It’s not quite the anniversary of when I was sent home to work remotely as COVID-19 took hold of the country – that was a week ago and to be honest, it passed me by without me realising. But the one year anniversary of when we first went into Lockdown has just passed.
That year has gone both incredibly slowly and quickly for me. The first few weeks were a blur as we tried to juggle working from home with having two under 5s around. The one saving grace being that because they’re so young, we didn’t have to home school. Shout out to anyone who managed to navigate that nightmare!
Once I was furloughed, everything slowed right down. We all got used to the ‘new norm’, I bought anything that could keep the kids entertained without us actually going anywhere, we painted rainbows, we baked, we went on walks, we clapped. In July, I decided to take voluntary redundancy and everything slowed down more as the clock ticked down to my leave date on 31 October 2020.
And then everything started to speed up again as I tried to prepare as best I could for the future. I built my website, I spent time on LinkedIn, I tentatively took my first freelance contract (with permission of my employer as I was on notice) – I did whatever I could so that I’d be ready to hit the ground running when I could actually go self-employed in November.
Since then time has been moving fast. I’m busy, working on a variety of interesting projects with some really lovely clients. The kids are back in nursery so I’m sort of back to a usual working week, albeit with a lot more breaks, naps and random days off (after all, I am the boss). For me, it’s relatively good and I’m incredibly thankful for that.
Depressingly though, theatres, museums, galleries and other cultural institutions are still closed. Some have mothballed, some have been re-purposed for the immediate future, some managed to pivot and offer up digital content, some re-evaluated their offer and managed to support their communities in amazing ways, but the ability to be able to share experiences with other people is still very much missed.
So one year on, I’ve reflected on the things that I miss, the things I definitely don’t miss and the things that I have much more appreciation for. We all know I love a list, so here goes:
Thing I Miss
God I miss the people. That was the best thing about working at The Lowry – the people. They were all so enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable and friendly. It sounds corny but there really is a ‘Lowry Family’ – that’s why so many people are still in touch with those who have moved onto pastures new. It’s not because we like networking, it’s because we genuinely like each other and when someone goes, they’re missed. I miss my morning chat at Stage Door. I miss catching up with the early birds (those in before 8.30) as I passed through the main office with my first brew of the day. I miss the people I shared my office with. I miss my team. I miss the artists, companies and agencies I worked with on a daily basis. I miss the volunteers. I miss visitors and audiences. I miss them all.
I miss the people obviously, but I also miss being part of a team. I miss being able to look up and simply ask the person next to me a question. Or, as was more usual in my case because I wasn’t in the main office, pick up the phone or go for a wander (and another brew) and speak to the person I needed to speak to. I miss sharing and bouncing ideas off other people. I miss working on collaborative projects. I miss the support. I miss going for team lunch.
An Office Chair and Decent Kit
I’ve already lamented this in my previous blog post. Never again will I mock health and safety desk assessments. My back is ruined. As soon as I have a few more contracts in the bag, I will be investing in an office chair and hopefully a new laptop.
A Finance Department
So underrated, often taken for granted, yet so essential. Now I have to actually engage with this process. When I say engage, I’ve got myself an accountant and some accountancy software to make life easier. I am not built for this. I want someone to chase my invoices for me.
Anyone who tried this in the ‘Village’ (staff canteen) at The Lowry will understand. It was on the rolling menu once every six weeks. I’d probably fight you for it.
Things I Don’t Miss
My commute, like it is for many others, involved a lot of rushing about as I was responsible for the kids’ drop-off on the way. I worked a 4-day week so on the days I was in work, the kids would either be at nursery or with one of their grandparents. This involved a lot of rushing around and planning at home – trying to get three people out the door with everything they need is hard work. I also had to ensure that I could set off for work, from wherever I’d dropped them, during that sweet spot in traffic before it adds another half-hour to your journey. After work, I’d always be rushing home – mainly because I missed my kids but also because if they were at nursery, I’d be fined if I was late collecting them. Life without a commute is way less stressful. I will grant you, however, that I miss the two hours of solitude as I sat in traffic. Anyone with children will understand. Silence is golden.
I think most will be able to relate to this. I’m not saying meetings aren’t valuable – of course they are. So far, I’ve not actually met any of my clients face to face and that feels weird to me. Sure we’ve met on Zoom/Teams what have you, but it’s not the same. So in some ways, I do miss meetings. What I’m talking about are meetings about meetings, meetings for meetings sake, meetings with no agenda (not even a loose one) – I don’t miss those.
There are no internal politics now, apart from my husband’s indecisive lunch requests – that’s annoying. I’m a Limited Company of one and I only have myself to answer to.
Working in an Office with No Window
Don’t get me wrong, I liked my office and the people within it but a window would have been nice.
Things I Appreciate More
Time is now my own. I’m in control of when I work, how long I work for, to some extent who I work for and with, as well as what work I produce. I also have more time because I don’t have a commute, have to attend regular meetings or get involved in things/projects that don’t strictly concern me. The time I spend on client projects is dedicated – I’m not pulled in multiple directions trying to deliver other elements of a job description – and my work is of better quality as a result. I can take time off without asking anyone. I can go for a walk with my neighbour, have a bath in the middle of the afternoon or watch a film without being disturbed. It truly is liberating and I value my time so much more now. My work-life balance is a million times better.
I love our house. It has always felt homely and like a sanctuary from the rest of the world. But whilst I love my house, but we were never meant to be inside is 24/7/365 – it’s not natural! Even those who worked from home before all this had other places to go and people to see. None of us were meant to spend this much time at home and it shows. The wear and tear of our house has been significant over the past year. There are now cracks in the plaster where there weren’t before, the carpets are more worn, a multitude of things have been broken. These things will all get fixed with time but it’s made me appreciate the basics at lot more.
Without being overly soppy, I’m extremely grateful that I have a supportive partner and that we still very much like each other even after being locked down for a year. The past year has put a strain on many relationships – I don’t mind admitting that we have bickered more during this period than at any other point of our 22-year relationship, we’re all human and lockdown has been hard. I’m supremely thankful that we have emerged unscathed, especially when others have not.
I’d love to hear from some of you. What do you miss? Please comment below so I know I’m not talking into the ether.
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