The Ups And Downs Of Working From Home

For many of us, working at home is now a reality we have to get on with, like it or not writes Jim Masson.

The Covid-19 lockdown is something none of us would have imagined in a hundred nightmares, but then again, some people are enjoying the spell at home and are escaping from the drudgery of work.

Jim Masson, editor of Down News.

In this article I will reflect on my own personal experience in working at home as editor of Down News, an award winning, online newspaper in County Down.

I appreciate may people will have vastly different experiences. And for some people who are already house bound be they elderly, disabled, sick, or have mental health problems, life may not have changed that much. I hope this article at least cheers you all up and let’s know there is light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.

So, the format is this – I’ll cover five good points and five not-so-good points of working from home that I personally am faced with. These are random – in no particular order of importance.

The Good Points.

1. Travel. Not having to travel to my office at the Down Business Centre thus saving money on travel is a plus. In fact this applies to my other activities in reporting and doing photography. Although I am an ‘essential worker’ as a bone fide member of the press, an NUJ member and can travel with reason, I have virtually self-isolated and so far I’m getting through my new work arrangements, but I do have to adjust.

2. The kettle. I love a cup of tea. The kettle is there calling me to the kitchen for my nth cuppa, treating me like a lord. It is an excuse, sometimes welcome, to stop work, release the safety valve and chill out for a few minutes. But I have cut back on sugar severely so I’ve avoided the possible intake on 24 spoons a day. (My goodness, that is equal to 168 spoons a week – or 61,320 teaspoonfulls a year.!!!) This is a serious health consideration. With less physical activity I’ve had to watch the intake of food generally. Last thing I want is to put on too many pounds after I’ve trying to lose it.

3. My home office. I have a small office upstairs in our bungalow. It has served well so far but now needs to be upgraded. So, I am busy now painting out a back bedroom now that the youngsters have all flown he nest. It will have two desks, three filing cabinets, wall shelving, a shelving unit, a work top, a large cupboard for storage. It will not replace my office at the Down Business Centre which I will again use after the lockdown, but will be a ‘home hub’ much better adapted to meet the demands of a busy digital newspaper covering aspects of life in County Down. But it’s work in progress and I’m looking forward to the finished result by the start of next week.

4. Green Fingers. As I enjoy working in my garden, I have a healthy distraction on my doorstep. My garden although a bit overgrown – I’m avoiding spraying with nasty poisons – will see me digging out sections at a time and planting in my vegetables for the summer. I’ve a good rhubarb bed growing now, and will be planting in early spuds over the weekend. And also I have to plant in my red cabbages, brussels sprouts, broad beans, leeks, peas, beetroot, courgettes, and tubs of herbs, fennel. And I have to sort out my gooseberry and redcurrant bushes. Then there will be second early potatoes to plant in. Last year I had a good yield overall. It is a great way to relax, get some exercise, and it’s healthy to grow your own veg free from chemicals. And it’s nice to relax in the garden too with a cuppa in the summer. It’s not a big garden, but you’d be surprised what you can grow when you put your mind to it. So, when I feel ‘knotted up’ with work, my outdoor therapy room is just yards away where I can relax for a spell.

5. The Starlings. I was going to put this down as a ‘not-so-good’ point. But then I changed my mind and got more philosophical about it. Just above my new office window on the ground floor, starlings have decided to make their nest. I could have blocked them off from somehow getting into part of the roof space beside the guttering, but I decided to let them get on with it. The chatter of chirping beaks will come soon enough and they will they leave the nest. And after the second clutch I can seal up their access. I’m tempted to put a bird table outside my window but I know I’d be watching it all day. The Starling family remind me on how fragile life is in this world and that we all deserve the right to live and thrive.

The Not So Good Points.

1. The kitchen. Our kitchen at the moment is reminiscent of something out of a bomb blast in Beirut in the 80’s. We were in the process of getting a new kitchen and that has been put on hold as the installers have had to cease the installation as it is not essential. It is depressing to eat, cook and even pass through the old kitchen, but like Covid-19, this discomfort will eventually pass on once the installers eventually arrive and finish the work. Can’t wait to return to civilisation!

2. Noise. Background noise is a big problem. My wife likes the radio or TV on humming away in the background, but when I have to take a phone call, it makes listening more difficult. Maybe it’s time I went to Specsavers and got my hearing tested! And then there is the scenario if I was on the phone and one of my sons who are trawl skippers came into the house in an animated fashion exuberating colourful language only known to fishermen, it could be embarrassing.

3. The Cat. And there may be times when I’m in the middle of a conversation on the phone and the cat is scratching at the window to get in – which I give in to – then for me to be bombarded by a hungry feline complaining at full pitch she wants fed – all in the middle of a telephone conversation. I give in only because I have a soft spot for her. She is 18 years old and has not spent a day in the vet’s surgery yet. But if she continues her constant meowing, she may well find herself there under precarious, terminal circumstances !

4. Television. Definitely the curse of modern civilisation. I have to hold back my trembling hand from picking up the SKY controls and logging on for my hourly doze of Sky News. The speed the news is now moving in is scary – people prefer news now as it breaks and that can be hard keeping up with all the various strands. I win a few and lose a few. I’m obviously not as big as Sky News but “All Gods Creatures Have a Place in the Choir! Some sing low and some sing higher…”. And of course there is the urge to watch something that is ‘important’ on TV, which strangely I can’t remember I had watched the following day! As I struggle to grapple with local issues in County Down, I am bombarded by global problems, the ills of the world, which can at times be annoying. Such news on the hoof must raise global anxiety levels. Especially when I hear President Trump’s inanities distracting me from my work. (My new home office will not have TV in it – phew!)

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs.

5. Self Discipline. It’s so easy to give in to minor indiscretions such as nibbling biscuits, and generally digressing from genuine work. Working from home requires real self-discipline. Sometimes I have to remind myself the reasons for my existence and why I am working at home. To do this, one of my tools is to have a plan of Maslow’s Hierachy up on the wall. It catches my eye and reinforces where I really am, and where I think I am. One of my foibles is working late into the wee hours burning the midnight oil. I work best in the ‘creative hours’ when others are sound asleep. But in the morning I am often the blunt instrument I was the antithesis of just a few hours before. I am using my iPhone alarm now to shake me up in morning and it seems to be working. I just didn’t know you could get jet lag between Downpatrick and Ardglass!


There you have it. My summation of what life is like working at home. I don’t have noisy youngsters or other family members to distract me except the cat. Working from home is by-and-large not as good as working from my office, but I am improving my home/work platform so when the Covid-19 epidemic is all over after the lockdown, I will be more efficient in my business performance.

If you would like to write or contribute a piece short or long – on your experience of working at home during the lockdown, please contact me at the links below: