Moving (and working from) home during lockdown

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Rachel Pattinson, who manages digital research programmes in Open Lab in the School of Computing, reflects on moving and working from home during COVID-19.

Like many of my Newcastle University colleagues, I’ve been working from home since the middle of March. And along with 27 million others, I watched Boris Johnson announce the UK’s lockdown live on 23rd March. But I was one of the few who listened to the Prime Minister tell us all to ‘stay at home’ – the night before I was due to exchange and complete on the purchase of my first house.

Last autumn, when I’d had my offer accepted on my new home, Coronavirus didn’t exist. And I was working full-time in the Urban Sciences Building. So beginning an indefinite period of working from home, during a pandemic, and attempting to buy and move home at the same time, caused a number of unforeseen events:

  • I spent the first couple of weeks of lockdown pretty stressed out. Because it’s difficult to ‘stay at home’ when you’re not really sure which home you’re going to be living in…
  • I ended up on the front page of BBC news. Which made my colleagues, friends and family laugh quite a lot!
  • I spend the first of the University’s ‘pause Fridays’ in April exchanging and completing on my house purchase. I was so grateful to the University for giving me the time to get everything finalised!
  • I couldn’t get essential furniture (like a fridge) delivered to my new home during lockdown. So, I had to delay my move and arrange to stay and work in my old house for an extra couple of months.
  • About 75% of my stuff was in boxes for three months. Including some of my work files. And it meant my working space looked very minimal during March, April and May…
  • In June, the internet moved house (a while before I did). And promptly stopped working. So for a few days, I had no internet in either house. I completely used up my mobile phone’s data allowance, I bought a top-up, I bought another top-up…
  • … and I had a day or so where I had to work mostly offline in the new house while I waited in for essential furniture to finally arrive. I did my best, but I definitely attended a few meetings where I’m told that I sounded much more dalek than human(!).
  • I eventually got internet in the new place, but I was still staying in my previous home, so I spent a week commuting back and forth between the two locations.
  • And then I finally moved house! Since moving, I’ve been redecorating and unpacking whilst working full-time. I’ve now worked in four or five different spaces in my house, so my colleagues have collectively seen an interesting tour of my new home.
Rachel ended up on BBC News as a result of her move during lockdown.

It’s not what I planned. But living through and working during a pandemic wasn’t something any of us predicted.

And, looking back on lockdown, I really appreciate the support I received from my colleagues and from Newcastle University to make a major life change like this during a time when the UK stood still.

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