Working from home – 1 year on

Hi! It’s Lily here and I’m back again with a few thoughts on how I have found the past year working from home.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I picked my monitor up off my desk and left the office for the last time! In some ways it feels like a long time ago, so much has changed workwise, I’ve changed job role twice completely remotely. But in another way it feels like it’s been 5 minutes with the repetitive nature of ground hog day very much in full swing especially at the moment with the current lockdown in the UK stretching on!

I am so lucky to have been able to continue working from home throughout lockdown – but there have been challenges and it’s been a bit of a journey at times, let’s get into it!

So how have I found the last year?

Looking back really gives me the space to see how much I have learnt over the past year. I recently moved into my third and final rotation of my technology graduate scheme, so this is now the third team I have worked with whilst working from home.

It has been really challenging moving into new teams completely virtually. Last July I moved into my second rotation, and I moved out of that team at the beginning of March this year so I never actually got to meet any of them face to face.

One thing I find very overwhelming is initial meetings and trying to make good first impressions. Having cameras on in calls definitely helps but it is still not the same as meeting someone for the first time in person! I can get so anxious about calls and meetings when working from home that just wouldn’t bother me face to face.

In general working virtually hasn’t been too different to working in the office for me. I have a good desk set up and am able to access all the systems, devices and software I need as I would do in the office.

However, I definitely tend to overthink things and I feel working from home can be dangerous for this. On anxious days I can overthink messages and emails I send to the point of insanity, again something that doesn’t happen in the office. And I definitely get into my own head more – spending long stretches of time on my own with just my computer for company!

The lines between working and not working can definitely get blurred too! One of the reasons I haven’t been writing a lot on the blog lately is that I have really been trying to only work and look at my laptop during work hours and try, as much as possible, to have laptop free evenings!

As I’m doing the graduate scheme I am doing a lot of learning and personal development at the moment too. I love learning but it can be difficult to know when to stop as it doesn’t feel like I’m ‘working’ in the traditional sense. This means I tend to get carried away into the evening. I am trying to set these boundaries and be a bit stricter with myself otherwise I know I will burn myself out!

Another big change during the last year is that I bought and moved into a new house! This has been a bit of a life saver in terms of keeping me away from screens as I’ve been doing lots of DIY bits. I love having small painting and DIY projects around the house, it is definitely coming together now – and is feeling more and more like home. However it was incredibly stressful for a while and difficult to balance the house admin with my job and my learning! Thankfully I’m pretty much out the other side of all that now and I have my new working from home desk set up all sorted and have been really enjoying it!

How have I stayed motivated?

With working from home not looking like it’s going anywhere anytime soon here are few things I have been doing to stay motivated through this monotonous and tricky time:

  • lots of cups of tea (over lockdown I have collected an embarrassingly large selection to choose from).
  • mixing up where I work from – desk, dining table, comfy chair, spare room (sometimes I need a change of scene so all the days don’t blur together quite so much).
  • taking breaks away from the screen and getting outside – I now have my very own little garden and have been loving stepping away from the computer taking a drink out there and just having a few minutes in the sunshine.
  • using notion to make lists and keep myself accountable – I have been loving using the website notion to keep track of my training and learning, creating to-do lists and writing up my notes (it is great for making coding related notes especially!).

If you are currently working or studying from home, how do you stay motivated? What are your working from home hacks?

Thanks so much for reading!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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5 Unexpected Things About Life In Lockdown

Hi, it’s Lily here! Last week marked 100 days of lockdown in the UK – and at this point I really have lost all perception of time! Things have started to change a little, but even though restrictions are slowly easing we are still very far away from a return to any kind of normality. The challenge of trying to adapt to this new normal definitely has it’s ups and it’s downs. But today I really wanted to share the small but important, unexpected positives that lockdown has had on my day to day life!

(1) Reading more and reading consistently – as I have been working from home during lockdown and not commuting, I have been using the extra time to read more! I am so happy that as a result over the past few months reading has become a consistent habit and part of my life. My sister Maisie has been a major influence in helping me do this, encouraging me to prioritise and put time aside for it! I am a pretty quick reader so in the past I have often picked a book up, read it super quickly, finished it, put it down and then just not picked another up for weeks and weeks on end. To try and get out of this habit I have started reading multiple books at the same time, something I never thought my poor brain would be able to cope with, but something I am really enjoying! It also means that I can choose what to read depending on my mood and stops me falling into the trap of just veg-ing on the sofa if I don’t fancy that specific book! I have also inadvertently discovered the world of free audiobooks accessed via my library card. Until a few weeks ago I had no idea I could listen to audiobooks for free through my library – it has been such a game changer! The app I’ve been using is called Libby and all you need to set it up is to select your local library from the list and enter your library card number – it is that easy. I would highly recommend it! Me and Maisie have even got our Dad set up and hooked on audiobooks now!

