Pet time and power naps: working from home during the Covid crisis

Working from home has some well-publicised advantages, such as time and money saved on commutes, but some people have also found innovative ways to use their time. From cat-napping to later-life learning, four readers share their highs and lows of working from home.

‘The tumble dryer doesn’t impact in terms of video-call visuals, but it can make me feel slightly faint’

Tony Craig, who works in social science research, has found that working from home allows him to get a few chores done while he’s working – though it’s not always smooth sailing.
Tony Craig in his home office, with the tumble dryer in the background.Tony Craig in his home office, with the tumble dryer in the background. Photograph: Tony Craig/Guardian Community
“I work in a shed at the bottom of the garden and, because it’s cold out here, I often put on the tumble dryer, go and have breakfast, and when I come back it’s warm enough to start work. But it is quite steamy, and takes a while for the humidity to adjust,” said Craig, who is 48 and lives in Aberdeen. “It doesn’t impact in terms of visuals [on video calls] but it can make me feel slightly faint.”
Tony Craig’s family guinea pigs.Tony Craig’s family guinea pigs. Photograph: Tony Craig/Guardian Community
Alongside the being-around-to-do-more efficiency of chores, Craig is enjoying seeing his children more. The home office is also home to guinea pigs, with his daughter popping in twice a day to feed them.

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Despite this, Craig said he is missing the daily social interactions of office life, and moving forwards is looking at options for a blended approach to home- and office-working.

“The academic world has done a great job in rapidly creating alternatives [online], but I miss speaking to real people in the physical world. Everyday chat is sometimes undervalued, but in my view it is at the heart of how many developments in science really occur,” he said.

‘You don’t even have to tell people – you just go off grid for a bit, wake up, and hit everything better’

For Steve Blackwell, a television editor who lives in London, the perks of home working can be largely summed up in one word: naps.

“When you’ve not slept well or are groggy, sometimes you just need to have a little cat nap, 20 or 30 minutes, to restore your eyes or energy. When you’re in the office, there’s no way you can do that in a work environment. At home, you can,” he said.

Steve Blackwell has also achieved plenty while not napping, building a bar in his shed during the extra time spent at home.Steve Blackwell has also achieved plenty while not napping, building a bar in his shed during the extra time spent at home. Photograph: Steve Blackwell/Guardian Community

“You can turn your phone off, close your laptop and you’re insulated from the outside world,” he added. “You don’t even have to tell people. You just go off grid for a bit, wake up, and hit everything better.”

Possibly the best use of old jeans ever: a lap pillow.

Blackwell said that a brief nap during the day makes him a more efficient worker. His preferred slot is after lunch, during the mid-afternoon lull at around 3pm – though it isn’t a daily occurrence.

“It depends on what day of the week it is, how hard I’ve been working and whether or not I’ve had a good night’s sleep,” he said. “It can be a couple of times a week, or not at all if I’m up against it, but just knowing I can do it makes a difference.”

‘Playing tug with my dog while typing emails is a skill I didn’t expect to gain’

For Lauren Hutchcraft, 30, working from home has allowed her to spend more time with her pets, two dogs and a recently adopted cat – even if it does make for a rather chaotic office set-up.
Lauren Hutchcraft’s pets joining her at work.Lauren Hutchcraft’s pets joining her at work. Photograph: Lauren Hutchcraft/Guardian Community
“I work from our second bedroom, and all three spend most of the day with me. Shadow, a 5-year-old mini dachshund girl, sleeps on the chair with me, tabby cat Kes on the windowsill and 11-year-old jack russell Archie in one of their beds. It’s a bit crazy at times; initially Archie was confused by Zoom meetings and phone calls, and used to bark at the voices seemingly coming from nowhere,” she said.

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“Just having them around means I spend so much more time with them, even though we aren’t doing anything. It’s nice to be able to react to their needs, too. Whenever they need to go outside or if they want to play I can usually do it straight away. Playing tug with Archie and typing emails is a skill I didn’t expect to gain.”

Hutchcraft said she is naturally introverted. Being around animals decreases her stress. “I am a bit worried about having to go back to the office, and 99% of why is because of the dogs and Kes,” she said.

‘There hasn’t been all that time wasted before meetings, talking about the weather’

“I have gained a couple of GCSE equivalents since starting to work at home because I have saved travelling time and I’m less exhausted,” said Ali, 50, who lives in County Down, Northern Ireland, and works as a health and safety adviser.
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Ali, who suffers from chronic pain, feels more energised since lockdown freed her from the tiresome 2-hour commute that caused her muscles to become sore and required medication to treat.

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After four years of trying, on and off, she is now halfway through completing her occupational health chartership course that she has been studying for in her dining room-turned office space.

“I study on average for at least 1 hour per day, though if I had a full week, I would do it at the weekend,” Ali said. “The things that would normally be distracting about the office, like the chit-chat and talking in the corridor near the toilet, are gone, so I find it much easier to focus.”

“There also hasn’t been all that time wasted before meetings, talking about the weather or anything like that.”