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I have noticed over the past couple of weeks I have been a bit less enthusiastic about things, exercise and healthy eating in particular. Other things still spike my interest from time to time, but it's dwindling by the day. Having taken a week or so off from exercise etc following my trip to Wales recently, I thought it might be a little slump due to inactivity, and I would swing back into it in no time. However a couple of weeks later, and nope, it's just getting worse. 

Over the past week I have done a half hearted run, body in it, mind disinterested. I did a nice bike ride through town the other day, I enjoyed that a lot, fresh air, open spaces, and things to keep my mind busy. Then the past 2 days I have done a ramp test (ftp power test on the indoor bike trainer) and an indoor effort on AdZ (virtual version of the Alpe du Huez). Both times I pushed hard, but at a certain point my brain just said "that's enough" and turned off the power supply to my legs.

It is almost as if my brain is allowing me to do these things, just til it gets the distraction and satisfaction it needs from the excessive physical exertion, then just says, "ok, that's me done", and suddenly my body says WTF are you doing to me, and cuts me off. 

Now I can say the above with quite good confidence, as I know I have been here before. Running and cycling myself into the ground, to mask what is really going on, and distract myself from it all. It is my coping mechanism for when things are not going right in my head. So I guess it is time to check in with my brain and see what is going on to cause this behaviour.

Also, another reason to jump on sorting it out ASAP is the other side effect. Eating comfort food! Horrible habit, one likely to undo all the good work I have done over the past year, so something I am keen to get control of quickly. Some of the food it to replenish the shed loads of energy I have expelled while flogging myself for my brains entertainment. The rest is just excess, and needs to be sorted out. *he said eating a chocolate pastry twist while writing this.

So, what is wrong? Well, to be honest, I think the whole Work From Home thing is really getting to me right now. Before there is any confusion, by that I mean, the uncertainty of knowing if we will be allowed to continue working from home. I love my own space, the peace and quiet to work in, my own environment, my own equipment choices to work with. In fact there is nothing I dislike about working from home at all! So the thought that it might all end soon is bringing my world crashing down right now. We are due to hear by the start of Sept what is happening next, but there are no clues whatsoever what that plan may be.

I know certain work groups are being called back in to the offices, I know the word "flexible" is being banded around a lot, but I have no idea what that all means for me and my group. I was hoping we were going to hear something this week, but alas, at the time of writing this on Thurs 26th Aug 2021, there is no word.

I have run through the possibilities in my head a thousand times, and continue to do so. True to the definition of madness, doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. It feels like I am going insane, but the truth is, I am just exhausting my mind with pointless thoughts. It is what it is, and ultimately, I can't really control what the next step is. All I can do is influence any flexibility I may be given, by staying positive, and being a team player. Showing I can do what I do, from where I am now, with no issues. Not that it really needs proving, given its been about 18 months now. 

Previously I have said that whatever the decision, whatever the company decides, I will just knuckle down and get on with it. But if the truth be told, I am not sure I can! The way my mind is right now, I am on the edge, and ready to really start to fall apart. I am far from sitting in the corner of a dark room, rocking back and forth. However my brain is going flat out, 110% and starting to wobble a bit now. My fear here is things getting too out of control, and ending up in the hell hole I have been in before, taking a long time to get my head straight again. To be perfectly frank, if I am told that we are going back to the office in anything like a full time capacity, I am not sure I can now!

I know that sounds a bit arrogant, and might even make me sound like I am trying to control things, but it's just how I feel. If I ask myself honestly if I could work 5 days a week in my old office environment, and function at the level I do currently, my honest answer right now would be no. Not a chance! It feels empowering just saying this out loud, so I am glad I am writing this to share. The only problem is, what difference does it make? Honestly, probably none at all. 

I am not trying to set ultimatums, nor trying to be in full control of what comes next. Instead I am simply recognising my limitations, and setting out a line in the sand for myself, to protect my own sanity and mental health. Simple fact here, I don't like working in my old office environment. I could not put my finger on one single thing that is the problem. The commute is fine, it's not far and I enjoy cycling in. The idea of having to travel, whilst a bit of a bummer is the harsh reality of life. Being away from home, and losing the convenience of being home for contractors or deliveries is a sucker punch, but such is life.

The main thing it comes down to is the office environment. People, personalities, noise, hygiene (that's a huge one !!), and the ability to create an environment that I thrive in. So, pretty much everything that comes from being in a shared office! Not a good start I know. Of course, there are variables to consider, such as capacity.

Depending on the plan of return (if at all) there has been some talk of reduced capacity, and only spending X% of the week in the office. This sadly requires an investment in equipment, which makes it a little less likely in my opinion. However I would add that I would happily put large chunks of my own money in to procure said equipment, if a split office/WFH was decided on. Just thought I would get that in there. I have done so already to make WFH more comfortable, so why stop now. Although I would rather spend the money on making my home office even more comfortable to be honest.

But for now, I wait. We wait! We are all in the same boat, all hoping for what works best for us. And my brain continues to burn itself out, filling itself with negative thoughts, worries of being told to go back to the office, and panicking over what I would do if that happens. Could I cope, would I be better finding another job? Could I ask that I work in my own environment in the office? Is my mental health relevant enough to allow me to have an open discussion about remaining at home? Of course there would be compromises, which I would expect, but is it even valid and relevant? Is it going to be one rule for all. Will other peoples actions affect what happens to me next.... Jeeez I need a lay down here!

So, as you can see, my brain is not having a good time recently. These thoughts are just a 30 second snap shot of what is happening in my head over and over for every waking moment. Of which there seem to be more and more each day, as my ability to sleep dwindles away. Urrgh, mentally exhausted. But unlike when I am punishing myself physically, my brain doesn't cut itself off. Instead it just keeps going until its not functioning properly. Trouble finding the right words in a conversation, struggling to maintain focus on things, drifting away into my own little world mid conversation. Forgetting what I am doing, so many signs that all is not well. But what do I do?

That is my quandary right now, what do I do? 

I guess this is my plan of action for now...

  • Wait and see what happens next, at least until the road ahead is a known thing.
  • Keep a limit on the amount of physical exertion, it's not fixing anything.
  • Watch what I am eating.
  • Get into a healthier routine of sleep and rest
  • Speak to the doctor if things persist
  • Consider my own road ahead, once the company announce theirs. 

The main thing here is recognition of what is happening in my head, and this is it. I know I am struggling a bit right now, and have to be mindful of how I proceed. Not wind myself up with unknowns and things I can't control, but instead focus on what I can control. Consider and plan conversations I can have with people who can play a part in alleviating my struggles. I know what I want to say, just not how to say it. Something along the lines of quite simply "if we are going back to the office, I don't know if I can stay in this role". Sounds SO dramatic when I put it like that, and see it in writing, but the truth is, it's how I feel right now. As I say, what difference that makes, I don't know, but I have to say it, and put it out there for my own sanity. No point bottling it up, or pretending that isn't how I feel.

Oh well, I think I will leave it there for now. Step 1 done, recognising and taking action. Now to see how well I can keep a leash on myself, and resist the calling for more self destruction. 

Thanks for reading 🙂 

PS, I just realised I managed the whole blog entry without saying "anxiety" once. All whilst being full of it!

 

This is a bit of a strange one, but then I guess that is the running theme of a lot of my blogs, so no surprises there. 

I have recently had a couple of weeks off work, some time for myself, a break from the screen, and changing up the norm a bit for me. While I have been off, I have had somewhat of an epiphany. I am starting to reconnect with my emotions, or at least some of them. For the past heavens knows how long, I have been what I can only describe as emotionally deficient. Many things which stir an emotional reaction in most, seem to have very little effect on me.

That is not to say I am without emotion. Just a bit strange about them. The passing of a loved one for example, doesn't really get much of an emotional reaction from me. Not trying to "be the man", or somehow act brave, it just doesn't do much as far as reactions go. Sure I am sad, but tearful or visibly moved, no. 

