Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Working from home


For some people being in a position to work from home is the dream. They love the flexibility it gives them and it probably doesn't hurt that they don't have to change out of their pyjamas unless they want to! I have never particularly been drawn to the idea of working from home myself. I'm generally a social person and enjoy interacting with colleagues. For me, it's also important to have a good balance and to be able to keep my work life separate from home. I love when I can shut down my computer on a Friday evening and not have to think about work issues until the following Monday.

Due to this pandemic, I have now been working from home for over a year and I thought I would share what I've found to be the pros and cons.

  1. No commute
  2. This has actually been a mixed blessing. It's been great having extra time since I don't have to travel to and from work. Plus it saves money. However, on the down side, I've realised that the journey home was a nice way for me to have a bit of time to myself to think. On days I finish working from home and then immediately take over from my husband minding Mini, I feel more drained without that tiny bit of "me time".

    Also, I used to occasionally cycle to and from work which was a nice way of getting some exercise in. I'm lucky to have a relatively short commute to the office usually though. I've spoken to people who are delighted to not have their long commutes while the pandemic is allowing them to work from home.

    Verdict: it's a tie

  3. Comfort factor
  4. When working from home, you don't have to spend as long getting yourself dressed and ready as you usually would. Personally, I prefer to make a certain amount of effort and still wear make-up most of the time even when I won't see anyone. Additionally, I generally prefer to wear smarter clothes as it makes me feel good. However, there have certainly been days when I wore comfy tracksuit bottoms or leggings and that was really nice. Working from home, I usually eat breakfast at my computer to save time which I didn't do before. That could be interpreted as a negative point though.

    We still have video meetings so I do tend to make an effort to look somewhat professional still! However it's nice that for instance when my grey roots are showing, it's not as obvious over the camera as it might be in real life. I can also pop into my kitchen for snacks or drinks without ever worrying a colleague might be secretly judging what I'm eating. (I often wonder if they are thinking, "oh she's having ANOTHER snack!" Or "Chocolate again?!").

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  5. Handy for housework /deliveries
  6. It is really convenient working from home when you are expecting deliveries. I remember how awkward it used to be trying to be home at certain times and still missing them. And you'd often need to go to the post office to collect parcels or go to your neighbours to collect things. Another benefit to being at home is that you can get some household tasks done. Like occasionally I might put a wash on before I start working, or tidy away laundry while taking a break. On the other side, it also bugs me when I am trying to work from home and I see a messy house. Whereas if I'm in the office, I can focus on work without noticing annoying things such as- oh, hubby STILL hasn't put away his laundry!

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  7. The social aspect
  8. This was something I missed a lot at the beginning. It is a big adjustment going from working in a busy office and spending lunch breaks chatting to colleagues to being on my own all day with no interactions apart from emails and occasional meetings. I definitely had some days where I felt quite isolated and the house felt really quiet. I've even gotten used to playing music or radio in the background at times, just to feel less lonely.

    I miss all the other social events too - such as team lunches, Christmas parties and so on. The surprising thing is that as time has gone on I've gotten used to working on my own and these days I don't miss the social aspect as much. That said, I can't imagine being content to continue working from home in the long run.

    Verdict: winner is working in an office

  9. Working parent
  10. Ok, there are definite advantages to being able to work from home when you have a child. When the Kindergartens were closed during lockdowns we were able to keep Mini with us. Don't get me wrong, it was incredibly stressful at times trying to juggle working and minding but it was an advantage to have that option. There was a phase where she wasn't napping anymore at the daycare but would happily nap here so working from home meant I was able to collect her during my lunchbreak, then while she napped I was able to get some more work done.

    On days she was sick, it didn't automatically mean my husband or I had to take time off work to mind her. Sometimes when we compared schedules we found we were able to take turns looking after her and still get our tasks done. Working from home means being around more for Mini too which is a nice bonus. Even if I still have a few more hours to work and hubby collects her from Kindergarten, I can still take a short break to welcome her home with a hug and ask about her day.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

  11. Work/life separation
  12. Ok this is a point in favour of working in an office. As mentioned above I used to love the separation between working me and home me. Being able to turn off my computer in the office and not have to worry about work issues until the next day. That said, occasionally I would end up checking work emails on my down time but thankfully it was usually rare. I get the impression for Americans there is less of a separation for them. Correct me if I'm wrong, friends from the US, but it seems to me that it's typical there to check work emails on weekends and even holidays. In Europe that's rare and certainly not expected.

    Now that my "office" is in my house, I can't get away from work as easily. I don't have a room available to dedicate to just my desk -instead it's a multi-purpose room. So I pass my work to-do list and reminders whenever I'm going to my wardrobe for instance. It's tempting to switch on my pc in the evenings or even weekends to see if I got a response to something.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  13. German practice
  14. Not being in the office means I get less opportunities to practice my German with my colleagues so I have found my language skills can be a bit rusty.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  15. Distractions
  16. Initially I thought working from home meant way more distractions but that is only because when I first started the Kindergartens were closed due to the pandemic. Even when hubby was minding Mini so I could focus on work, there would still be many interruptions. For instance I'd have to take a break to mind Mini while he cooked lunch, or often he'd forget where things are and ask me. When I left the room to get myself a cup of tea, Mini would want to play with me. However, when she is in her Kindergarten then there are generally far less distractions at home. You aren't interrupted by your colleagues phone calls or other office noise.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

The interesting thing is that reading through these reasons it's clear that working from home is the winner. And yet I know I wouldn't be happy doing it long term. I guess for now it is working out very well overall and I am happy to have this opportunity. I'm aware that it's a privilege to even be able to work from home during a pandemic. When the offices do eventually open up again (this Summer? Next year?), it will also be a big adjustment getting used to commuting back and forth and being around colleagues again.

