A masterclass in going solo

It’s something all of us might experience in the next few months – and we’ve got just the man to tell us exactly what to expect, with award-winning writer and Tees Business columnist Harry Pearson…

Self-isolation? Welcome to my world.

As a freelance writer I have been social distancing for years. Sometimes I go for days without seeing anyone. Indeed, even when I do see someone, they often run away yelling something like, “Watch out, it’s that bloke who wears slippers all the time and talks to himself.” Though the funny thing is, when I look round, I can’t see him anywhere.

Has this solo working life done me any harm?

Absolutely not. I remain the same sane person as I was when I embarked on this path 32 years ago.

And I said as much to the toaster only this morning.

The toaster didn’t answer, obviously. Still not talking to me because I fused him trying to warm-up a frozen hot cross bun. That was ten months back, but as you’ll likely discover over the next little while, nothing holds a grudge like a kitchen appliance. The kettle once went a year and a half without uttering a word. Don’t get me started on coffee grinders.

People often ask me what you need to work from home. I reply that you need an immense reserve of self-discipline and an even greater reserve of biscuits. The biscuits should ideally be placed the furthest distance possible from your desk or work station. I keep mine in the loft. This way whenever I have one I not only get a snack, I also get valuable exercise.

Of course, you shouldn’t just randomly go and help yourself to a biscuit whenever you feel like it.

No, the biscuit must be a reward for the completion of a task. I like to give myself one whenever I finish a paragraph like this one.

This one.

Or this one.

Is it time for lunch yet?

Oh. Right. 11.15am is too early for lunch, apparently.

Working from home means being your own boss.

That can be tricky at times. Like any manager, you have to get on with your staff, yet at the same time keep a distance from them. This can be hard when your only member of staff is yourself. Especially if he keeps bitching on about you behind your back just because you won’t let him have lunch at 11.15am. Hey, we’re not in France, pal!

But the biggest piece of advice I can give you about working from home on your own is this: Whatever you do, don’t have an office party. I know there will be times when it feels like a good idea. When the boss half of you says, “This will be a chance for us all to let our hair down and bond.”

And the worker half says, “It’s about time he/she gave us some free drinks, we’ve been carrying him/her for months.” But it never works out well, believe me.

I learned this the hard way back when I was working from home in London. I organised the party, last day of the month, as “a bit of a laugh”. However, longstanding tensions quickly bubbled over, despite the fact I was the only guest.

I had several glasses of wine and was dancing to Toploader in a novelty jumper I’d bought for the occasion when suddenly I started having a go at myself about the amount of time I was spending making coffee “when the cricket was on the radio”.

With drink inside me I regret to say words were spoken, voices were raised, there was a tussle and the next thing I knew I was on the floor covered in spicy salsa dip.

Ah! Time for another biscuit. You see, it’s not all bad.

Look after yourselves.

 

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