The last time I can recall shedding a tear in the true sense of the word is probably almost 20 years ago now, and that was over a girl... I know right, sad!! lol. Just kidding, it was an emotional time, but probably my last. Floods of tears on the phone to a friend, and it felt GREAT! But after that, for some completely unknown reason, nothing!

Since then, my nan, mum, aunt, and some great friends have passed, and my reaction has been nothing but a little sadness. And yes, I have been to counselling to address this, as well as other issues in my life, but nothing has changed. We are all wired differently, and I am not saying that not being fully in touch with your emotions is a bad thing. Some could say that some people are a little too in touch, and would benefit from dialing it down a bit. 

My point here is, I know me, I know how I usually behave, or have at least behaved in the past. I was never a big cryer, but when the right time came, I was able to, and completely unafraid of crying. However for some reason it just stopped. 

Over the past six months to a year, I have found myself a little more easily choked up about things. Not necessarily about anything personal to me. Even something moving (reality) on TV, or taking about something that I am passionate about, can get me choked up now. Not exactly holding back tears, but not far from it. During the time I have had away from work, I have had more time to spend with myself, and become more aware of just how much this is happening now. There is nothing specific which triggers me, I can openly talk about losing loved ones, memories of being with them, and other personal life events. However, when something unrelated to me happens, I find myself more affected.  For reference the last time I can recall being emotional about something personal, would have been on the phone to the ambulance service for mum or something.

I have been somewhat aware of this for some time now, but having the time off to think about it more, I can't help but feel that there is a direct correlation with working from home. Without the stresses of being in the office environment, without the daily anxiety of what the coming day is going to be like, or trying to download and decompress after a long day around other people, my mind seems to have the energy to do its own thing, and be a little more normal again. Even dreams feel different. More memorable, more normal, apart from the odd bad one after over-thinking the return to the office.

It is all a bit strange, a little overwhelming, but also an absolute blessing to feel like I have a little humanity back, for the time being at least.  Some could argue it is a bad thing, my brain NOT coping with the isolation of working from home, and just getting more and more emotional about anything it can. I would have to disagree with that take on things, and say it feels like being normal me again, after a long long time, rather than something out of the ordinary, and unnatural. 

Time will tell I guess though. As the clock is now ticking down on the last known checkpoint for WFH. The start of September is the end of the extension we were given for working from home. By that time, we will have been told what is coming next, if we will remain at home in any capacity, or if we will indeed return to the normal office environment.  To say the idea of that fills me with dread and anxiety is a complete understatement right now.  At no point during Covid has it felt more likely that it is the end of the road for WFH for us. The lack of information plants dread in my mind, and the minds of others I have spoken to. 

Quite what that means for me I don't know. If the simple lack of knowing and fear we are going back has me feeling like this, heavens only knows how any confirmation of this is going to feel. I of course remain as optimistic as possible, and will try and do all I can to make the case for remaining at home. There are so many plus points really, beneficial to work. But I understand that this is not simply about me, but a whole work force, and I cannot expect to be treated differently, no matter how much I would like to be. I am probably a little more flexible and willing (desperate) than the rest, as to the lengths I would go to to protect my WFH. Buy equipment, be open to a discussion on wages, take on more responsibility to name but a few. But that is all irrelevant, as I say, we are a group not individuals. 

So, here's to enjoying my emotions while I can, and making the most of them. It's good to feel human again, even if it is short lived. 

 

 

 

 

Over the past 16 or so months, the language many of us use when talking about work has changed drastically. Work From Home (WFH), VPN, 2 stage authentication, Teams meeting, remote working, just to name a few. Rapidly rolling out a WFH model to a large workforce, with varying levels of I.T literacy has been a challenge. Learning to use online meeting software, sharing documents on systems such as Sharepoint, rather than printing and distributing them around the office, and so much more.

The sheer duration that WFH has continued for for many, is enough to get conversations started about what the real road ahead looks like. For the record, this piece is written from my own personal perspectives and experiences in switching to working from home. I currently work for a company in the UK, and have done so for almost 21 years now. Being in this role for most of that time. My role is an office based dispatcher, dealing with couriers and customers from up and down the country. So here goes with my take on the road ahead, in my role, with the company. 

My role is one that is by nature, remote. Not dealing with people face to face, but instead over the phone or I.T based communications. Using a lot of online resources to accomplish the task at hand. So moving to a WFH model on the grand scheme of things is not really any kind of spanner in the works. While inter-team interactions can sometimes be a tiny bit easier than messaging or phoning, the whole team are all very experienced in their jobs, so not much interaction is actually needed on a day to day basis. When working in the office, it was not very common for us to have team meetings, or discuss issues that had arisen. Peculiarly, since starting to WFH, as more of a welfare concern than anything else, we have had monthly online Teams meetings almost every month. So in that regard, communication has actually improved if anything. 

With two members of staff already working from alternative locations to the rest of the team, which are closer to their homes, WFH has simply extended that courtesy to the rest of the team. Prior to the pandemic, questions had occasionally been asked about working from home, but generally dismissed as not feasible or practical for the nature of the role. The issue of two team members being absent from the group never really came into it. However, at the start of the pandemic, when it became clear that things were getting very serious, the decision was made to try with a WFH model.

I have to say at this point, from line manager up, the support and enthusiasm for maintaining WFH has been incredible. A massive thank you to all those who have helped get everyone set up safely at home, worked on any issues, and overcome all the hurdles to keep as many people as possible safe at home, and for keeping everyone informed as much as possible on what is happening.

Which brings me neatly to where we are today. In March, as the roadmap out of lockdown from the UK government started to take effect, we were told that there were no plans to return to the office in any capacity until July. This was basically when stage 4 of the roadmap would lift all remaining measures, and life would "return to normal". For some this was a great relief to know that they would soon be back in the comfort and safety of their team office working environments, for others there was a slightly less enthusiastic response. I fit into the latter group, but I will come back around to that in a bit.

As we all know now, the final checkpoint came, and sadly stage 4 was delayed a month, so the lifting of the measures will not happen til mid/late July now. A few days after this was announced, we the employees were informed that the WFH model would now continue until September 2021. While it is great to see this happen, and to know that our safety and wellbeing is considered at every step of the way, it leaves a lot of people in a feeling of limbo. Regardless of where people would prefer to be working from, the delay of the next step perpetuates the uncertainty of what is actually going to happen next. Don't think for one second I am in any way ungrateful or disheartened by this continuation, I appreciate where it is coming from. However, it does extend my feeling of dread about what comes next.

So what does come next? To say WFH is not viable would be impossible at this stage, at least from a productivity and attendance point of view. Within my work group we have had I think 3 occurrences of sickness in the past 16 months, which is previously unheard of. Team members managing to work through everything from ailments to home appointments, which office based working would have made impossible. A few large companies have already shown their hands, with polar opposite opinions in some cases. With some companies insisting that WFH is not sustainable (for their business model), while others say they will be encouraging as many staff members as possible to continue to WFH in the long term. 

Each company of course is very different. Depending on the nature of the business, how staff members need to interact, feasibility of having all equipment and materials available to them at home to carry out their role efficiently, and so on. Not to mention the cost of maintaining corporate infrastructure such as leases on office buildings and work spaces etc. Quite where my company stands in all this is a bit of an unknown at this point. However there are whispers of cost savings being found, a positive change in working practices, and productivity, and other such things which support a WFH model for certain areas of the company. 

Speaking to friends who work for other companies, it is clear that there are a number of different approaches to the road ahead. Seeing their plans, it is clear just how complex getting people back into the office is. From having an online booking system for employees to reserve desks for days they wish to work from the office, to sanitisation schedules around the offices to make sure everything is clean and wiped down regularly. Other friends have been told there is no long term plan to return to the office, and that the majority of work can be done from home, where the role suits WFH, and the employee is happy to remain there.

