• Stephen Hanlon

Working From Home: A Day in the Life That Feels More Like a Year

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

My name is Stephen Hanlon. I’m 28-years old and I’m the Head of Marketing & Digital Communications at An Óige – Irish Youth Hostel Association. And for the past 120 days, I’ve been working from home.

The dream comes true. Working at home.

It was initially supposed to only be a short-term thing. Around last May, An Óige found out that the entire Dublin International Hostel building which the Head Office was based would need to be completely rewired. A project which would cost the organisation over €2 million. We were forced to vacate the premises on Friday, 14th June, a whole month before we were originally scheduled to do so.

To describe it as a complete shit storm is putting it mildly. The insurance cover for the building was revoked by the insurance company due to the organisation not being able to meet health and safety standards. Hundreds of guests who were due to stay in the hostel that weekend had their stay cancelled at the last minute. Thousands of cancellation emails had to be sent out to guests who had booked their stay months in advance. And on top of it all, most of the hostel staff were made redundant.

Dublin International Hostel

Us at Head Office were some of the lucky few as we were needed to keep what remained of the organisation ticking over while the future of it was being decided. We were told that it would only be a short-term issue and to expect to be in a new office by the middle of August at the latest. Until that point however, we would all have to work remotely from our respective homes.

It is now almost 4 months later, and I am still working from home.

Whenever somebody asks where I’m based for work, I usually get the same reaction when I tell them that I’m currently working from home. The majority will think it’s great and that I’m so lucky not to be in a stuffy office environment. Others will point out that at least I can watch Netflix or play a few games of FIFA if I ever have a slow day. Little do they know that most days are slow days.

Netflix and chill? More like Netflix and FIFA.

Don’t get me wrong, I do put in the work. I do whatever I’m given and do it to the highest possible standard I can. But for some reason there just doesn’t seem to be the same workload as there was when working in the office. I spend most of my days scheduling posts for social media, updating the website and checking the Google Adwords campaigns. All basic stuff for someone working in the field of Marketing and Digital Communications. The busy days are great but unfortunately, they are few and far between. Most days I find myself having completed everything by lunchtime.

At the beginning I did tend to watch something on Netflix or play a few games of FIFA when things got quiet, but the novelty soon wore off. When you can get through almost an entire season of a show in one day or complete a full season of FIFA in a week without simulating a single game, then you know you’re starting to have a lot of time on your hands. On top of that, I found myself pissing like a racehorse because I was putting on the kettle every hour just for something to do. A man my age should not be in a situation whereby he so bored that he consumes tea on a scale that could rival China.

Sure, didn't the Lord himself pause for a nice cup of tea before giving himself up for the world.

To be honest, the lack of work isn’t the worst part. I think every company goes through a period during the year where they’re employees have a quiet spell and can do little else besides twiddle their thumbs and wait for something to happen. For me that is usually the weeks leading up to the Christmas break. I’m one of the fortunate few that is usually busy from January right up until November. The upside to this when working in an office environment is that there are people around you who are experiencing the same. And believe me, it makes a massive difference. No, the worst part of working remotely is the lack of human contact you can have in any given day. Now, I don’t consider myself a people person, but I do enjoy having people around who I’m familiar with. Therefore, an office job has always been the perfect job for me.

These days, I’m lucky if I get 30 minutes of conversation during the hours of 9am-6pm. My fiancée leaves the house at 7:30am every morning for work and usually doesn’t get home until around 6pm or a little thereafter. Her coming home presents a whole other problem which I’ll touch on in a bit. In between her coming home, the only people I really get to talk to are my future Father-in-Law who is good for a 20 minute chat about the football every morning, and the postman who makes the same comments about the weather on the mornings he arrives with post. Obviously, I go out for a walk or to the shops just to get out of the enclosed hell that my work space has now become to me. While that may kill an hour at most, I always know what awaits me upon me return – an extra hour of work if I’m lucky followed by mind numbing silence and boredom.

You know things are bad when you hold the postman hostage just for a conversation.

Of course, I know it could be much worse. I could be without a job and be struggling to pay rent and my bills. I’m thankful I have a job and when we had an office to work from, I would even go as far as to say that I loved my job. I never minded getting up every morning to go to it because it was genuinely interesting, and I got on tremendously with the people there. If I was having a slow day, I’d just turn to my colleague Colin and have a chat about the latest antics in one of the many television shows we watched or who we thought would win the upcoming MMA fights on one of the UFC or Bellator cards. Now though I can’t say that. Yes, I still enjoy what I do, but the isolation has sucked all the fun from it. It isn’t working in marketing or digital communications that I have the problem with, it is the remote aspect of the work.

I mentioned above that my fiancée coming home after work each day presents its own unique problem, and one which I wasn’t prepared for when I began this journey of working remotely. And it has become a journey. A journey which to me equals the one that Frodo and Sam took to the depths of Mordor to destroy The One Ring. Exaggerating? Perhaps. Over the top? Definitely! But if it provides even the slightest indication of the difficulty of these past few months then even better.

It's been a long journey Mr. Frodo.

Anyway, the problem that my fiancée coming home after work presents is one of resentment on my part. And yes, I know that does sound horrible, but let me explain.

At the end of the day, we both do be knackered. I fully understand why she is tired because of the copious amounts of work she undertakes every day to keep the legal practice she works for afloat. A superstar doesn’t even come close to describing her. But she often comes in after work and asks me why I am so tired considering I have been sitting around all day doing nothing. That is the part I resent. I know she is joking but it does always stick with me for a few minutes. While I tell her every single time that I got all my work done, it is so hard to explain just how physically, and mentally draining boredom and loneliness can be. It is a unique situation. She tells me how lucky I am to be able to work from home and how she’d love to be able to do so. I tell her how lucky she is to be out in the world interacting with people and kicking ass at the office. She jokes about how we should job swap. We laugh and get on with the rest of our evening until we’ll have a similar interaction the next day. All-in-all, the level of resentment I have towards her is quite low and only lasts a handful of minutes while we engage in ritualistic post work conversation. Nonetheless, we don’t let it affect how we feel about one another which is the most important thing.

No matter the ups and downs, things always work out.

Yes, I know it could be much worse and I’m thankful that it isn’t.

There is actually a light at the end of the tunnel however as I recently found out that this won’t be going on for much longer. Just last week I was offered the role of Digital Content Editor at a company called Franchise Direct. A role which I will begin almost immediately. While I’ll be incredibly sad to leave An Óige, I can’t hide my delight at being able to return to an office environment.

Yes, it has been a difficult past few months and while I’m lucky to be able to say that I have never been affected by mental health issues like depression, these past few months are the closest I’ve come to feeling it and have tested me like never before. They have probably been the lowest I’ve felt in a long time. If it wasn’t for my fiancée, future in-laws, and the regular phone calls to my mother, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it.

For me, it is amazing how something so trivial as working remotely has affected my mental state. I initially thought working from home was going to be great and maybe it would have been if it had indeed just been for a month like we were initially told. But now, anytime someone tells me that they work remotely, I’ll know better than to say to them how lucky they. Maybe they are lucky and do enjoy it, but these past few months have taught me that it isn’t for everyone, and it definitely isn’t for me.

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