working from home

Nicola Martin and the reality of working from home

After being employed in a position that was remote working, i.e. working from home I thought: DING! DING! DING! – winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

Previously my commute would take anywhere between 40 and 90 minutes each way, every day, and would involve 6am train journeys, sweaty crowded tubes, coffee in cardboard cups and packet sarnies. Now, I can sit with a coffee in the garden on a lovely sunny morning, watch the dogs chilling in the sun and enjoy breakfast with the boys. I love my new morning routine!

No need to truss myself up in corporate wear that made me regret the pizza I’d had for dinner the night before. And, gone is the desperate rummaging for a top baggy enough to hide the muffin top that doesn’t look like a tent and won’t reduce me to a sweaty mess on the tube. The ‘uniform’ has now been replaced with the ‘smart but comfy look’. You know the one – lycra with a good stretchy waistband (usually 100 years old) on below the desk with no need for the crippling high heels. Man, I DO NOT miss those! I’m not even sure I could walk in my work shoes now without falling off them. Anyone else?

The reality was, this WFH lark was working out. Receiving positive feedback from my boss and feeling that this was a fit for me, made me realise that I can actually do my job like this! Not all of the success is down to me of course, a lot of it is down the team I work with. I’d found a company where I ‘fit’, I was making a difference and was making the right impression. Life was sweet.

Then BAM! Enter COVID 2.0 stage left.

You know that stretchy face scream emoji? The one with wide-eyed terror pulling their face off? 😱 Yeah, that one. That was pretty much me when words like ‘lockdown’, ‘stay at home’, ‘school closures’ and ‘homeschooling’ were being spoken. How on earth was I going to manage to keep up the momentum and stay equally as productive with everyone at home? My house goes like a fair except no one wins an oversized teddy!

I’m facing; 2 ‘Teenadults’ (18- and 20-year-old girls looking at 4 months of not seeing boyfriends and friends) who know best, a 5-year-old who lives for school because it comes with the added bonus of getting away from his tiny tyrant of an 18-month-old younger brother, 2 adults with full time jobs, a business to run and 4 dogs – 3 of whom could huff and puff and blow your house down.

Gone were my morning coffees, quiet showers and a stroll with the dog before work, back in full swing was planning preparation and timetables. Lockdown Part 1 taught us that syncing our calendars was the way forward. This way, it ensured one of us would always be available to intervene should any screaming, or tantrums start to take over as the general backing track of the important Teams call. Homeschool hour scheduled in the calendar so as not to interfere with work – I WILL hold on to the veneer of professionalism.

Or so I thought…

I’ve since realised, that nothing will deter a determined toddler who is used to FaceTime as a means of communication from joining in a Zoom call, and the hound from barking at 1000 decibels when the killer postman is putting letters through the door (which then sets off the rest into bloodcurdling howls). I’ve also discovered that there is no amount of tidying that will prevent you from stepping on the spikiest toy in the world as you chase said hound to rescue the post before it’s shredded into teeny tiny pieces. This is, of course, all happening whilst playing the ‘mute hokey cokey’ because you’re still on that zoom call. It’s also apparent that nothing will stop a ‘Teenadult’ from regressing to their 5-year-old selves when Mum says ‘No’. And no matter how hard you try, there is nothing that will motivate a bored, tired, cranky 5-year-old to pay attention to videos and do schoolwork.

After weeks of working myself up into a red-faced sweaty mess trying to keep some control, I decided to go with it and just remember everyone is in the same boat. As long as the work is being done and the ‘important’ meetings are undertaken with that polished professionalism, the rest of it can happen as it may. I have a smiley-faced wee boy who often pops up on my calls to say “Hiya”(one of the handful of words he can say). The schoolwork gets done when he’s willing, and if not, it’s still there tomorrow. I have negotiating skills worthy of NATO with the ability to identify which battles to pursue and when to retreat and yes, I admit, sometimes the kids don’t even get out of their PJs! I have furry friends who pop in and keep my feet warm and they not only make me smile, but now my colleagues, too. In my book, that’s ok.

I sometimes forget that I too need the consideration and support I give to my team. Sometimes my call counterpart is on their own, and that the chaos of my life might bring a chuckle to them and a wee bit of light relief to their day.

I’m lucky to have found a situation that works for me and my family in an organisation that gives me the support and flexibility that is key to coping with this unprecedented time we find ourselves in. All in all, it’s not so bad.


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