Stuart Letford: Working from home

Stuart Letford

Thousands of people are being encouraged to work from home for the first time due to the Coronavirus outbreak. For many of us, though, it’s just like any other week.

There has been a trend in recent years for more of us to work from home and there are innumerable reasons for home working plus many benefits, particularly from a health and wellbeing perspective.

I’ve worked mainly from home for the last few years. As I begin my working day, I usually have the radio on and a small, smug smile will appear on my visage as I listen to the traffic update in Glasgow with its inevitable reports of long tailbacks in the rush hour caused by, well, whatever reason it is that day.

There are pros and cons to working from home. One obvious pro is that you can’t just be pulled in for a random meeting. That said, face-to-face interaction is under-rated, I think, and the intent stare of a cat simply can’t make up for colleagues’ banter and chat. OK, working from home means you won’t get distracted by colleagues’ conversations and other office noise but colleagues and peers help in keeping the competitive spirit alive and enhance productivity. In fact, going to the office is a great way to get away from the stress at home and vice versa but if your office is at home then there may be no escaping the stress.

Make a 'To do' list and stick to it.
Make a ‘To do’ list and stick to it.

If you find yourself working from home for the first time, I’d like to offer some tips:

  • Rise at the same time as you would normally. Make your bed. Wash and dress … don’t plod around in your pyjamas. Go through your normal routine. Self-discipline must be maintained. Make a ‘To do’ list and stick to it.
  • Leave your pipes in the box. You must resist the temptation to spend all day playing your pipes, as much as you may want to. It’s counter-productive and you won’t get any work done. And it’ll show. Instead, listen to some good pipe music in the background as you work.
  • If you need to take calls, try and stack them up and then go for a walk. If you have a garden, however small, walk around it. You may look silly but who cares? The important thing is to try and get a walk in every day.
  • Make some time to pick up the telephone and have a real conversation rather than relying on email and instant messaging. Video conferencing is useful, too, but if there are others in your home, find a space where you’re not likely to be disturbed. I’m reminded of the professor who a few years ago was being interviewed live on a BBC news programme when his two children suddenly burst into the room, creating a now infamous video, which has apparently been viewed on YouTube more than 30 million times. My own experience of a sudden interruption came last year when I had a videoconference and at one point my cat, seeking attention, jumped onto my laptop and stood with its derrière pressed against the camera! You can imagine the reaction from my colleagues.

There is a lot of flexibility that comes with working from home. To a large extent, you can decide your own timings and can accommodate other tasks that need to be accomplished. My job means I can work from pretty much anywhere for a lot of the time. Indeed, I’m writing this blog from a beach in the south of France where it is 22˚C and it’s gin o’clock.

I wish.

Actually, it’s 8.30am and I’m sitting at my desk in my home near Perth. Outside is cold and wet. And it’s Tetley o’clock. But the road traffic update coming from the radio tells of a tailback at Charing Cross as a result of a lorry shedding its load. Time to switch on the kettle, dig out one of the World’s Greatest Piper’s CDs, and log in.