The new abnormal

I think the weekends are going to be the hardest. People who’ve been working from home this week have told me that they find it difficult to concentrate, that being at home is distracting. But I suspect that in fact the distraction goes both ways.

This is now my 26th year of working from home so I don’t find it distracting at all, but what I think I recognise is that working takes your mind off things. There’s work you have to do and, moreover, there are colleagues waiting for it, so whether it’s difficult or not, you do focus on that and while you’re focused, you’re not thinking of anything else. Or at least, you’re not thinking of it so much.

Then the weekend comes and if it’s your first weekend during this enforced isolation, there is a bit of you that will be relieved to have got through the week.

And a larger bit of you that then finds yourself unsure what to do for the weekend, unsure what to do without this fallback position of having to work. One answer, of course, is that you could carry on working but I’m afraid that’s what I do and it isn’t a good idea.

You do get more done, you do get ahead, and you don’t have to think about anything else or how you were looking forward to seeing friends. In that sense, carrying on working is an excellent idea. But trust me, when Monday comes and you’ve worked straight through, you will be sick of it and since you can’t walk away from your job, you have to sit there, possibly increasingly hating it.

I do think that having worked from home for so long, I know what it’s like and what the pitfalls are. I don’t mean to suggest this means I’m any good at dealing with them.

But even in my screen-obsessed, work-obsessed way, I have found that there are things that help. Such as switching off all computers and reading a paperback book. Radical.

Or such as just moving from your computer to your iPad, moving your butt from the desk chair to the living room couch. Last week I told you that I write to you from my couch and that’s exactly what I’m doing this moment. In a minute, I’ll go to my office desk and start working, which will mean leaving a screen and keyboard to instead go use a screen and a keyboard for ten hours or so.

It won’t be the same screen and keyboard, but it easily could be. It’s the change of butt position that gives this a change in mental position, I think.

Which is why although I think it’s tempting to run away from screens when you reach the weekend, and why I think you should, I also know that it’s worth keeping them around. It is genuinely wonderful that technology means so many of us can physically work from our homes, but I offer that this same technology is what will help us all through the toughest times.

That screen in your pocket, the one with Facebook and Candy Crush on, it’s got a phone built in. Call someone. Bitch to them about how hard all of this is, bitch to their voicemail about how they never answer the bloody phone.

Or FaceTime. Skype, if you’ve got the patience. Any kind of video call, we can do this and we can do it so incredibly easily.

Technology is how we can stay apart, but it’s also how we can cope.