(2) I finally tackled the ‘clothes pile’ – I really hope it isn’t just me who has a pile of clothes, which a while ago I must have decided I had the sewing skills to magically transform! Well at last I finally plucked up the courage and gave it a go, and it didn’t go terribly – yay! My bodge-job seamstress abilities have done me proud over the last few weeks. I transformed an old dress I didn’t get enough wear out of into a cute t-shirt which I have already worn tonnes. With the leftover material I then made my very first homemade scrunchie and it is addictive! I fear I may have created a monster – now I know how quick and easy it is, all my other clothes are in danger of being sacrificed to make more of them!

(3) Rediscovering my love for drawing – quite early on in lockdown whilst sorting out some books I found an old sketchbook. It had hardly been used – so I decided I wanted to fill it’s pages with lockdown drawings and doodles. Over the past couple of months I have drawn so many random things from supermarket car parks to a pair of spotty socks. And I am really enjoying it as a little escape from words and screens! It really calms me down and relaxes me and is something I definitely want to continue and aim to do more of going forward! I also found a book I had as a kid all about drawing technique which I am hoping to work through to improve my skills and knowledge.

(4) I am drinking more water – (I admit most of it through cups of tea – but it still counts right!). In my family I am notorious for not drinking enough water. I am that person who ‘forgets to drink’ unless I have a drink in my eye line at all times so I physically cannot miss it! It is a tiny thing but I recently got a new water bottle – perfect for a numpty like me as it has timings on the side of it to tell you how much water you should have drunk by certain times of the day. This along with my sister and I sharing a home office and it involving constant cups of tea being made has led to me forming much better habits. This is hopefully something I will stick with going forward!

(5) Getting to spend more time with my sister (and ultimately starting this blog!) – my fifth and final reflection on the last 100 days is that I am so incredibly grateful to have had my sister Maisie to help me through this crazy time. Living together, just the two of us, throughout lockdown has been a real bonding experience – we haven’t spent this much time together since before I went off to Uni (5 years ago now eek!). She has been a shoulder to cry on, a pal to vent with and ultimately she’s supported me wholeheartedly in starting this project – 2SistersInSTEM. She helped me find the courage to kick this off and I am so thankful for that. We are really enjoying writing blog posts, making videos and just trying to do our bit to hopefully inspire more young women into careers in STEM!

Do you have any unexpected positives that have come out of your lockdown experience?

Lily

2SisterInSTEM

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Adapting To Working From Home

Whether you are at school, university or in the wonderful world of work, over the past few weeks you have most likely experienced some serious upheaval! One possible consequence of the difficult situation we are currently in is that you might now be working from home.

To all the extraordinary key workers out there who are keeping people safe, fed, connected and cared for – a massive thank you from us both!

The UK has now been in lockdown for over 40 days, and myself and Maisie have been living and working from my flat together. We usually live a good few hours away from each other so it has been a bit of a change for both of us! It has been really nice to be spending lots more time together – that said adjusting to living and working in a confined space has been interesting to say the least!

I have created a little home office at one end of the dining table and Maisie has set up camp at the other end. This makes for some fun when we both realise we have a work call at the same time and one of us has to shift it and get out of the room pronto!

However I am very glad for some company in the ‘office’. With the highlight of course being taking it in turns (kind of) to keep the constant flow of cups of tea coming. Luckily we work similar hours so we work in tandem – not causing too many distractions for each other! However as Maisie starts super early throughout the week she finishes earlier than me on a Friday – so Friday afternoon can be a bit of a struggle!

The majority of the work me and Maisie do is computer based, so we are lucky enough that we are able to do it remotely! We are both still working on similar projects to the ones we were before the lockdown started – so we haven’t had a big change there. However there has obviously been changes in how we communicate with our teams and how we progress our work forward. It has all been a really interesting learning experience and we are both trying to continually improve the way we work every day!

It has been a challenging process adapting to our new ‘normal’ – at least for the foreseeable future. In this strange time, there have been and will continue to be good days and bad days, but adapting to a new situation is always a tricky thing to do.

We have tried to create a routine in this strange and uncertain time to give us some kind of structure. This is definitely a help to us, it defines our time a little more. It means we know what day of the week it is at the very least – the days do have a tendency to merge together a little bit at the moment!

The extra time can be both a blessing and curse. It has given us time to work on projects (like this blog), read more books, improve our coding skills and spend more time together. However it also gives you the time to overthink things, worry and become anxious over little things that normally in our busy lives we don’t have the time to register!

Here are some of the things we have been finding the most useful whilst working from home so far:

  • trying to create a space in your home where you just do work – separate to where you relax.
  • setting a time for lunch and moving away from your working set up to take a break.
  • going outside, whether this is during your lunch break, before or after work – make sure you step outside and try and get some fresh air.
  • making sure you decide on a time to finish your working day – it can be easy to let work creep on longer than you usually would do being home all the time.
  • making a plan for what you will do after work – plan to watch a particular movie or TV show, to have a bath, read a book or cook a specific meal.

Stay home and stay safe everyone!

If you are working from home right now, how are you finding it?

Lily & Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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