Lockdown home worker vs exasperated boss: Just how will it end? – Bill Jamieson

Bill Jamieson relates a typical online exchange between a home worker he’s decided to call ‘Bill’ and Bill’s boss.

Boris Johnson on a video conference call to other G20 leaders. But such communications seldom seem to go without a hitch in the digital workplace (Picture: 10 Downing Street/Crown copyright/Andrew Parsons/PA Wire)

Settling into the new world of home office working? All going splendidly? UK adults are now spending a quarter of their waking day online during lockdown – a record high, according to Ofcom.

During April, we spent an average of four hours a day online. And seven in 10 people made video calls at least once a week during the lockdown, with millions turning to Zoom for the first time.

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Here is a typical online conversation between the home office worker and his boss capturing the “new normal” of the working day.

Bill the worker (after struggling to make a Zoom connection with his boss): Hello Fergus. Hope you’re having a sunny morning in the office! I’ve got all the doors and windows open here. It’s boiling!

Boss: You’re on mute, Bill. Can’t hear a word.

Bill: That’s better! Are you having a sunny morning, Fergus?

Boss: It’s raining hand sanitiser here. How’s work?

Bill: So much better, Fergus! Much more efficient. I can get on and do stuff in half the time – and no morning wasted on a commute!

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Boss: But you’re late again! This Zoom conference was meant to start ten minutes ago.

Bill: Sorry. Wobbly connection! But I’m all ears now. Oops! The link has gone.

Boss (minutes later): ... and those will be your priorities today. Get to it!

Bill: Sorry, Fergus. Missed the first bit of all that.

Boss: I want you to interview Murdo MacFlint, the pork pie supplier. Is his business back to normal? How many workers has he fired? Have his sales recovered? That sort of thing.

Bill: Will do, Fergus. Oops. The cat just walked over the keyboard.

Boss: I’d get that cat out of sight before he ends up in the pies. And what on earth are you wearing?

Bill: Sorry, Fergus. It’s my barbecue shirt. The others are in hot coronavirus heat wash. Now creased to blazes.

Boss: Better smarten up before you Zoom with MacFlint. I need this over here by 2pm.

Bill: He’s not exactly Bill Gates, boss. He’s not the type who does Zoom. He’s still getting to grips with the fax machine. Not everyone is up with the new digital thingummies.

Boss: Conference call in half an hour. And don’t be late!

Bill: I’ve got 44 emails stacking up – someone’s trying to reach me on FaceTime. And I said I would help with the dinner.

Boss: Here’s something else you can do. Get that Benny Higgins report...

Bill: Sorry. Internet’s down. The perils of rural life. And I still have to do the Sainsbury’s order. It took me two hours last week. Oh, it’s back!

Boss: You’d be better off with a carrier pigeon. What does the report say?

Bill: Sorry, Boss. It’s 77 pages. And the ink cartridge ran out.

Boss: OK, Just the summary, then. What are the priorities?

Bill: That’s the problem, boss. The priorities are overwhelmed by priorities. And it says we need £6 billion of money the Sottish Government doesn’t have.

Boss: Brilliant. Really helpful. And what does that new Fraser of Allander report say?

Bill: (wife screaming in the background) It’s the cat! It’s been sick on the new carpet!

Boss (exasperated): Dear god! Do you get any work done at all? Tell me about Fraser of Allander.

Bill: You don’t want to know, boss. You told me not to send any more gloomy stuff.

Boss: In a nutshell, then...

Bill: It says it will be at least 18 months before Scotland makes up the output lost due to the pandemic... the deepest recession in living memory... the most optimistic scenario – it will be the end of 2021 before the economy recovers. In the worst case, it could be 2024 before a new normal is reached...

Boss: Spare us! That’s enough! Three more years of this!

Bill: Hang on, there’s someone at the door... It’s an Amazon parcel! Give me a mo. That will be my Chinese solar lights and electric weed burner with easy-break parts and mangled instructions. Now I’ll have to spray the lot with Dettol and wash my hands with sanitizer. Sorry, fingers slipped. And there’s the landline ringing its head off. I can’t cope, boss. This home office working is driving me nuts!

Boss: Bill, get back to the office – NOW!

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