“Working From Home”

Despite having commented on my continuing lockdown, I have tried extremely hard not to comment too much on the whole WFH debate, at least on the blog. You might have seen me ranting about it a few times over on Twitter though.

First of all, I have to admit I was lucky — when the whole lockdown started, I didn’t have to scramble to find the space to work from home: I already set up a home office, I had a standing desk already, multiple monitors, proper home connection without relying on WiFi, and all the kind of ergonomic setup that many of my teammates had to scramble hard for. I had set this up when I got to London, because I remember how bad it was for me to have a work/life balance separation in Dublin, when I had a desk just sitting next to the sofa, and I would end up working till late instead of just sitting on the sofa to watch TV or play games.

And of course, I’m also counting myself lucky that neither me nor my wife fell ill, form Covid-19 or anything else, that our families – while struggling a bit – had been safe throughout this whole event. And also, since we’re not interested in having kids, that significantly reduced the amount of worry, and of work, needed to switch to the lockdown scenario. I can only imagine how much harder for families it still is and don’t envy them.

But at the same time, I do miss the office, and am hoping not to stay working from home forever. I spent many years working from home, alone and isolated, while I had my own company, back in Italy. And while I can do a significant amount of work individually, I do believe that teamwork brings better results. Thankfully, “telepresence” options such as Portal, Zoom, and Google Meet help significantly to coordinate the work, but they are not quite the same thing. I feel more relaxed working sitting at a desk next to my colleagues than I feel working at my desk with a camera pointed at me while I’m working — it makes me feel self-conscious.

I’m also painfully aware that even with the luck of being able to keep working from home, there’s a lot of things that are left to be desired. For instance, while lots of people are bringing up the fact that you don’t have to pay for commute anymore as a great positive, few go back to point out that you end up paying more for utilities such as electricity, water, and heating. We could see a good 20% increase in electricity usage since I started working from home, and while we’re (again) lucky that this is not a significant difference, I can see how the heating in the winter, for people leaving in cottages, would wipe out any commuting savings for the year.

And while I can definitely find an easier way to get my focus time from home, even taking turns preparing meals with my wife, the amount of time we spend for fixing up two extra meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is noticeable. The whole “free food” perk is not just about not paying for food: it’s about the time it takes to make the food, and the time it takes away from your workday.

There’s a lot more of course, on both side of the equation — and there’s the whole point that we’re in the middle of a pandemic that is literally reshaping the way we live. I’m just looking forward to go back to an office, and to have a commute — not because I want to spend an hour on a crowded Tube train, but because I want a little bit of time to mark the end of a workday, stop worrying about the issues of the day, and turn off my work phone, so I can join my wife at the end of the day in full without splitting my mind with work.

It’s tiring, and it’s getting to me, and I’m sure it’s getting to many. Be looking out to your friends and your colleagues. Cut them a break if they are snappier than usual, particularly if they have complicated home situations – kids, babies, sick family (even extended), risks, moving houses, … – as it’s likely they are not trying to tick you off, and it’s more than likely that you’ll need the same before this is all over.

Lockdown Is Not Over For Me

It’s July 2020, and after a number of months of somewhat absolute lockdown, London appears to be breaking free from the chains of coronavirus, at least on the surface. Indeed, the lockdown rules have been eased, and things are, supposedly, going back to normal. Except…

Except this is not true for everyone, and in particular, it’s not true for me. Long-time readers probably remember that 13 years ago next month I’ve ended up in the hospital with an acute pancreatitis from which I already nearly died. It also left me with secondary diabetes — that is, a diabetes that is neither of the “usual” types. And given that there’s multiple reports of Covid-19 attacking the pancreas, that is making me feel particularly paranoid about the situation. Indeed, my understanding of it at this point is that it’s very likely that Covid-19 would just be deadly to me with a probability close to 1.

What this means is that I still haven’t left the flat since May, and I don’t expect to go anywhere until a vaccine is found and I received it. This would be much easier if it wasn’t that everyone else out there has forgotten that this pandemic kills people, and decided that everything must reopen. We live across from a hotel, and it was much easier to spend all your time at home when you didn’t have random guests looking into your apartment at all times. And it was easier to enjoy’s one apartment when the short-term let on our floor didn’t have different groups of partying people every weekend, being loud in the early morning hours. And even working from home was easier when we could go to bed before 3am — because there was no work being done on the flyover of the motorway we live next to until that hour.

I’m extremely fortunate that my new job is not expecting me to get back to the office until it’s absolutely safe to do so. But I’m also sad about all the events we’ll now be missing — because a number of those won’t be rescheduled to next year, and so will likely be taking place well before the vaccine is available. The one that makes me the saddest is the wedding of my best friends, in Italy, who will be getting married in September, way too soon for the vaccine to reach me.

As you can tell from the various electronics projects, I find myself having a lot more time on my hands than I would generally have, and since I’m an awful baker, I left the breadmaking to my wife. Instead I’m taking up the whole office space between work and the various terrible results of PCBs. It is a learning experience, and in that regard I shouldn’t complain, but it also feels sad that out of the original run of prints I made for Birch Books I’m barely keeping one design around (the actuator board — barely because I had to bodge it).

But the fact that I have time on my hands doesn’t mean I’m being particularly productive either. There’s been days that after spending the whole day in meetings to meet new colleagues I could only drop myself on the sofa to watch Murder, She Wrote. And despite maintaining my two-posts-a-week schedule for the blog, my sARTSurday series ended up drying up because I was running low on artists from which I actually bought something, and it started saddening me more than cheering me up.

It’s tough, and it’ll remain tough for the foreseeable future. There’s not going to be a vaccine before next year, and by then, I might as well have turned into a misanthropic recluse — although I sure hope not. It reminds me a tad too much of how lonely it was when I was running my own company back in Italy — living in my mother’s big house, but with no easy way to go anywhere unless someone would pick me up (no public transport, no easy cycle lane either). And let’s just say that I’m not looking forward to go back there, much as I miss seeing some of my friends and spending late nights playing Magic the Gathering.

Hopefully, this will be a one-off blog post on this topic, and more of the future will be filled with me posting project updates, notes, and pictures of cutesy stuff…