Tales from lockdown – Marion Ballantyne, Stakeholder and Communications Portfolio Manager talks about her experience
Blog by Marion Ballantyne, Stakeholder and Communications Portfolio Manager, Connectivity Division.
It took about half an hour for me to realise I’d underestimated the difference between working from home during lockdown and regular home working. Now that I was sharing my space, my desk in the spare room overnight became a communal hotdesk, with no booking system, stray cups and a devil-may-care attitude to IT peripherals. In the interests of domestic harmony, I took advice to invent an imaginary office colleague (Sheila) who we could blame any unpleasant workplace behaviour on.
Like lots of people, I’ve found it interesting to see my partner in a work setting, albeit an unusual one. Admittedly I’ve probably given more 360 degree feedback than he’s asked for “ How does anyone work beside you, you’re so loud?”. I realise how fortunate I am to be able to work from home. Not everyone can. And I’m also very grateful that family and friends have, so far, remained healthy. My heart goes out to everyone who’s experienced the worry of being ill or the grief of losing loved ones.
Within my area of work, I’ve noticed that the focus on digital connectivity has never been sharper. During the first week of lockdown, as people quickly adapted to new ways of working, learning, home-schooling, caring, shopping and (hopefully) relaxing at home, the immediate question from media and stakeholders was ‘did we have the infrastructure and bandwidth to cope with the increased demand?’. We did – networks were geared for peak times at evenings that easily coped with even mass home working and schooling. Part of my role involves marketing the benefits of access to fibre broadband to stimulate demand in areas that have been connected by the DSSB programme, and I wonder if we’ll see increased demand as we come out of the crisis, now that the benefits have been so visible.
I felt very proud to be part of a wider team who were developing pragmatic policy solutions to high profile issues at pace, working closely with industry and other organisations responsible for roadworks, planning etc, to keep people across Scotland connected to vital services, such as NHS near-me which enables video GP consultations, and has rapidly experienced a rise from hundreds to thousands of consultations. The team is also supporting other key SG and partner programmes responding to COVID 19 and beyond such as Connecting Scotland the Scottish Tech Army and New Horizons which is putting digital at the heart of Scotland’s recovery.
The adjustment to homeworking however, was a cinch compared to the arrival of our new housemate. My 91 year old mother, who usually lives independently at home, came to stay with us to limit the number of people she came into contact with. Following a stroke, she has daily carers and others dropping by to support her at home. And since we were going to be at home anyway, we could provide this support, freeing up vital resources.
Within 24 hours of her arrival, it became clear that our home wasn’t particularly dementia friendly, too many neutral colours are useless, especially for someone with failing eyesight. And the shower tray I’d spent ages matching to the colour of the floor tiles, was a serious no-go! Some hastily printed off large brightly coloured pictures of beds, kitchen tables and bathrooms stuck onto doors soon helped. Digitally, we’ve come a long way in explaining that Netflix is like going to the library and picking a film in the way you’d choose a book, but we still can’t stop ‘the big eye’ greeting the family on our FaceTime calls.
Looking back over the lockdown period overall, one of the things that’s struck me most is our flexibility and capacity to adapt – whether that’s whole organisations adapting to new challenges while simultaneously adapting to new ways of working, communities coming together to support and celebrate each other, or a 91 year old negotiating an unfamiliar remote control!
Hints and tips.
Lockdown’s been an opportunity to learn new habits and skills, reconnect with old ones that had somehow got lost amid the day to day busyness and ditch others that just don’t seem to fit any more. Some have worked better for me than others…
• Mark the difference between work and home time – Not always easy for those juggling work and childcare or other caring responsibilities, but I’ve found it mentally helpful to mark the transition from work to home time, even within the same room. I’ve used a home workout app for the first time. The 7 minute NTC Total Body Desk Detox was just long enough for me! But even a few minutes with a book or a short blast of air outside, or even listening to a birdsong soundtrack or some loud music, if these are your things, can help.
• Be realistic about all this newfound spare time you’re going to have and celebrate what you can do – Of course when this began, I was going to use my time to resurrect my Spanish lessons, improve my running, and Marie Kondo my entire home. My pal who’s a modern language teacher even used me as a test case as she worked out how to put her school Spanish lessons online. It wasn’t just being distracted by seeing her teacher-face in the corner of the screen that’s held me back, I’ve just been distracted generally. Duolingo’s been good and bite -sized, and hopefully I’ll graduate onto Fran’s slides in time for a rescheduled holiday to Spain.
• Getting outdoors helps, even if you’re not an outdoorsy type – Nature’s been a tonic. When lockdown started, the trees were just about in bud, and I’ve enjoyed the visual impact of the time passing. now the flowers are in full bloom and there are new ducklings in the local park. Even if, like me, you’re not a natural up-a-hill-type, seeing some greenery is very soothing.
• Especially do this on a Friday night! When it’s time for the music to go on and the bar to open, I’ve loved Sophie Ellis Bextor’s kitchen discos. They have now finished, but you can relive them on YouTube or BBC Sounds.