Saturday 9 May 2020

Pretending not to work from home - Anne Rooney

Old normal: in the UL
Most writers work from home all the time, so lockdown shouldn't make any difference, right?

Wrong. Apart from all the additional complications many of us face, from partners and children being around all day to the mental and emotional impact of total isolation, there is one important difference between now and Before All This: working FROM home has become working AT home. It's a very different kettle of fish.

New normal: actually at home
Although I officially work from home, for the last few years I've been working almost entirely in the University Library, which is a three-mile cycle ride away. I also like to work in cafes and on trains. I concentrate best when there is some bustle, and some noise I need to block out. Working from home actually *at* home is too quiet. I used to have Radio 4 on for background natter, but that's been too annoying and depressing for a long time, its gloom and doom too hard to ignore. Radio 4 leaches any residual calmness you might have retained and saturates you in misery; it's become a form of self-abuse.

Silence is too distracting, though. For the first few weeks, I'd leap to the window every time a bus came (there's a bus stop right outside), just so I could see some human beings. Usually, one human being — the driver. I listen too carefully for the birds — was that a cuckoo I just heard? The drone of traffic has been replaced by the almost-constant buzz of emergency helicopters (I live a mile from the largest hospital in Europe).

But last week I saw a link to a website that plays cafe background noise constantly. You can adjust the levels of chatter, kitchen noise, etc to suit your preferred cafe environment. My productivity has shot up since I've found this. It's cheaper than going to a cafe, too, at a cost of £0. But you do have to make your own coffee. Still, if you are finding that you can't work from home if you can't work in a cafe, this might help. I need someone to make a University Library simulator now.

Anne Rooney
Latest book, possibly, but who knows any more?
How to be an Eco-Hero

Hachette, 2020


Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Anne.

There's something about that general, nothing-to-do-with-me Cafe noise that seems very helpful.

Is it because the hum stops you from listening-out for the other happenings in the house that might, at any moment, need your attention or company? Hmmm.

Susan Price said...

That's probably part of it, Penny. Another theory I like is that the chatter and bustle keeps the brain's 'chattering monkey' happy and occupied, which means it doesn't distract the 'serious adult, bent on work' part of the brain. -- Or could it be that, surrounded by other relaxed members of your tribe, you feel safe and can relax? -- Don't know. Only know that cafes and pubs are good places to work.

Nick Garlick said...

Lovely post. And that link is wonderful. I'm not sure it's going to replace my favourite background sounds - rainstorm - but I'm definitely going to try it out when I get back to work on Monday.

Katherine Roberts said...

I also miss cafes. They're warm and welcoming, they have people to talk to, they have better coffee than I do at home and better cakes... and just think, without a cafe for JK to write in, there would have been no Harry Potter!