• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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BusinessDay

Working from home is fine — as long as you’re home alone

working from ho,w

The family has all been stuck together at home for a day and, already, I’m fed up with them. I know the arrival of a global pandemic is meant to make you appreciate your loved ones but at the moment, while we are all well, it’s not quite working out that way. I’m all in favour of this policy of social distancing, but is there no scope for it at home?

Of course, our main concern is for those stuck in alone. Like many others, I have at least one elderly relative who is dreading the coming weeks. But has anyone given any thought to the impositions of a full household?

I’m on my second day of home working, drinking too much coffee and feeling I’d enjoy it more if everyone else wasn’t here too. My wife is sitting opposite me at the kitchen table, also working from home, shushing me every time I get on the phone.

This was not the plan. I had to dial into an FT meeting sitting cross-legged on the living-room floor. Everybody else on the hangout was at their table or reclining in a little study with bookshelves, and there was me, tottering over the laptop like an interrupted yogi. Of course, I am lucky to be able to work from home. So fortunate. I’m just having to remind myself of this more often than I expected.

Notionally, I am always pleased to have the boy back from college and he never intrudes much on our lives before lunchtime in any case. But the idea of a full house was always leavened by its rarely being full and awake at the same time. He was around for a couple of good conversations and then off in his own world. Now he’s stomping around the kitchen complaining about how boring it is all going to be and refusing to learn to play bridge.

I’ve never thought of the house as small but suddenly I’ve a strong desire to work in the shed — or I would do if it had electricity, wasn’t falling apart and didn’t reek of fox urine. In fact, I’ve just ordered a cheap desk to put in the cubby hole the estate agent told us was a bedroom — and which may yet serve as the isolation wing — in order to find sanctuary. I wonder if there’s mileage in a borrow-my-family website (all loaned relatives come with a certificate of immunity).

Even the dog, who is normally overjoyed to see a full house, is beginning to look a little vexed that, all of a sudden, everyone wants to take her for a walk.

The girl is still at school at the time of writing, though it is hard to see even that lasting much longer. I’m all in favour of keeping it going as long as possible but it does seem out of kilter with a policy against mass gatherings and even restaurants. Every family with school-age kids is opening its doors to a super-spreader each afternoon. Happily, as a teenager, she’s been self-isolating from us for much of the past year anyway. Food I expected to see in the fridge is now just empty packets in one of the spawn’s rooms.

We do at least have a garden, but we are not talking the grounds of Chatsworth here. There were spaces in The Shawshank Redemption that offered more scope for exercise. If I were the type who counted his steps, that’s going to be a hell of a lot of circuits to reach 10,000. I might find out how many when desperation really sets in.

Too much time at home also means too much snacking. Every time I’ve gone out for a breath of fresh air I’ve returned with provisions from Mr Kipling. The shelves of south-west London may now be stripped bare of hand sanitiser but I’m pleased to report that the cherry bakewells are still getting through.

Family time now hangs like a threat over the household. We are scouring Netflix for the box sets we never cared enough to watch before. The full horror of the coronavirus crisis hit home on Saturday when Match of the Day was replaced with.

We knew, of course, that the cancellation of games would have an impact but, jeepers, we had no idea things were that bad. The world is going to hell and that’s all you’ve got for us: Mrs Brown’s Boys.

I suppose the thinking was that everyone needed cheering up, but in that case, surely they might have gone for a comedy?

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley or email him at [email protected]