Before I go on, let me show my hand, and give some insight into what WFH has been like for me. First up, it has been no walk in the park. Shortly before lockdown I was on holiday in Svalbard with my other half. Unfortunately, a couple of days in she had what can only be called a catastrophic accident on a snowmobile. Smashing her kneecap, detaching the patella tendon, and needing airlifting from the remote arctic circle, back to town. We then spent a day getting back to the UK, where she went straight into hospital for surgery.  She was eventually let home just as lockdown started, so as I began the task of setting up a home office, and getting back to working, I was also needed to care for her for the next 8 weeks while she was stuck in bed, unable to get out. You could say the timing for WFH was perfect in that respect, but a stressful start none the less. 

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, and is socially awkward at the best of times, being out of the office has felt like quite a relief to me. Although it has been some time since I had a serious bout of depression, I realise now that I was not as comfortable and OK as I thought I was. We learn to adapt to our surroundings, so for a while now I have felt like I was in a good place mentally, and nicely balanced. However, the first few months of lockdown showed me just how wrong I was. Feeling fresher and clearer minded daily, not struggling with over thinking things, and just having more get up and go in general were the first things I started to notice.

From that point on I have found myself having a much more structured day, take better care of myself mentally and physically, and feel like a far more positive individual. With the time I would usually have spent commuting, I have been able to get in more exercise, get back into running, and shift over three stone in weight. Just having the freedom to have more of a routine has had a huge impact on my day to day life. Of course, this is all well and good for me. As an introvert by nature, and choosing to avoid social contact, very little is lost by not being in an office environment. 

As far as my actual working day goes, I have found myself more engaged in the day to day workings of the department, become involved in groups outside my immediate work group, taken on projects to try and improve the department, and cannot honestly think of a negative effect with regards to work that WFH has had on me personally.  I would even go so far as to say, having access to work information out of working hours has had a positive effect. Most notably when issues have arisen, and I have been able to get stuck into the problem within minutes, rather than throwing my whole morning out and rushing to the office. This is not to say that I feel anyone should be on call 24/7, or not be able to switch off from work when required. For some, that is a genuine struggle, however for me, it has worked out well. Hitting the ground running on a day to day basis has been a positive for me.

Another positive to have come from this, for me in particular, is the ability to be home for appointments, work being carried out on the house, without interrupting my ability to work. Previously, if an electrician or plumber was due for example, I would need to take a half day, or even in some cases the whole day off. With WFH, I have been able to continue working, while having the garden landscaped, bathroom fitted and an EV point fitted. All things which would otherwise have required me to take time out of the business, and use up valuable annual leave. It is hard not to see that as a positive for myself and for work. 

There are of course many more people, all in their own unique situations, who this has affected in a whole different way, so I want to try and be as balanced as possible here, and include some feedback from others in the company who have experienced things differently to me. Below are some quotes from people who have been kind enough to share their experiences, and their hopes and visions for the road ahead for us all. I have broken them up a little to keep everything on topic, then added my own comments below. These comments are not meant in any way to discredit peoples thoughts, but merely to share my feelings on what they have endured throughout this pandemic. 

So let's get started with some of the feedback from others. I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been kind enough and open enough to share their thoughts so candidly. I know it has been a tough road for some. First off, the general impact WFH has had on peoples work / life balance.

I feel that work from home has enabled better work/life balance in a lot of ways. I had to travel an hour commute to the office which meant 2 hours on top of my day each day. By time I got home, exercised and then made tea it was time to go to bed, this meant come the weekend all of the housework had to be done and wasted a good chunk of my personal time. However now I find that I can do small household jobs before work in the time that I would have been commuting and get them all out of the way and can actually enjoy my evenings and weekends.

My experience working from home is mixed. I've been working from home since the 1st lockdown & my daughter was home schooling at the time.

I enjoyed it at 1st because of the flexibility I had, but I hated not being around other people and the office' banter'.

I no longer feel like a failing ‘full time working mum’ as I can now manage my diary better, to allow me to hear how my childrens school day has been and support them, attend a 20 minute Ukelele performance etc, which previously would have been a struggle! The balance is amazing and I feel much happier for it!!

I can start/ finish at the times to suit me – sometimes I am online at 6am as I feel my most productive, and then can squeeze a run in at lunchtime, again increasing my productivity.

The positives have been the flexibility, which allows less stress situations has given people time to do the extra things easily like appointments and shopping.  Families are now able to spend more time together and in some cases improve the social relations.  I’ve seen the freedom benefit those who can now go to the gym and create a routine so they don’t need to clock in at a set time or the time it has save from driving in gives them extra sleep needed.

I am very much a ‘people person’ so I did really struggle to adapting to working from home, I missed the interaction with real people!! This coupled with initial system issues did stress me out a bit!

Moving forward I feel I have adapted to working from home, I do still really look forward to ‘teams meetings’ when people have their cameras on! ( I like to see people’s faces! 😊)

For me working from home has been a positive change, as I am a single mom to a young child it has allowed me to be around a lot more and taken the stress/rushing about away from each day. It’s meant I can do some school drop offs and pickups and for us to be able to have breakfast and dinner together. Taking the commute out of my day has also freed up around 2 hours of my day giving me time to be able to attend the gym. do a business related degree, help with homework and have quality time as a family in the evenings

I love that I can be more available for customers wanting an earlier than usual or later than usual call, without having to panic about leaving early for traffic, or worrying about smart clothes, hair & make up in some cases!!

In my role I spend a lot of the time in calls, and working from home suits that so well. Working in a busy office environment can make it difficult to hear and be heard on calls with all the background noise.

Some days I need to take extra breaks for a life-long illness, in the office this used to make me feel super self-conscious at the time and then also later when everyone had gone home and I was still working to make up my time; now I have that flexibility without wondering what people are thinking or having to explain being in the office late or away from my desk for more than a couple of minutes.

  • Not having to sit in traffic during a commute
  • Being able to see more of my family
  • Being home to accept parcel deliveries
  • Less likely to pick up winter bugs from work colleagues
  • Less driving = better for the environment

Reading some of the quotes above, the differences between individual cases are very clear to see. Just the impact on the basics of a working / living day, is huge. Childcare, social engagements, not to mention the changes the elimination of commuting has had. People finding more time for their families, exercise, hobbies and much more. All the things that can have truly profound effects on our lives away from work. However, it is fair to say that it is not all good and positive. With some having a tough time being away from people for prolonged periods of time, and missing out on the engagement they would usually have with other team members.

For those more socially active, the impact is clear, and in some cases quite devastating for their quality of life. So in that regard it is nice to see how things are starting to change in society with the reintroduction of social events, and being able to spend more time around friends and loved ones. Of course, right now the road ahead is not clear for everyone, and certainly not in the company I work for. So we are all left clinging to our own hopes of what lays on the road ahead. As was pointed out by one person though, the fact we can now see friends again, means the extra time in our days with no commuting, at least for now, means we can spend more quality time with people of our choosing, and shake off those social cobwebs.

Then of course there is the impact it has had on how we all do our jobs. As I have said earlier, not all roles are ideal for working from home. Going back to some of the larger companies who have set out their plans, any roles involving development of projects which require collaboration, are far tougher to achieve remotely. This can be anything from design to marketing, with a million roles in between. For those accustomed to working in teams, discussing, debating, and demonstrating ideas, online life is far tougher. For others who engage with team members and clients remotely as part of their day to day roles, location of where you carry that role out from is less important, from a productivity perspective at least. 

Setting up a workspace at home has not been easy for all. With challenges such as a suitable space, or connectivity being the most common issues faced. Not everyone simply has a spare room available for setting up a desk in, so some have been forced into very temporary and makeshift arrangements. This is also a huge consideration for some when it comes to the longevity of the WFH arrangements. Let's now have a look at some more of the feedback, and see how others have felt with their experiences. 

I found the technical aspect quite challenging in the beginning - problems with wifi/vpn and meetings/calls I found weren't as professional as I wanted them to be. 

I miss a coffee with my team and getting to know people better!

