All Zoomed out! Remote working is not all it's cracked up to be.
All Zoomed out! Remote working is not all it's cracked up to be.
Image: 123RF / Oxana Grivina

This one is not a happy anniversary. What a rollercoaster of a year it’s been. Twelve months ago we were just a few days into the most severe part of the lockdown. It’s interesting how one can remember parts of it with something resembling nostalgia. It’s a bit like your kids have grown and need your company less, and you start reminiscing about those early days when they used to keep you up all night and you’d have to drag yourself to a whole day’s work on the back of no more than a couple of hours’ sleep.

So it feels with some of what was happening this time last year. Suddenly, we weren’t allowed outside and, for exercise, I was running up and down the stairs in my complex. It was fun for a while and I do remember that experience with some fondness.

Even with the alcohol ban, one could see some positives worth embracing. As the president announced the lockdown, I had a couple of bottles of wine in the fridge. So full of misplaced optimism, it never crossed my mind to ration because I believed the lockdown would be done within three weeks. I didn’t bother stocking up as I hadn’t exactly had a “dry January” in 2020, so a few weeks without seemed to be good idea. How naive that proved over time.

It’s surreal to think of those days, with government ministers setting out rules about whether we could buy cooked chickens from Woolworths or shop at Takealot. Then they decided we could exercise outside, but only between 6am and 9am. Which was a problem for me as I only seemed to wake up at 8:50am every morning for the first week. I was due to travel to the UK and Norway that April. I wouldn’t make it to the UK until October. And Norway has had to settle for the post-Covid bucket list.

That was also the start of our Zoom lives, something that was fun once. One reads a lot about how superior the virtual-working life is, with all those hours not spent in traffic in order to have a half-hour meeting in Sandton. Now that we can get out of bed and be in a meeting within five minutes, we’re supposed to be a lot more productive.

I ask myself if I’m spending too much time on the phone rather than actually doing my work

I’m not sure this is the case, since, unlike before, the meetings seem to never end. More and more I ask myself if I’m spending too much time on the phone rather than actually doing my work. The fascinating thing is that the people who want to keep you on the phone the entire day and send you dozens of WhatsApp messages aren’t necessarily the ones you used to see in the office all the time — at least, not in my case.

Why is it then that I’m on the phone with them the whole time now? The other day I found myself turning my phone off so that I could concentrate on my core job — thinking, writing, and editing.

Remember those early days of the lockdown when some people had an uncontrollable urge to display their privilege by posting pictures of themselves running or cycling around their garden or swimming pool? It was cute for about a week.

Remote working is proving to be the same for me. It has completely lost its novelty and I want us to go back to our old lives. And when it’s done, I won’t be nostalgic about it.

 Mnyanda is the editor of Business Day.

 From the April edition of Wanted, 2021.

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