The Naked Civil Servant

Last month, our very own Lulu told us what it’s like to be on the frontline in a large supermarket whilst dealing with the current pandemic, so this month, I thought I’d share my experiences of working from home. Something that I’ve never done before. I work for a large department in the Civil Service. I won’t bore you with the details, as they aren’t that exciting, and the general public seem to have little interest anyway in the ‘background boys’ that help to keep the country running.

Up until now, I have nearly always cycled that few miles into the city centre. Only occasionally using the tram or car, if I have problems with my bike, or the weather is too grim. Down University Boulevard, past the QMC, and along the canal to the office. About a half-hour ride in total, as I don’t have a particularly fast steed, and you definitely won’t see me in lycra. So I’m not really that aerodynamic. I think leaving the house for work is symbolic of earning a wage packet, so imagine my dismay when on the 17th March, an email went around informing everyone that if they can, they should take their Surface Pro home with them and work from there until further notice. Now my role entails part physical and part computer work. So for the first two weeks or so, I spent time sorting out emails, data purging, doing some online training and updating spreadsheets. It took me a few days to adjust to just spending 30 seconds going to work, rather than the 30 minutes I usually take. I was transferred to assisting on web chats, as my usual tasks have come to an end, although I’ve been going in once a month to do some tasks that can’t be done remotely. April’s visit was certainly a strange one, with going into an empty office. Walking around the city centre was weird too, as it was quite desolate at the time.

I’ve tried to discipline myself to not to get too distracted by reading books, spending time on social media and working out the next plot for Lego Nigel. There have been some distractions though in the form of our four pussy cats, as they vie for cuddles, head massages and having a full belly. Pippin is the most persistent for petting, as she keeps jumping onto my desk. I have to divert her away from the Surface Pro’s keyboard, otherwise, she might walk on it and suddenly an important database gets deleted. Virtual meetings through Teams is an interesting experience, as no one switches their cameras on. It’s like being involved in a Radio 4 afternoon play.

“It does feel like we are currently living in a former Eastern Bloc country, where there’s not much on offer and commodities are scarce.”

Although my mental health is still holding up, I would say that my physical health has gone down, as the number of steps that I do has reduced from about 20,000 a day to probably 2000. I haven’t got an accurate figure, as my Fitbit broke some time ago, and I’ve not got a replacement. Besides not cycling to work, I don’t stroll for an hour around the city centre taking photographs, like I used to. Instead, I just sit outside in the garden, having lunch and catching up on Facebook, or doing a sudoku. I know we are ‘allowed’ out, and now the rules about being outdoors have been relaxed, but it just doesn’t feel the same, and I don’t feel enthused to do it, although I have popped to Beeston on occasions. I guess if it was winter, I wouldn’t really go outside at all. This has caused my ‘muffin top’ to now become a whole doughnut, and it’s going to take a lot to shed all these extra pounds. Sleeping is a bit of a hit and miss affair for me at the moment. Not helped by binge-watching Netflix boxsets until the early hours. At least there’s no compulsion to get up early, as we can work whatever hours we like at the moment, as long as we do a full day. So that’s a benefit. My wife is still working. She’s in admin at the QMC. So she tends to wake me up as she’s heading out. Sometimes I can drop back to sleep, sometimes I can’t.

Visiting the pub doesn’t bother me, but the one thing that I do miss is not being able to have a trawl around Beeston’s fair mix of charity shops on a Saturday morning. It’s something that I look forward to doing, as I never know what I might come across, or who I might see. Shopping these days is a bit of a strange affair, with only a few open and having to queue to go in like you were going to a concert or the cinema. It does feel like we are currently living in a former Eastern Bloc country, where there’s not much on offer and commodities are scarce. Queuing up to go into Poundland seems like an oxymoron to me. At least the panic buying mentality over toilet rolls and pasta appears to have come to an end.

In a way I’ve been lucky to be still receiving a full wage, and not furloughed. In another way, I feel that I’ve missed out on all this paid free time, as I have a whole list of things that I want to do, including some DIY, gardening and sorting out stuff. I also have a heap of books to read, including some from local authors that I personally know, but have been amiss in reading their latest offering. I don’t think that I could ever be bored, as there’s always something I could find to do.

No one of course has any idea as to how long this situation is going to go on for. And what are we all going to be like mentally when it’s over? I bet there will be quite a few that will be suffering with agoraphobia and other similar problems. We’ve all become so used to dodging people now and keeping that imaginary two-metre distance apart, that we will all need reassuring that it’s OK to shake hands etc again, and you don’t have to shout over the hedge to your neighbour. It certainly will be strange going back to work, and being in an office of a hundred people, rather than sitting all alone in the house. At least I won’t have to worry about data being lost from the servers anymore.

CF

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