What happens if I am left in the lobby?

30th June 2020 - By Russ Watkins

So here we are, starting week 15 of working from home (WFH?) and wondering what have I learnt, what had I wished I had done differently and what allows me to tick the days off.

Firstly, forgive me; I am new to this world of putting stuff ‘out there’ on social media. Those who ‘connected to’ or follow me will wonder why I did that, he does nought on social media, why open an account.

I must confess my use has been limited and so I thought – time to embrace it – what’s the worst that can happen!

I thought I would start by looking at WFH…


Working from home

I honestly thought when we left our office to work from home I would be back by now. Naïve? Probably. Ready for it? Definitely not. I am someone who enjoys face-to-face and have been known to give out the odd hug. I have not got used to video conferencing. And I have tried them all. Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Star Leaf, Google Hang Outs and they are all fairly similar. They all get me frustrated. My life became ruled by MS Teams, while I occasionally stray to one of the other platforms only to wish I were back to the comfort of Teams and my customisable backdrops.


So, what I have learned?

Lesson one: How do you ‘hack’ the backend of Teams to hide my son’s trainset in the background? Unfortunately, that feature didn’t arrive until week 10.

Lesson two: Different systems have different chat facilities and it is safer not to use them to have private discussions in the meeting. Use SMS or the out of meeting chat function in teams.

Lesson three: Embrace – Get down with lingo. It helps. New phrases that are just part of everyday life now:

‘You are on mute’ – one that I get constantly, with me normally cursing myself for being so stupid again

‘I didn’t catch that you were breaking up’

‘I’ll turn my camera off to save bandwidth’

‘Is your hand up Russ or are you a numpty and you’ve pressed the wrong button’ or

‘Such and such is in the lobby’. Sometimes I leave them for a few seconds just to be a rebel.

Once mastered though these systems really add value, perhaps not to your back, eyesight or sense of time, but they are so easy to use it does make the transition seamless. The ease with which you can invite people to meetings and call someone just means I can attempt to see people face-to-face, rather than with a faceless email, as I feared at the start of lockdown.


Work life balance

Adapting to work life balance did take longer to get used too if I am honest. I learnt after the first few days that if you do not separate them slightly there is no sense of not being at work. I have always done emails on a night in front of the TV. Not because I enjoy it but because I hate racking up unread emails. Just before COVID I got them down to 100 unread. After week one it was 800. Why I thought? Well it is because my new norm was getting no break between video meetings which meant I wanted to spend a bit of time with the kids and that meant less time on emails at night which just led to more stress.

So, enforced breaks of about an hour during the day, often coinciding with food, meant I could try and escape. Life saver I reckon. If you aren’t doing it, try it. Believe me it is necessary. The other thing I do is wear a shirt. It means when I leave the ‘office’ for the day I get changed and can chill for a few hours. It makes a huge difference. So that’s lessons 4 and 5.


You are not alone

Finally, for this blog, make sure the team around you is doing ok. We have daily check ins at the start of the day. We did it from week one. We still do it every day 15 weeks later. I don’t often have much to update – but that’s not the point. It gives the chance for 15 minutes every morning to say “hi”. Have a bit of a giggle and allow people to just catch up. We now have themed calls where one of the team picks a theme and we then need to find a background for the next call to represent the theme. Great to do as you get an insight in to people, and people get to express themselves a little. Generally, these are the highlight of my workday. The way the team has adapted to life at home has been incredible and they have kept me going through this by having the ability to be open and honest about how it is going. We all have bad days. However, not sharing that makes it worse.

In short, there are lots of benefits and challenges with working from home. How have you found it? What have you changed to help embrace it?


Russ is the Commercial Director at the AHSN NENC and oversees the Economic Growth team. If you would like to know more about the AHSN NENC, or the work of the Economic Growth team, please contact us at: [email protected]