However, I do miss the work/life division and social aspect. So overall I will be looking forward to going back. Plus it adds a bit more variety to your day going into the office. Perhaps the ideal solution would be some combination of both. For instance if you had the opportunity to work one or two days a week from home.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's day in lockdown


It is already the anniversary of one year since the first lockdown in Germany during the pandemic. I certainly had no idea how long it was going to last! Recently Facebook reminded me of a post I shared a few years ago. It was a collage of how I celebrated St. Patrick's day in Germany over the years. What struck me now looking at the pictures was just how sociable a day it is.

Every picture shows me and my friends having fun. Last year I had planned to throw a little Paddy's day party at my house but that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. This year we won't be able to meet up with anybody either unfortunately.

However I still plan to make the most of it. I'll be cooking shepherd's pie for lunch and baking scones for dessert. Mini and myself are both wearing green. (The GerMann says his only green top is in the wash!). I read her a story about how St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland last night. My family and friends have been messaging me with photos of how they are celebrating the day.

Check out previous Paddy's days in Germany
Happy St. Patrick's day everyone!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Christmas in lockdown


Since December 16th we have been in our second lockdown here in Germany. Similar to the first one in March, we suspected beforehand it might happen but then it still seemed to be announced very last minute. I wasn't really meeting up with people anyway due to Covid-19 restrictions, although I had planned to meet a friend in her garden for a mulled wine and another friend for a playdate. Both had to be cancelled once the official lockdown started. Since then hubby and I have been at home with Mini most of the time. We get as much as possible delivered to us. We only leave the house for walks or to go to the playground. Life can feel quite repetitve at times! Like I mentioned in this post I was determined to make Christmas special despite being in lockdown.

This was our fist Christmas away from both of our familes and the first one where Mini, who is now almost 3, had a basic understanding of what was going on. It actually feels a bit surreal being on the "other side" of the experience. There is a certain amount of responsibilty in making sure that Santa's presents arrive, are hidden and then are wrapped and under the tree on time! At one stage in December I realised that Mini knew all about Santa and presents but didn't know about the birth of Christ! We didn't have her baptised but I still have been trying to teach her a basic understanding about God and the Catholic faith. Luckily I had a nativity book which we read. The next day she told me her doll was called "Baby Jesus". I couldn't help laughing when I heard her say "Baby Jesus, do you want to build a snowman?"

A women I knew was collecting stuff to bring to a local womens shelter and when she mentioned there was a 2 year old there at the moment, I was able to use it as an opportunity to go through some of Mini's old toys and clothes and ask her to help pick out some things I could give to the little girl who didn't have as much. I'm trying to raise her to be grateful for what she has and also be charitable to others. Apart from that I also tried get into the Christmas spirt as much as possible myself! We decorated the tree (although that was put up already in November), we baked cookies, read wintery stories and sang and danced along to Christmas songs as often as possible.

We celebrated both Christmas eve (which is the main day here in Germany) and Christmas day (which I'm more used being the main day coming from Ireland). It ended up being a really nice Christmas. We didn't have to fall in line with anyone else's schedule or timings, so that made the day very relaxed for one. We opened presents, wore out Christmas pjs and watched movies. We weren't able to get a turkey delieverd unforuntaltey so we had roast chicken but it was very tasty anyway! I also found a jar of sweet mincemeat so was able to bake my favourite Christmas dessert, mince tart!

I also celebrated a birthday myself over Christmas. It was a little disappointing, I'm not going to lie. Last year I had been able to meet a bunch of close friends and go for birthday brunch and this year I wasn't able to meet anyone due to the pandemic. We had a cake though and I drank my favourite wine so that was still nice. Hopefilly next year I'll be able to have a much bigger celebration!
I'd love to hear from my readers, how was your Christmas?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Quote of the day #MicroblogMonday


Recently I came across this quote by civil rights activist, Maya Angelou;

I've learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel
.

During my time on this Earth I would like to make a positive impact even if only in small ways. I often don't have the exact right words in the moment, but I like to think my friends and family know that I am there for them when needed. Even when thousands of miles away.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Christmas markets cancelled #MicroblogMonday


So now the Coronavirus is taking away our Christmas markets. I understand of course why the people in charge deem it necessary to cancel this year with the increasing Covid cases but I can't help feeling disappointed about it. In general, I'm not a big fan of Winter, but one of my favourite things about living in Germany was always the Christmas markets. They are just so pretty and magical.