I don’t think we communicate well enough to all our people – I certainly feel more out of the loop where as in the office, I would have heard more and have a better awareness of the business changes

Growing my network is more difficult – just reaching out for a coffee was harder and forgotten in the early days – but better now I have bought back my focus and made it a priority!

Personally I miss the social interaction and the positives from having face to face conversations. I have concerns that many people may feel isolated and are not being checked on to see how they are and if they feel supported.

I do feel it’s hard to separate work from home and find that I often stay longer than my shift or ‘check’ things on a weekend.

It can be very quiet and a bit lonely at times as I miss my work colleagues and some days it’s difficult when you feel like you’ve been in the same place 24/7 

The biggest downside is that I often lose track of time, I start earlier than I would in the office and then finish late too, thinking “just one more email” and then an hour or two have passed before I know it.

I also found that as time went on working from home was getting boring and I didn't feel as motivated, because I couldn't switch off at the end of the day, and there was no separation from home & work.

 

  • It can be hard to separate work and home life
  • The idea that other people might have that the perception that you do less work/or don’t work as hard because they can’t see you working
  • Missing out on informal catch-ups
  • Things can take longer, e.g. having to send emails or call when you could just approach someone in the office
  • I find that it’s more difficult to build relationships when working from home

Reading most of the feedback it is clear to see that most see the positives and negatives quite similarly. Appreciating the extra free time allowed by not having a commute, and being straight back in their home life when they finish for the day. While most also feel there is an element of detachment or loneliness working from home. It is fair to say that the negatives are very much on a sliding scale, from only slightly bothered, to actually quite badly affected by the isolation of WFH. The other big and more common negative seems to be the inability to switch off at the end of the day, and feeling compelled to get everything sewn up, rather than just managing what can be completed in a normal working day. 

It is clear to see that there are learning points to be taken from all of this, and regardless of the next step, attention needs to be paid to certain aspects of the business, and how things are done. I think most would agree that there was never really a plan for such a fast and vast rollout of WFH in many or any companies for that matter. So the speed and efficiency it has been done at, in general, has been phenomenal. That said, now the dust is settling, there is room to improve for sure. For the sanity of the workers who have endured so much. If the road ahead involves any aspect of working from home, time needs to be spent on formalising the training on things such as online meetings. Simple etiquette, how to use "hand up" functions, not talking over other people, timekeeping and many other seemingly trivial, yet very frustrating issues which have arisen from everyone being thrown in the deep end. 

Another thing which clearly needs addressing is some form of time management system, to prevent, or at least dissuade people from spending too much time out of their normal working hours, working online. Maybe some form of VPN lock-out, or a report generated highlighting excessive time spent online by particular employees. Just to ensure there is a healthy balance found between keen and enthusiastic working practices, and spending an unhealthy amount of time focusing on work. 

As I have said before, this is in no way an attempt to call anyone out, simply acknowledge that while we have come so far, in such a short space of time, there is always room for growth and improvement. 

Finally we have the takeaways from all of this. In summary, how do people feel about the past 16 months of working from home. Where are peoples heads at, and most importantly, what do people want to see happen next.  From an external perspective, I would say around 75-80% of the people I know, would love to see WFH remain in full or at least in part. With an element of flexibility in there. Of course it is all well and good to simply say "flexibility" but what does that actually mean. On speaking to people, some see it as a planned weekly schedule of working between work and home, while completing hours and tasks as expected regardless of work location. Unfortunately to some, the word flexibility simply means do as you please. Pick and choose on an almost adhoc basis where you are going to work from that day, or even for part of that day. No commitment, no schedule. Sadly it is attitudes like that which will discourage companies from allowing any flexibility at all, and instead resort to an all or nothing approach. With the most likely being returning to an office. 

From speaking to others within the company I work for, the opinions are varied, but in general the approach is a good one. Some want to be back in their work groups, amongst friends, and feeling a sense of belonging and being a part of a team. For others, the lack of commute has had a profound effect on their daily lives, and the idea of switching back to working in an office and commuting back and forth is grim.  Here's what others had to say.

I think in an ideal world there would be more flexibility to split time between home and the office to find balance with our time but still ensure that face to face social interaction that we need.

I'm grateful that I can work from home but given the option I probably would work 50% in the office and home to balance it.

At the end of the day I feel grateful to have a job and I am proud and amazed at the way we have all adapted!! I think we all should be very proud of ourselves

I feel like overall there are more positives than negatives and I feel (and so does my son) that I have a much better work-life balance now than I did last year.

It's been a while now & I'm grateful that I can work from home but given the option I probably would work 50% in the office and home to balance it.

From my perspective I have worked in my role for the last 6 years, and never really had a fixed workstation. I would normally move between home and operational locations based on the projects I was working on. Admittedly I really enjoy working from home.

I will finish up with a summary of my take on things, purely from the position I am in, in my current company and role. Primarily my biggest concern is my mental health. Just the idea of being thrust back into a busy office again, awkward interactions with people, clashes of personalities, and bickering over trivial things, fills me with dread. The past 16 months have shown me my true comfort zone, and what I can achieve in such a position. Not to mention how it makes me feel in general. So much more relaxed, and a better quality of life, both in and out of work.

Of course, I work for a business, not a charity, and I realise they have their own requirements of me. It is a two-way relationship after all. So ultimately I have to be open minded, and at the very best, hope for a fair compromise. The idea of actually being left working from home is probably a bit of a pipe dream. But a boy can dream eh! In an ideal world, I would happily have a few days in the office when required. Of course I am only a short distance from the office, so if the requirement was there to go in at short notice, I would not consider that unreasonable at all. I would hope that most would be of similar opinion, depending of course on any commitments they may have with family and home. 

Thank you for reading this far. I hope this has made some sense at least, and resonates in some way with everyone who reads it. There is no "one size fits all" solution, so whatever the road ahead is, there will be compromise, and a little disappointment. But with that said, I sincerely hope that everyone gets something close to what best suits their needs and desires, and the road ahead is a safe and happy one for all.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts with me, so I could make this as balanced as possible. I hope you are happy with how your words were used.

One final point I wanted to touch on was the environmental impact of WFH. Most major cities around the world during the peak of the lockdown saw massive improvements in air quality, as well as other positive environmental impacts. Something the whole world seems to have been trying to get a grasp of for decades now. I am sure no one could ever have imagined a global pandemic being the thing that finally put the world on pause just long enough to reconsider what a normal day looks like, versus how it could look. WFH to a certain extend has a positive impact on the environment. Removing tens of thousands of daily commutes from the roads and transport systems in all major cities, millions globally. Reduces the energy used to run large corporate buildings, and freeing up space on the roads and transport network for key and priority travel of people and goods.  

We must not forget the corporate image too. With many companies pledging to reduce their carbon footprint, and become greener, there is surely an argument that WFH supports them in doing so. After all, the footprint of each journey to a place of work falls at the feet of the company. With less people travelling to a place of work, that alone must surely have an impact on the perceived cleanliness of a company. 

Of course there is a negative to this, and that is the shift on the city economies, impacting small service industry businesses on a huge scale. Some can adapt, others will suffer long term, which is truly tragic. Meanwhile, small local businesses in towns and villages now full of their local residents working from home, begin to thrive as workers look for their coffee fix, or a quick and easy lunch, much as they would do while normally working in the city. 

There is a balance to be found somewhere with all this, and at some point governments should show their hand and support what they feel is right. Should a shift in inner city businesses be the price to pay for cleaner air, quieter transport networks etc. Or is the idea of letting the cities sit idle while people work from home, just for the sake of reducing emissions, and achieving what global governments have strived to achieve for decades, simply unrealistic? Just a thought!

 

 

In a recent press conference, the PM announced that all seems well, and that the final remaining Covid based restrictions will lift as expect on July 19th. This of course means that all companies who have maintained a WFH policy throughout the pandemic, will now have to address the situation moving forward, and decide what model best suits the business. It would be wrong to suggest that there is a one size fits all option, either from a company point of view, or an employee standpoint. So many variables have to be considered, and the nature of the business will ultimately dictate what model best suits.

