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Missing the commute? There’s an art to working from home, says Mike Walley

Criteo’s Head of Workplace Experience, Mike Walley considers the challenges of adapting to a new way of working.

20/08/2020 3 min read
Antonio Rodriguez

I have a role that can be done from home, I have space in which to do it and, as I live in the country, I can get outside and self-isolate in the middle of a field whenever I feel the walls closing in a little. There is nothing in the office that I absolutely need to do my job and so I can easily think of myself working from home long into the future. Except… I really miss the commute.

The big downside to working in my spare room, and I’m not alone in finding this, is the startlingly swift transition from work to home life. One moment I am deep in (video) conversation with colleagues, discussing a long running project and then, as the call finishes, I am plunged back into family life within seconds. Now don’t take this the wrong way. I love my family and love being with them, but when my head is full of budgets, contracts, numbers and images, I need a moment or two to decompress the brain before I try and re-engage it with life outside Zoom.

I was heading downstairs after a particularly difficult day, lost in thought, when I tripped over one dog, who was hiding at the top of the stairs, and nearly trod on the other (chihuahua) who was hurtling up the stairs to see what the noise was about. This added stress, on already jangly nerves, probably accounted for me shouting at one dog and being rude about the other one (daughter’s chihuahua) and then having to fight a rear-guard action as the entire family blamed me for disrupting what had been a quiet afternoon. I went back to my office. It was safer.

In all seriousness, there is an art to working from home and surviving. We’re having to teach the majority of our company how to do it and not go mad, get divorced or thrown out of a flat share.

It can be as bad in the morning – just the other way around. Wandering into the first video call of the day less that 15 minutes since I first opened my eyes to the daylight is not to be recommended. I am still too unfocused and can be easily, and comprehensively, distracted by as little as a wood pigeon wandering across the lawn. The camera to the video system is in line with the window, so it looks like I am paying attention, but I can be miles away. If asked to comment on something that I have not been following, I usually freeze in position for 15 seconds while everyone shouts ‘Hello!’ – then jerk back to life, claiming that the Zoom connection was ‘dodgy’ and could they repeat what had been said.

Although, last time I tried that I was halfway through my imitation of a frozen screen image when that bloody chihuahua walked into shot, looked at me like I was mad, then ambled out. Busted.

What I really need is that gentle hour on the train in the morning with a latte and the newspaper to read, occasionally replying to emails to make my European colleagues think I am in the office already, and then that lovely brisk walk to Holborn. On arrival, I am caffeinated, exercised and awake and all the little niggling thoughts have been lined up into a to do list. Perfect.

On the way home, a stroll back to the station, possibly a swift half in the Railway Arms, followed by a snoozy, dozy ride home. The train terminates at my stop, so no danger of overshooting. Lovely.

In all seriousness, there is an art to working from home and surviving. We have had people burn out in a month because it was easier to keep working than to stop. We’re having to teach the majority of our company how to do it and not go mad, get divorced or thrown out of a flat share. This is something that all those companies, currently eyeing the opportunities to keep a portion of the workforce at home, should remember. You cannot assume everyone knows how to survive in the harsh environment of the home office.

I have now taken to making a coffee in a travel mug and going for a walk in the morning before heading up to my office (spare room). In the evening, I will read the news and check on the global events of the day, before descending into the welcoming arms of the family.

It’s my remote commute. I miss the snooze but…

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