Getting together during the Christmas month with friends over a Glüwein (mulled wine) was such a nice tradition. I loved the cute markets themselves, the lovely decorations, the delcious smells and just the happy atmosphone. Our local market used to have an ice skating rink too which was lots of fun. I guess we are just going to have to come up with other ways to make Christmas this year special.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Autumn during the time of Covid


And just like that, October is here. Without traveling or celebrating big events, it can feel like the days blurr into weeks and the weeks into months. We had a lovely long Summer here in Germany which was wonderful, but it was almost like someone turned off a switch and suddenly the temperature dropped ten degrees and started getting rainy and windy! Autumn is usually my favourite season but since we are still experiencing a pandemic, I have been a little worried about what this Autumn/Winter will be like.

Facebook and Google photo memories show me pictures from what I was doing this time the past few years, so already I have been reminded about a fun family holiday to the Black Forest five years ago, and going partying to Octoberfest seven years ago. When I see things like that, I choose to focus on the positive memories rather than the disappointment that we can't do things like that for the forseeable future (or until there's a safe vaccine?). I recently came across this article from The Guardian on how Norwegians stay optimistic during their extremely long dark Winter season. Check it out if you have a few minutes.

It's all about changing your mindset and reframing how you look at things: "People who see stressful events as “challenges”, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness."

I already found this approach very helpful when I was going through years of infertility. Instead of letting myself dwell on what I didn't have (a child / a body able to conceive and carry a baby by to term without medical assitance..) and comparing myself to others, I would try to focus on what I did have (a loving husband, supportive family, good friends..). It helped me move forward on the particularly dark days.

There have been many advantages to being able to work from home for sure, but the main disadvantage I find is that you can feel quite lonely and isolated at times. The house feels errily quiet unless I turn on music or radio in the background. I was able to take advantage of the lovely weather to meet up with friends outdoors the past few months in a way that would still keep us all safe from catching or spreading Covid. However, now that it's a lot colder and Germany is experiencing a second wave, trying to have some semblance of social life will be a real challenge. It's going to end up being partly a choice between mental and physical health risks. If I'm not able to meet friends for a long time, it could lead to me feeling depressed, but any potential get together could involve us risking catching the virus which I obviously want to avoid.

I guess we need to look at this time as a challenge and do our best to find the joy in the little moments. Another line from the article above which resonated with me was: "We might recognise, for instance, that it’s a time for baking comfort food or cosy evenings curled up under a blanket in front of a box set – practising a little bit of the Norwegian koselig." Now, who doesn't like the sound of that?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Staycation


Typically I try to save my holidays from work up in order to go on trips back to Ireland. This August I had some time off planned and initially it felt rather sad strange not to be travelling due to the pandemic. We had thought about the idea of going somwhere within Germany but hubby had a Covid-19 scare (negative thankfully) and we didn't get around to planing anything. So we ended up having a two week statcation instead and.. it was great!

It was refreshing not to have the stress that comes along with travel actually. The planning, packing, unpacking, train and/or car journeys. I've heard that a lot of holiday spots around Germany have been extra packed lately as everyone has the same idea which carries a higher Covid-19 risk. The past few months have been so busy that I hadn't seen some of my close friends here since before the pandemic so I decided to use this free time to arrange meetups - some with kids and some without (having my hubby finally available for more minding was great!).

We also filled up our days with some nice family trips too - going to feed the ducks, picnics in the park, getting ice cream, walks in the woods, spending time at lakes. Lots of cycling and time outdoors basically which was good for the soul. Having a break from work deadlines and stress is always welcome too, of course!

Here are a few random pictures from my camera roll.

How have you been spending your Summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Feeling the distance


It is over ten years since I moved to southern Germany. Life has, for the most part, been good. There are many advantages to living in Germany. Of course there are times when I miss Ireland, although it is mainly the people there I miss the most. I think back nostalgically on my memories of growing up in Dublin. However, I am settled here now and Germany feels like my home.

It has always given me great comfort knowing that if I ever want to go back to Ireland for a vist, I could. Flights usually cost anything from around 80€ to 350€ return depending on whether you book last minute or whether it's peak season. Between travelling to the airport, the flight and getting to my family home in Ireland, it takes around eight hours in total.

Flying back to Ireland for every event I am invited to there of course isn't possible (unfortunately!) but over the years I have been able to make it over roughly 3 times a year. Friends and family have also visited me here which has been lovely, and between the various visits back and forth and the help of technology to keep in touch (whatsapp, skype/google hangout, phonecalls), Ireland hasn't felt all that far away.


However, now with the current Coronavirus pandemic, all that has changed. Suddenly Ireland may as well be as far away as Australia, because that's how it feels. I am still in touch with family and many friends but it's frustrating and even heartbreaking at times not knowing when it will be safe to tavel again. Other expat friends I have spoken to here feel the same way. I have been comforting myself with the thought that once there is a vaccine widely available (maybe by next Summer?), we will plan a really long trip to Ireland to try to make up for all the missed moments now.

Totally unrelated to the pandemic, my father has put our family home on the market. He had been talking about it for a several years so I did have lots of time to get used to the idea but there is something really sad about the thought of not being able to stay there when I do eventually make it back to Ireland..