For argument sake, let's base it on what I have personally experienced. WFH was introduced at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and for large swathes of the office based staff, has remained in place throughout. The rollout was very swift, a little rough around the edges, and certainly was not perfect. But as a whole, the main plan of getting as many staff as possible, working from home as quickly as possible, was a great success. 

Of course a success in getting everyone home is one thing, but how it affected people, how able they were to work from home comfortably for a long period of time, and how it impacted their lives is something totally different. I recently spoke to a number of colleagues from different areas of the company and country, to get their perspectives on it all. To try and understand just how challenging it has been for some, and not forgetting how wonderful it has been for others. From the feedback I received, I think it is fair to say that everyone appreciated what the company had done, and how quickly it had all happened. However the impact on peoples lives really varied a lot. Which leaves a bit of a mixed opinion on what should happen next.

I would say 95% are happy with some element of WFH remaining. Some suggesting a 50-50% split between office and home. Others far keener to have it swing totally one way or the other. During the conversations with others, I have really had my eyes opened to just how much WFH has impacted peoples lives. With some who just don't have the space to sustain a WFH model long term, to those who have dearly missed the personal interactions with their workgroups. We have all grown used to doing things via a screen now, meetings, presentations etc. But it really isn't the same as being there in person. Again, for some that is a good thing, for others the complete opposite. 

The biggest concern raised has been that of mental health. With some struggling personally, and others, even those enjoying working from home, concerned about the welfare of some of their colleagues. I think it is great that so many are showing such consideration, regardless of their own preferences. The two largest contributors towards any MH issues are those of personal interactions, and the sheer isolation of working and living in the same space. We do not all have the space in the home to have a totally separate area to work from, so the lines become blurred between work and home life. Feeling like you have been at work all day, or unable to switch off at the end of a day, especially when dealing with a heavy and constant workload. One thing I heard a lot was that people found themselves working later and later, with the "just one more"  mindset. 

Obviously this isn't great for wellbeing, so ways need to be found moving ahead, to ensure that there is a bold and clear line, when the work day ends, down tools, and be done with it. Rather than allowing the temptation to keep going to be there. That is of course if there is to be a WFH option moving forwards. 

For a large percentage of those I spoke to, there is great enthusiasm for WFH to stay. Many are hoping to hear something soon that confirms this. Varying from full time to shared time between locations, so many compelling arguments were made for it to stay. Some of the stories I heard really brought home how much of a difference it has made for people. Being at home for their kids when they need them the most, having more time to get things done around the house, rather than spending 10 hours a week commuting. Using the saved time for a further education, and one of the most touching, feeling the bond with their kids benefit from being around more, and spending more quality time together.

Another interesting point which was made with regards to personal interactions was that of having a choice. Many enjoy the relationships they have at work, have made great friends, and love spending their time around those people. For some this can be some of the only quality person to person interactions that they may get in day to day life, so it is important to recognise the role this plays in our lives. In some cases, work is actually a sanctuary, and somewhere they feel safe and cared for, so again, it is important to recognise and protect this. However there is always another side. There are some who almost fear being around others, serious social anxiety issues. For those, sharing an office space with people they are not particularly close with can be exhausting, and quite stressful. So the WFH model has worked well for them. I am one of those people, someone who has truly enjoyed and thrived during WFH. So I hope dearly it remains, for me 99.9% of the time would be great. 

I have digressed, the point I was getting to was, with the lack of commute, this gives some people an extra 2-4 hours a day, or 10-20 a week. Time which can be spent around loved ones, or other close friends of our choosing, rather than those in the work environment. In fact, so much can be done with those extra hours a day, as I have said above. 

As far as home life goes, most have seen a great improvement in one way or another. With some of those also reporting some negative effects, such as inability to switch off being the most common. So I would say it is fair to say the majority would like to see WFH remain in some form. I don't think anyone I spoke with, from either side of the fence felt that theirs was the only opinion and situation that mattered, and most were sympathetic to others around them with different experiences and views. It is always refreshing to see so many people all being so considerate. Maybe the isolation has taught us all to be kinder people. Who knows. 

Of course, we all have opinions, but the ones that matter are those of the people in the position of power and responsibility. Those who have the difficult job of deciding what is best primarily for each company, and then taking into consideration the impact it has had on the employees. 16 months is a long time, and is long enough for many to get so used to something, that the idea of changing back can actually be quite traumatic. I have spoken to people who have seen such great benefits to their work/life balance, that the thought of going back to commuting and working in an office is borderline unbearable. I genuinely do not envy them with the task they have.

All I would ask for is the chance to share my thoughts on it with someone, for some consideration to be given to mental health, wellness, and the new work / home life balance so many have found. I cannot imagine what it is like for a child who has become accustomed to their mum or dad being able to pick them up after school, rather than having to go to an after school club, to suddenly be told that it's going back to how it once was. For me personally, I dread the thought of losing that hour at the start and finish of each day. The hours I use to do housework, work in the garden, go running, and spend quality time looking after my own mental health. On the flip side, I can't imagine being someone who has worked from their kitchen table for the past 16 months, to be told that my role is now permanent WFH.

Having spoken to so many, even I as someone who champions WFH, had no idea the magnitude of the impact being at home has had for some. Both positive and negative. So I truly hope that companies make some effort to engage with their employees, so they too can appreciate how so many peoples lives have changed, and in so many different ways.

I would love to think that everyone can be a winner in the plans for the road ahead. However being realistic, it is clear that we can't. Compromise is called for, and there will be winners and losers without a doubt. In a perfect world, those wanting to stay working from home would be able to, of course with occasional team get togethers at the office, to keep everyone in touch and on the same page. Those wanting to be back in the office would also be provisioned for, with dedicated working spaces for those wishing to be in the office full time. While hot desks could be made available for people to book to use when working from the office for the day or the week. Writing it, it all sounds so easy, but I of course realise there is nothing easy or simple about it, especially on a large corporate scale. Idle or under occupied office space is a waste, and one that is hard to justify.

One other thing that seems to get missed out of the discussions is how people are going to feel being back in the workplace. Some will be fine and happy to be back around people. Others will be more reserved, and cautious about interactions. While some will be quite simply terrified. Either due to underlying health conditions, or just now so unaccustomed and uncomfortable being around others in close proximity. In answer to this under discussed concern, one great suggestion was brought up on a team call the other day. Wrist bands! Red, amber and green, to display your comfort level around others. Simple and effective, and something everyone can understand. That of course is all well and good, but some working environments simply don't allow much in the way of personal space. And then there are the stupid/selfish ones who simply ignore other peoples wishes. 

So my message is a simple one. A lot of people have lots of experiences to share. Stories of both struggle and thriving throughout the pandemic. People have made huge sacrifices during the past 16 months, changing how they work and live under one roof. Please consider some of those experiences, see how people can be best served as they serve you. This is not a simple "I want, I get" situation, far from it, but the road ahead is a long one, possibly a little uncertain too. Winter is around the corner, and people having their lives turned upside down for what could be the interim, may be less likely to be so flexible and accommodating in the future. I do realise how bold and hypocritical that sounds of course. As the companies have done great things to keep people safe, employed and paid throughout. But lets plan for the best future for everyone, in the long term.

Environmental awareness is now greater than ever. So where possible, let's embrace that. Think cleaner, be greener, and make the future a happy and safe one for all. 

 

It is fair to say that the past week or so has been a little bit of a kick in the balls. A lot going on in my life and my head right now, and regardless of how well I thought I was coping, it is becoming apparent (with self scrutiny) that things are not as good as I thought they were. 

Between health, and work, there is a lot happening. We are expecting step 4 of the return to "normal" roadmap to happen very soon now, which could have huge implications on my current working environment. To say I don't want to go back to an office now, is a massive understatement. So the uncertainty is eating away at me. Work have a self imposed "no return to the office" in place until Sept now, so I have no idea when we will actually know what to expect as a plan moving forward.

