Workers need support on all fronts
I suppose that as far as lock-downs go, this one is more or less manageable. I mean, who knew you could save the world by basically staying in and doing nothing?
That last bit probably isn’t an option if you’re one of those who is attempting to work remotely from home.
The biggest challenge is usually getting the damn kit you've been given to work properly. Once that is sorted, it's advisable to observe a few basic rules. I can share a few, based on several years’ experience.
Put some thought into your workplace choice. That nice spot you selected in the conservatory will soon become impractical. If you can make use of a separate room and close the door then do it. Otherwise ensure everyone in the household knows not to move or touch your stuff.
Ergonomics and comfort is important. It’s likely that you’re going to be doing this for some time. Posture is something to consider because a permanently cricked neck is bad for productivity. A good sized screen and a decent work-chair is crucial.
You're working, so dress the part. You'll find that your attitude to the job can quickly become as sloppy as your attire. Don’t get tempted into thinking it’s an opportunity to stay in your jim-jams all day.
Learn to focus. People who work in noisy open plan offices sometimes have trouble adjusting to the quietness of home. That said, you’re going to have to cope with barking dogs, interminable hammering and neighbours who want to jet-wash everything they own.
Hydrate. Keep some water handy and take regular sips. It sounds odd but it helps concentration and reduces stress.
Kids. Your children will make sure that your working hours are shaped by an entirely different dynamic. I’m told there are some parents out there who have achieved an effective home-work balance. Who they are and how they did it remains a deep-rooted mystery.
There’s some other stuff to remember. For example, background noise carries further than you think. You might be able to function while someone in the vicinity is playing a video game but your conference-call colleagues will have problems.
If you're using your own computer kit - rather than something supplied by your employer - then security and encryption software is advisable. Scammers are taking big-time advantage of the situation and a moment's distraction and a dodgy email link could mean disaster. Better to have protection active in the background.
What’s clear is that we're going to need to innovate as we isolate. New working methods will play a pivotal role in making sure that we get through this crisis. It may not quite be ‘business as usual’ but if we’re to actually become a hot-shot, all-singing-all-dancing connected region, then now’s the time to show some institutional adaptability across all sectors.
I’m encouraged to hear that local authorities are looking to install virtual committees to allow streamlined planning decisions. I know that business leaders are also hoping that legislation will also soon be in place to allow day-to-day delegation.
It can’t happen soon enough in my opinion. Jobs need to be safeguarded for the future, both at work and at home. No-one can afford to think otherwise.
Profiteering from a crisis is unacceptable
It takes a crisis to bring out the best and the worst in us.
We’ve seen marvellous gestures like food parcels collected for NHS staff. There’s also a chemical plant that has switched production to make one million bottles of hand sanitiser per month with the output going to the health service free of charge.
Sadly there are also less attractive aspects involving profiteering and outright theft.
I’ve read how a trading standards team paid a visit to a corner shop owner who had cleared out a supermarket’s stock of toilet roll and then tried to resell it at a 250% mark-up.
Then there’s the private London healthcare clinic in London that charges clients £375 for a coronavirus test. I don’t have words to properly describe the hotel chain that reacted to events by sacking and then evicting their live-in staff overnight – although I guess “ratbags” will suffice for now.
As for the ‘visitors’ who made off with thermometers and bottles of hand sanitiser gel from a Swansea Bay hospital, I’m sure that staff would like to share some thoughts with you, should they get the opportunity. I know I would