing is for certain, though; I am in dire need of a haircut.