I would love to make a few more changes on my WFH set up, to make it a permanent fixture now, but I have already spent quite a bit, and don't want to invest any more until I know something concrete. That is of course ignoring the massive elephant in the room, simply not wanting to work in a shared office. It's never been my favourite thing, and after 16 months of freedom, I want it to stay that way. 

Then just for fun, my body has decided to play a prank on me and throw something else into the mix, which at this point is "awaiting further investigation". Some of course know about this, and I thank them for their patience and time in discussing it. Waiting for the up and coming appointment is really starting to take it out of me now. While I am not over-thinking things about it (which is strange), as the days go by without even having a date yet, I am finding myself being more and more twitchy and withdrawn. Spent a few days eating the wrong foods, but have managed to stay active, which helps with the brain. 

That said, this mornings run, while good for getting fresh air, and clearing the head, just compounded things by making me feel quite uncomfortable, and more aware of what's going on inside. Meh!

Fingers crossed, by the end of the week I will at least have an appointment date, and can at least stop stressing about worrying if I have been missed or forgotten. And instead look forward to getting the appointment over with, and getting the answers. Whatever lays ahead, it is all good, my head is generally in a good place. Just hate waiting, for anything, let alone answers!

As a whole I would describe my mood as irritable and impatient, as opposed to anxious. Let's just say "generally stressed", like normal people do 🙂 

Edit... As of 2.45 today, I now have an appointment date to work towards, which is this week, so already feel a lot better for knowing that. 

 

Yesterday I watched a video about viral video start, and how it changed their lives. One of those stars was Tay Zonday. This was on a Yes Theory video on YouTube, a channel I have really fallen in love with over recent months. Whilst talking about his experience since going viral, he reflected on how he is expected to behave by the public. A certain persona is required, expectations of how he should conduct himself etc. He went on to explain that he is autistic, and in the circles of autism, this behaviour is known as "masking".

Ref this video, time stamp around 20.20
https://youtu.be/7FWwjVHMgEU?t=1220

Bells rang out loud in my head, this is an expression I have used for a long time now when discussing how I feel I should conduct myself around strangers, or people who have preconceived perceptions of who I am.

Before I go on, quick disclaimer. If you have met me, and we have spent a bit of time somewhere, at an event, or in a large gathering, you probably don't know ME. If I have spent a larger amount of time with you, engaging in relaxed conversation, openly expressing myself, and being relaxed, then you probably know me better than most. There are just a small handful of people who know ME.

Tay makes reference to his two personas, his government named, and his public identity known as Tay. The side he chooses to share on his YouTube channel. This is something I am very familiar with, and can probably best explain it by going back in time a little. 

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was part of a team that ran a popular internet forum (of its day). On the forum, and website I was known as "Snazy", yup, the same name as this blog. Obvious play on my surname, doesn't take much explaining really. As part of this community I would say I was well known, and would be recognised at meet ups, and other social events. When events were arranged, the "popular" people were regularly encouraged to attend, just to  help boost the attendance. This is not an attempt at a humble brag that I was any kind of minor celeb, or better than anyone else. I was just a name at the forefront of an online community.

Regularly before going to any sort of gathering, I would get anxious, talk myself out of going, and find excuses not to go. Only to be talked around, and end up going. Always happy and chipper to people I engaged with, regardless of if I knew them personally, or it was an introduction to someone who used the site that I had never met before. So it slowly became my "Snazy persona". The appearance and behaviour of the person people thought they knew. I never really questioned it, or put much thought into the whole situation. Just sucked it up, and put my game face on when the time came. 

Towards the end of the forums popularity, I started to realise I was actually miserable, and quite unhappy with the whole situation. Sinking deeper and deeper into depression at the time, I started to question why I even behaved this way. Just to meet the expectations of people I had never met before, and probably would not ever again? Just to be popular, although this was not something I thrived in either way. One night, while chatting to a friend, I said I didn't feel anyone knew ME. Sure Snazy was popular, but what about me, who even knew me.  Told I was being silly, I threw down the gauntlet, and said "ask 10 people we both know, what my real name is".

Back then MSN Messenger was the IM platform of choice (told you I was going back!!), so the only thing people could see was your screen name, and your email address. At the time my screen name was always "Snazy The Daddy" with a series of emojis after it, determined by how I felt at the time. My email address was also Snazy related.  Off she went, and started asking, and time after time, no one could tell her my actual name. I think out of the 10, one got it, and that was only my first name. She was shocked, I was unsurprised but at the same time mortified. 

So that is my first realisation of "masking". Becoming a person people expect you to be, or displaying a persona which seems comfortable, and fit in with the surroundings of a social environment. Whilst just under the skin feeling terrified, exhausted and completely overwhelmed.

As life has gone on, I am able to look back and identify event after event in which I have put on a mask, just to get through whatever the situation was. This is not to be confused with putting on a brave face to deal with a sudden and unexpected situation. This is something I am sure we are all accustomed to, a devastating family event, a serious accident, or anything else that requires us to remain composed to get through it. We have all been there, and it is something we as humans generally excel at.

But masking is different. Putting on a mask just to be in a certain everyday setting, be it a busy commute, a work place, or a social gathering. Projecting confidence is the best way to get through situations which make you uncomfortable. Less questions, less stress, on the surface at least. The problem with wearing a mask, is it is exhausting, mentally! In a short space of time, I can go from being fully charged and ready for a day, to exhausted and ready to sleep for the rest of the day. The amount of energy anxiety, and masking it takes out of you is impossible to comprehend unless you have felt it first hand. 

There have been times when I have agreed to engage in some sort of event, and it has taken literally days to get my energy back. Not only does the draining of the energy knock you for six physically, it also has a deep and profound mental cost too. Causing you to want to withdraw from society for a bit, to get yourself back together. Leaving you questioning your decisions, and reluctant to do something like that again.  Personally for me, just being in an unfamiliar place, and not needing to really engage with anyone, can really tire me out fast. A plane journey for example. Lots of eye contact, checkpoints, and reasons to speak to people briefly. The requirement to be polite and approachable really takes its toll.

In conversations over the past 10 or more years, I have referred to wearing a mask, to be a person people think I am, or just as a game face to get through a situation. It is a concept I am familiar with, but hearing Tay speak of it just validated everything I have ever said about it before. It is a relief to know that it is something others identify with, and also sadly battle too. 

Most recently, with the pandemic, and working remotely. Being able to isolate myself from unnecessary, and unwanted interactions, I have been MUCH better. Feeling more in control of my mind, bouncing back with plenty of mental energy, and feeling more positive about the engagements I choose to participate in. This is just one small area of my life obviously, and there have of course been other times when I have been less able to control things. And at those points, it is even more obvious to me how detrimental avoidable encounters are to my mental and physical state. 

I am sure for those who know me, there are those who are now nodding, as it all makes perfect sense to them. Then there are some who are confused and a little bewildered to have not realised all this was going on behind the scenes for all this time. And of course there will be those crying "attention seeker", or other blinkered and selfish comments. There are a few I can guarantee for sure will be saying that!

Either way, I will wrap this up by asking you to take five mins out of your day, and asking yourself, how many of your friends and social circles know YOU? I don't mean every little thing about you, just have an understanding of you as a person, and know what makes you tick. How many of the closest people around you could for example plan a multi event and location day out with you, and get it right? I bet it is less than you think. 

Fact is, within the groups of people who surround us, we have things in common that bind us as a group. Outside of that common ground, people very rarely take the time to find out anything else about you, but instead create a social construct they think you fit into. In reality, one thing in common, could be countered by a whole host of different beliefs, morals, and life preferences. I am not saying this is a terrible thing, it's just human nature, to pretend to feel we know someone, without taking the time to actually try to. 

