Weeknotes #66–67 — Lockdown

A couple of weeks in which I…

  • Spent one anxious day in the office before an email arrived from the Group CEO to say that everyone in the company, globally, should work from home for the foreseeable future. I felt like crying. I knew that I had been extremely uptight at having to travel to work, but felt that I couldn’t unilaterally decide not to go in while we still expected others in the team to be there. I could almost hear the hiss of the pressure being released in my brain during the first day we were at home.
  • Had a daily family debate about whether the children should go to school. I felt another massive wave of relief when the decision was made to close the schools and we could keep them safe at home. I’m sad for my youngest, who is finishing off his final year of primary school, but no amount of celebrating is worth the risk to all of us. It’s been strange to try and get them set up, focused and working while I’m spending most of my days in video meetings. They’re into a rhythm where they make a start around the same time that I do, get their work done by lunchtime, and spend their afternoons with their friends playing games on the Internet. Like most of my time as a parent, I am always full of self-doubt as to whether I’m doing it right.
  • Continued to worry about my wife as she made the journey into school while the three of us stayed at home. I felt so fortunate when they said that they didn’t need her to be there for the next couple of weeks, which takes us up to the Easter holidays.
  • Found that I had less time to myself, as my family now come looking for me at the end of the working day to join them for dinner. It’s amazing that we have this time together, but it has made me realise how much of my job I squeezed into the daily commutes and a few nights a week of being back home a couple of hours later.
  • Counted my blessings for everything I have right now. We’re all healthy. I’m working in a job that I can do from home, without coming into contact with anyone else in person. We have a house which we have recently expanded so that we have space to stretch out while we are all spending so much time under one roof. We live on the edge of town, with farmland and open spaces right behind us to escape into. I hope to never take these things for granted.
  • Thought about what the world will look like out of the other side of this crisis. Poorer, slower, with less privacy, new social conventions and powerful governments. The rate at which the whole world has come to a juddering halt has been staggering. This chart from The Economist showing new jobless claims in the US shocked me, and is an illustration of how crazy things are.

  • Spent the first week of work at home fielding a lot of support issues, lending a hand to our Helpdesk team as our staff got used to the new setup. I seemed to fall further and further behind with my regular work as the days went on, but getting people up and running had to take priority. It’s going to take me a week or two to get properly back on track. We’ve delayed the formal close-out of the main programme work in our final two cities by a few months and will need to see how we get on.
  • Inspired by the suggestion of a friend who works at Google, and Matt Ballantine’s now regular Global Canteen meetups, I set up an internal Microsoft Teams channel called The Water Cooler, where our staff can have some informal and fun interaction. It’s been great — it separates out the non-work chat and gives everybody a space to keep connected. This Friday we decided to all wear hats to our daily team meeting, and after posting some photos we saw everyone joining in across the organisation.

  • Noticed how many interactions with colleagues, vendors and everyone else starts off with a sincere ‘how are you?’ So far the crisis has brought some humanity and mindfulness into situations where previously we were all in a great big hurry.
  • Tried to get my head around LTE wireless routers as a backup solution in case we lost our wired ISP connections in our offices. There are some really interesting products out there.
  • Continued our investigation into automation software, getting demos of a couple of products that we’re considering trying out. Use of these tools is a ‘pull’ from our colleagues outside of IT and we need to make sure that we can help meet the business need, but we don’t yet have much knowledge internally to give considered opinions. We’re going to time-box an investigation and trial of one of them and see how quickly we can get some tangible value from it.
  • Took a new colleague through how we are using LeanKit. I am still in love with this product. Our team is still far from being an amazingly-optimised productivity machine, but LeanKit gives us so much and we’d be lost without it. It’s a solid base to build on. Our new colleague ‘got it’ instantly and has been happily using the advanced features from the get-go.
  • Took part in two virtual school governor meetings, both using Microsoft Teams. Everyone seemed to get the hang of the technology and we had a couple of great meetings — much more efficient than when we meet in person, despite having a lot of additional items to talk about. The people still going to their jobs every day are my heroes right now, including the school staff. I’m in awe of how they have kept focused and kept going during all of this.
  • Have taken advantage of not having a commute by replacing it with exercise. It’s like the Christmas period all over again, with a run or turbo trainer session every day. I still haven’t made it out on my bike on the road this year and don’t plan to change this anytime soon; risking an accident and hospital visit doesn’t seem like a great idea right now.
Strava’s view of my fitness over the past six months

Strava’s view of my fitness over the past six months

  • Haven’t been able to look at a TV show or film without noticing how close everyone stands to each other, or how much handshaking goes on. After finishing season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm my wife and I were looking for something to give us a giggle, and Impractical Jokers has filled the void. I’m properly laughing out loud every night.
  • Have been watching lots of films with the family. We even managed to finally spend a whole afternoon watching Ben Hur (1959) over the weekend. We now have a round-robin system in place so that everyone gets to choose. I’m currently pondering whether the wonderful Top Hat (1935) or Swing Time (1936) would go down well; I suspect not, but it’s worth a try.

Next week: We suddenly have our first teenager in the house.

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