Yes. This is it. Today is officially one year since the UK went into lockdown.
Non-essential shops closed.
There was a “work from home where possible” order.
Exercise was limited to once a day.
Parks were locked.
People got threatened for sitting on a park bench.
It was a crazy time. And while it’s been one year on, and we’re actually onto our third lockdown; workwise it feels like it has been a continuous stretch.
So what things did I learn over the last year? What would I do again? And what do I wish I had done sooner?
1. I really should have appreciated my work desk more. Initially I believed Boris when he said it would only be three weeks. And it resulted in me working with my laptop on the sofa for three months before I even thought to get one of those little lap laptop tray desks, never mind spend money on an actual desk.
2. Lockdown as a developer was far easier for me then friends I had in other occupations. As a developer I already had a work laptop, and my team already had the infrastructure set up on the cloud. While other companies had to rush to buy out of stock laptops and phones so they could continue to function remotely.
3. Job hunting during a global pandemic is not easy. I was actually in the middle of interviewing for a role when Boris announced lockdown. In the first stage I had asked how the company felt about hiring at that time and they had reassured me the company was doing great. But with lockdown starting on the day of my next interview they swiftly changed their minds and cancelled the interview. When I restarted my job hunt months later, I was competing with many unemployed and furloughed developers. Which was another risk I had to consider as I knew friends who had changed companies right before lockdown started and ended up losing their jobs when they didn’t qualify for furlough.
4. Remote working as a junior developer is difficult. When that first interview was cancelled on the first day of lockdown I was told that trying to on board and train a junior while everyone was working from home just wouldn’t work. I couldn’t disagree. When another junior developer at my company found a new job and said they were getting sent their work laptop etc in the post and that they hadn’t even seen the office they would (eventually) be working in, I was shocked! You see, a junior developer not only needs to be onboarded but they also will require far more help and attempting to do all of that remotely seemed impossible.
5. Work-Life balance: what even is a work life balance during a global pandemic? This I had to try really hard to get right. When the lock down initially started I lived with my landlord friend in a two bedroom house. Separating my work life from my home life meant not working from my bedroom, and not allowing myself to work too late or on the weekends. I would also get dragged out for daily walks. However, around Christmas I moved house to a little studio flat. Now the boundary is that my work life is on one side of the room where my work laptop is set up on a desk, and my personal life is when I am sat on the sofa on the other side of the room. Though admittedly the daily walks have gone out of the window.
So, would I do it again?
Personally I didn’t find lockdown too difficult. Yes there were elements which I struggled with but that was more to do with lockdown colliding with other circumstances in my life and creating the perfect storm.
In fact I would argue there were many great things to come out of lockdown. I attended three virtual hackathons, only one of which was originally planned to be virtual. That means that without lockdown I would not have been able to attend as they would have been based in London.
That would have been many great people I wouldn’t have met or things I wouldn’t have learned.
It was a similar situation with meet ups which became a lot more accessible. While in the past if I wasn’t able to attend a meet up I would have to hope someone would film it and upload it afterwards, during lockdown I could watch meet ups from all over the world and interact in real time.
Finally I could commit more to my work and my personal projects. As a self confessed workaholic, this could have actually turned very bad very fast. But strangely it didn’t. The fact that my work hours weren’t dictated by the opening hours of the office and the commute, I actually found myself becoming far more relaxed and productive.
I even became tidier as I could take a break from the computer screen to hoover, do the washing up, laundry or grab a bite to eat. I no longer feel the anxiety that I would get if I had a deadline or half finished work which needed to be done because I had the freedom to log on earlier, or later and fit the hours around my motivation.
So I know it’s a year on and we’re all counting down to freedom in June. But if I’m honest, I’ve definitely enjoyed the perks!