But, and this is the big bit... Give a little consideration to how much energy goes into being the person you think they are. For some of us, it is simply unsustainable. 

Thanks to Yes Theory, Tay Zonday, and everyone in my life who has taken the time to try to get to know Michael Snasdell, and not just Snazy, the guy they think they know. If you know Snazy, you DON'T know me!

 

PS, Tay, I know this is not exactly the road you were going down with "masking", but it energised me enough to offer my take on it. 

 

Hurrah for summer, it has finally arrived, after a long wait. Unlike last year, when summer sprung itself upon us early in the year. The wait this year has been torture. But now it is here, it brings with it a few things.

The temperature went from 6c daily average to mid 20's in what seemed like a day. Hot, sweaty, and irritable, summer me is here too! Unfortunately, the weather and date also brings with is uncertainty, anxiety and stress. More people back out and about, restless nights, and decision time.  Like my head needs much more to get in a knot about right now. Morning runs are hectic, with lots of people out and about, so today I decided on a much earlier run. Quieter roads, but less sleep. Moan, moan, moan, I know!

But front and centre of all of this is June21st. The date the UK Government has set for step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. In turn, it is the final stage of the process before finding out what the masterplan is regarding Work From Home. Up until now, with things moving so slowly, it has been pretty bearable. However with the final step just weeks away, the dread and fear that work might say "back to the office" completely consumes my every waking moment. Or at least that is how it feels. 

There has been a lot of positive talk about a new approach to how our roles are carried out. If we need to be at a certain location to carry out our jobs effectively. If the new work/life balance that so many, including myself, have found, plays a part in the road ahead. Talk of flexible working, spending time between home and office, sounds delightful for the main part, and 18 months ago I would have ripped the hand off that offered that to me. However, now, well now is different. 

After 15-16 months or so of working from home, so many answers are clear. Can we operate effectively, yup, through a pandemic, through peak  service, and through so many other challenges. Working from home has not caused a single stumble. In fact, when the brown stuff has hit the fan, being close to my work PC, has actually benefited the company. With almost instant access to systems, to get stuck straight in. Communication between the workgroup has improved, with time now allocated on team catch ups, where as before things were less structured. And so many other positives to be found. 

I realise that is all well and good, however work are paying the wages, so get to make the decisions to best suit the business, I can't argue with that for a moment. Seeing how chalk and cheese the plans of many large companies are make me feel it could swing one of two ways, or of course just hang dead centre, and there be no change required. I say no change required, as I appreciate there are two sides to every story, and we all have our own stories of the pandemic to tell.  Some have dearly missed the contact and face to face communication of their workgroups. Feeling isolated and trapped at home, with no outlet for their thoughts. For others, working from home has posed huge challenges to the requirements of their role, making life so much more difficult. For those groups of people, I hope that the road ahead offers contact and respite from the pressures faced over the pandemic. 

But let's be real for a minute, this is my blog, and about my feelings and thoughts, so back to the nitty gritty. I simply don't want to go back to working in an office. This time of year, and the rise in temperatures just reminds me of the years gone by, squabbles over use of the aircon, too hot, too cold, windows open or closed.... Til the AC system just breaks (multiple times annually) and we are left wishing we had just agreed and left it be. Last summer and this summer so far, I open my window when I want, heating on when I want, AC on.... you get the picture. 

Although we have had lots of work done on the house in the past year, I have not had to take any time off for it, nor deliveries, and rarely for any medical appointments, as its all close to home, and can be worked into the working day. 

Anyway, enough procrastination, I think I have made my point. I am terrified that we will be told to return to the office. I have grown very comfortable with my own space, and environment, and the thought of sharing that with others again is dreadful. I am bad enough being around people I choose to be in the company of, let alone those I am squashed in with in the name of work. 

The next two weeks are going to be horrible. I am already sinking myself into a destructive cycle of running and cycling. Doing my best to enjoy myself, rather than damage myself. Sleep is getting worse, quiet moments of the day starting to be consumed by spiraling negative thoughts. The smallest thing now spins up the whirlpool of the mind, and turns it into something dreadful and scary, without even giving it a chance. 

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks time, we will at least have a solid idea of what happens next. Does the rumoured ultra flexible new system come into play? How much flexibility will there actually be? I guess time will tell now, and in the meantime all I can do is hold tight, and wait and see. 

It is good to know that some around me understand my fears, and that in general, line management are happy with work from home as it is, or at least that is how it seems. Keep your fingers crossed please, and lets hope that as much as possible, the road ahead offers everyone  what they need to keep them sane, and able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. 

It has been a long time since I last wrote an entry here, and for the most part I would put that down to the vastly improved state of mind I have had over the past year to 15 months. There have of course been lows, but nothing in comparison to what I would usually go through in my yearly rollercoaster ride of mental state. 

So much has happened in the past year, I really don't know where to start, so in no particular chronological order, I will break it down into pieces, and have a ramble. 

RCGP. I have been working with them again this year, helping medical students better understand the presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of anxiety and depression. It never ceases to amaze me how natural some are with the situation, and show genuine compassion. While others struggle a little, almost suffering from reverse stigma, and feeling uncomfortable about discussing someone elses mental health. It is those I hope to make an impression on the most. This years sessions have been very different, moving to online Teams consultations. Which in itself has taught me a lot about myself, whilst making life a whole lot more comfortable. Mainly because it avoids the commute into town to the RCGP, which in itself is hugely stressful for someone with social anxiety.

Working from home has been a complete game changer for me, I should have started with this really, as it could drag on, but here goes anyway. 

Being quite and introvert and socially anxious person, personal interactions with others can be quite draining. Over the past year or so, I have felt much more alert, and fresh throughout the working day. Not spending mental energy on social things that actually have no impact on my working day, and rather spending the extra energy I find myself with, getting stuck into projects at work. The physical aspect of getting to the office has never been an issue for me, in fact I enjoyed my daily 10 mile each way commute by bike, as it gave me time and space to prepare myself for the shift ahead. The more exhausting part was being in an office, and that was purely mental exhaustion.

That is just the tip of the iceberg for working from home for me. There are SO many pros, and at best a sprinkling of cons. Being able to work whatever hours the day demands is no longer a stress. Getting a call to say there is a sickness, or something is up and I am needed in ASAP, once meant rushing my routine (which is very important to me) and driving into work. This was always the start of a bad day. Now, the same call means walking into my home office and logging in. Be it for 5 mins, or the rest of the day, I am in effect "on call" whenever needed. 

As far as mental wellbeing goes, I can honestly say, in 15-16 months now, I have had one dip. It lasted about a week, I had a lot going on at home too at the time, and at worst it meant a slight lack of focus for me, nothing more. Even through the winter months, which we have effectively had 2 cycles of during WFH now, I have been much better than I can ever recall being in many years gone by. The much expected low simply hasn't arrived. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that working from home has been the key to this massive shift for me. 

Although as I write this, I am more than aware that the end of June is just over a month away. This is the date for the next "checkpoint" for the UK Government, and indeed my employer to consider, and detail the next stages of what is to come for the "new normal". This in itself has probably wobbled me more than anything in the past year or more. The uncertainty of what comes next. Will it be all back to the office, will there be a choice? Flexible working from home and office throughout the week has been mentioned. As has the "choice" of home or office. Personally, for me, home is the best way, and the only way I can stay on this level. 

I know it is expecting way too much, and it is far from a demand. Having worked for the company for over 20 years now, I know how important oversight is for management, and appreciate the trust put in us to work from home, and be trusted to go the best possible job we can. But you cannot ignore the fact that during the pandemic, while it has suited, it has been OK. The idea for certain departments to work from home in the past was simply out of the question, and not a discussion even worth starting. However I think, if the recent events have shown us anything, it is that it IS possible, and the outcome is probably more a more productive, coercive workgroup.

