Bandwidth = Internet access and WiFi
Headspace = The time to think, reflect and be
The 10th March was when I and the rest of my team started working at home, following the ‘work from home if you can’ statement from the government. At first, I didn’t think it would be much different from my usual working pattern. As a team, we usually only spent a day or two together in the office and the rest of the time we were making the most of our four day week, with clients or working from home.
Little did I know that just one week later, my entire household would be in the house, all of us fighting for what was already limited and slow(ish) Wifi. In the early days, we quickly became frustrated by the issues with all of us being on video calls at the same time, and so we had to create an understanding, and better communication about the times we all needed the internet connection for video calls, which calls needed to be done by phone, and for me, the uploading of any videos needed to be done in the evenings or first thing in the morning.
What also happened, naturally, was that we would take some downtime and enjoy some breaks, some walks, some reading or some TV time when we knew the signal wouldn’t be strong enough in the house for us to get done what we needed to get done. Our working hours flexed, sometimes we’d start earlier and sometimes we’d work later. Some days we’d work shorter hours and some days longer. And some weeks we’d work over a weekend and some weeks we wouldn’t.
We found a routine, it worked, and ideally, we wanted to keep it that way.
Fast forward to September. I celebrated my 40th birthday on the 10th, and whilst all of the lavish plans I’d had were no longer possible, I treated myself to more downtime, specifically including a bit of a digital detox. Time without social media, time without emails, time without internet shopping.
And then I came across this article on one of my social feeds saying that NYC is dead forever. And whilst I think there is hope that what will come next will be better than what we had before, two things struck me, amongst the sadness, and they were the comment about bandwidth, and, whether we will see similar feelings and closures in all of our big cities. Now I hope we can keep things alive, I can’t imagine London without the Westend and New York without Broadway. I can’t imagine not having diverse eateries and bars and clubs.
I can, however, see a different world of work, thanks to bandwidth.
Fast forward again to October 1st. We moved into our new house. We’d realised during lockdown 1 that our lovely windmill was just not practical for all of us if we would need to be working from home, all of us for the foreseeable future. We’ve decorated, we’ve settled, we have no bandwidth, and after another delay, we’ve been told the earliest that we will have any form of Wifi will be November 10th.
It’s caused some challenges with work and learning, and live streams, and social platforms for the kids. There have been no consoles due to the lack of signal. There haven’t been endless nights ignoring each other whilst on our phones. The lack of bandwidth has given us headspace. It’s given us some challenging times, and one of my sons has been heading to Crew HQ every day to get his work done (we're the only tenants so he's safe, secure and distanced), we’re managing.
Our one solution to the bandwidth issue currently, is a small satellite dish from one of the farm buildings by the house, beaming a signal to another small satellite dish on our house, and one, just one ethernet cable. It’s not reliable. It doesn’t work on the newer devices of my partner and sons, but thankfully it works on my old school Mac and Macbook. So when we need to do something online, we’re all needing the same device, which clearly we can’t use at the same time, and so the bandwidth issues are continuing to create headspace time.
I will, however, be able to breathe a sigh of relief when we’re fully back up and running instead of having to hold my breath before every video call and live stream, wondering if the ethernet or the 4G on my phone will last the length of the conversation.
This year, for those of us that have been able to work from home, we have done. We’ve done it whilst home-schooling, caring for others, huddling in bedrooms away from housemates or in total solitude. Our work has taken over our homes. I’ve seen makeshift desks and offices, juggling acts, heard of arguments about internet speed, and many were relieved when we could return to some sort of space away from home to work, be it an office, a coffee shop or a pub.
I’ve written and spoken about many times during lockdown 1 about the need for all of us to create boundaries between work and home life. About the need for all of us to look after ourselves, to ensure we aren’t working more than normal and for ways to create more balance.
And now that second lockdowns are taking place in many places around the world with England’s starting on Thursday, we cannot allow our headspace to be consumed by our bandwidth if we want to come out of this happy, healthy and well.
Bandwidth has allowed us to stay connected to our family, friends, colleagues and customers at a time of a global pandemic. It’s brought relief, laughter and conversations at much needed times. It’s also meant that we are ‘at work’ 24/7 unless we set and maintain the boundaries of work and home.
As we head into the winter months, it’s more important than ever that we practise self-care, look after ourselves and give ourselves time to breathe.
We have the bandwidth, we now need the headspace.
Kelly is an Executive Coach for HR and People Leaders at kellyswingler.comand Founder of The Chrysalis Crew.
She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.