I think it is clear from the paragraphs above, what my feelings are on returning to an office environment. I simply don't want to. I am happy to be checked up on, visited at home, or whatever other measures are required to keep me safe and alone in my home office. Which I have to say is a lot better equipped than my office based desk was. Mainly through buying things at my own expense, but something I am quite happy to do in the longterm. Heck I would even consider a pay freeze for a while, How's that for an offer?

Anyway, enough about working from home, for now at least.

In other areas of life, the fresher state of mind for me has allowed me to look after myself physically too. Cutting out a lot of the junk food, which was mainly whilst in the office at work. Taking the time I would have spent commuting to take better care of myself. Getting back into running has been huge for me. Since Xmas I have gone from doing Couch to 5K, to running a half marathon distance. A distance I have never achieved before, so to day I am feeling good is an understatement. That on top of working out, and still getting as much cycling done as I can, and that all rounds up to another huge tick in the box for this new normal.

I think one of the strangest parts of the whole thing has been the social isolation. Something I crave most of the time, suddenly became something everyone was doing. No longer was it a fight to get personal space, in fact it was insisted upon. It has been quite incredible, and I know that there have been other friends of mine who have found it equally as much of a relief.  That is not to say the isolation for many has not been crippling. 

I am not going to sit here, and selfishly say how great things have been. The pandemic has been horrific on so many levels. Losing loved ones to a cruel virus, being kept apart from those we crave to be with, for long durations, business collapses and so many other horrible effects from it all. The pandemic is not one of those things this generation will ever forget. But on the flip side, some people learned what it is like to feel detached from society, unable to engage, as much as you would love to. A greater understanding has been found of what social anxiety feels like. In this case, afraid to go out in case of catching the virus, but to many like me, the same anxiety is found simply by going out and interacting with others, even when they are perfectly healthy, and of no threat.

OK, my brain is a little fried from this sudden outburst of expression, so I am going to leave it there for now. But will come back to this soon, and carry on my catch up on how things are. 

Thanks as ever for reading.

Take care

Thinking back 24 hours, my head was in a totally different place. With the past couple of weeks taking their toll, and having no outlet, things were starting to boil over. Since writing that blog entry and clearing my head a little of all the issues that were weighing me down, things have been much nicer. 

Just getting into bed now, I feel lighter (if only I felt that way physically too!) with less weight in my shoulders, less pressure on my mind. I feel I am more able to relax. Work today was much easier, able to focus on things and, and multi-task where I needed to. It is truly amazing how much difference a little pressure makes our lives. 

I am already preparing my mind to unwind and let go of all the stresses of the day, so here's to a good night's sleep. 

On a side note, my hayfever has been a lot better today too, which also has tremendous bearing on my state of body and mind. Just going back through some data, and over the past week, my resting heart rate has increased by 1bpm per day. Today it went back down a couple. So again, a small contributing factor to the whole well being situation. 

I have chatted with some great people today, a bit of banter, a little in depth conversation, just the right balance to help see things from a valid perspective, rather than one of a heightened and stressed view. 

I know for sure I want to get out on a bike again soon. Maybe just a little solo spin to get my mono back. My anxiety is doing a great job of making me want to avoid the majority of the human race right now, so won't push that one too hard any time soon. 

So here goes, lights out, relaxing sounds turned on, and maybe the fan for some background notice and cool air. 

Night night. 

Oh, PS.. I haven't forgotten about weight. Work in progress. 

With so much going on in the world recently, and a somewhat intense 2020 so far, it is easy to lose track of oneself. Usually self help checks keep me on my game, but with time taken on other more pressing matters than my own well-being, it has been a time where I have let things slip. And now I am left wondering just how much has slipped by un-noticed. 

At the start of the year, after getting my head back out of the sand from Xmas and all that comes with that, we moved straight on to the first event of the year being the trip to Svalbard. As I am sure most are aware, Ann (my better half) suffered a somewhat catastrophic accident in the first few days there, resulting in an airlift, a trip to the hospital, emergency flights home, and being operated on and hospitalised within days of arrival back in the UK. The road to recovery is long, and the first month or so of that was very intense. So naturally, and completely unbegrudgingly, I got stuck in, and focused on her recovery.

At the same time, my chest had been bad prior to the trip to Svalbard, so I had not been cycling to work as usual, but instead driving. So on my return to work, and keen to spend as much time at home caring for Ann, I chose to continue to drive to and from work. I have to say by this point I was getting a bit lazy anyway, so it was a great excuse. 

Now cycling for me has always been a good escape, a chance to think, burn calories, and breaaaathe!! So three months in to the year and no cycling, well that's not good!

Mid to late March, and Covid-19 became a reality, so in a last minute rush, a work from home scheme was set up, so commuting on the bike became unnecessary, so even less opportunity or inclination to ride a bike. It's not going well at all. Needless to say, we all know how things went from there. UK lockdown, restrictions on activity and being outdoors, as well as an extra nudge from my wonderful introvert mind, and that was me done with going out.

A few attempts have been made along the way. In March just before lockdown I managed one single ride on the new bike in Richmond with Jason, then that was me done with outdoors. So, onto the trainer, and for a few weeks I got stuck in with Zwift, then a few things happened and interest started to fade again. Next up, running. By this point I am more than aware I am gaining weight, eating crap and not doing enough activity to balance not only my mind, but also my body. More weight piling on, and less and less inclination to do anything about it. 

Now here we are in early June. More weight gained, all efforts and activities have completely ceased now, my interest is near rock bottom, but my frustration is through the roof. Once again fat, a noticeable change in my resting heart rate, I feel heavy and slow, and a huge part of me is struggling to get back on my feet. But that tiny powerful little part of my mind won't let me. Am I making excuses, and I getting too old for this "get fit" shit? 

I will go with the former for the majority of it, it's just in my head, and I am just making excuses. Sure, I was going to give P90X another go, but by week 4 I was struggling with recovery, starting to skip sessions or part of, and really fighting to find the willpower to push through the discomfort. Partially because I know previously discomfort has led to long term pain, not something I want to repeat right now, especially with restrictions on physical treatments. 

Sleep is suffering, falling asleep in pain and discomfort, and waking the same way, day after day. It's not how I like living my life, and I am desperate for a change. But without the motivation, and willpower to drive me, I am at a total loss on how to do this. In the past it has been a challenge to myself, prove something great, and achieve something greater. Right now it just seems like too much effort for not enough reward, and my mind just shuts me down as soon as I start thinking about it. 

I don't want greatness, I don't want the bulk of the past, I just want to be healthier, and feel it both mentally and physically. 

Deep inside, I know my lack of cycling is not helping at all, in fact it is one of the huge contributors towards how I am feeling right now. But with a "bottom of the pile" feeling, similar to how I felt on the first couple of days of London to Amsterdam, there is bugger all motivating me to get on a bike right now. Sure I have the trainer, but in this case it's just not the same. I need physical exhaustion to help settle me, but I need air and freedom too. But outside, isn't where I want to be right now, and people are my kryptonite. So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. All that bulk I have put on probably isn't helping me struggle my fat arse free!

So as I sit here late at night, after an evening of watching Titan Games, making me want to try harder, and overcome my negativity, and watching dream bike builds, hoping to inspire my love and desire to get back on my bike, I am left feeling a little lost.

Am I spiralling here, am I off back down the rabbit hole? Or am I simply just over thinking everything, living in fear of depression, dragged down by all the negativity around at the moment, and just fighting to find my footing. I have the mental power to break free of this, I have done it before, I can do it again. But before I can push, I need to know what I am fighting, who is my enemy here exactly? 

I want to believe, that it is just a serious bout of self doubt, and that I just need to sort my shit out. Overcoming self doubt just needs one good hard push in the right direction, however I have no plan, so no direction at the moment. I have a home gym, I have road bikes, a gravel bike, running shoes. I am literally out of excuses, yet somehow keep finding them.

What I need is a plan, and a good one. Structure, direction, a vague goal, and motivation to keep me going so I can achieve what I want and need to. So now what? What do I do? How do I do this?

I am totally at a loss, and struggling.....Something needs to change!