Many South Africans are working from home due to the national lockdown. Among them, Mark Bannister who works as the chief engineer for the Department of Water and Sanitation in Pretoria. He found himself much more productive while working from home.
“Living in Midrand, I save two to three hours on the road each day which instead goes into being productive for work purposes,” Bannister says. There are also fewer distributions in the form of meetings or visitors.
“All my planned meetings with clients continued on Microsoft Teams, which tends to be more efficient by starting on time and with short concise presentations and interaction from everyone,” Bannister explains. “If an attendee does not have time to speak, they can write their questions in the ‘chat’, which can be responded to afterwards.”
This (and other similar software) allows virtual meetings to be recorded. If Bannister misses an important point during the session, he can listen to the recording again. “There may be travel restrictions in the real world, but my virtual interactions expand to Rome, Rio and New York without any travel costs and pollution to the environment!” he shares.
He adds that, with the lockdown, he has realised that a lot of work-related travel is unnecessary. With fewer international trips, businesses can save money and minimise its impact on the environment.
In addition to maintaining his work, Bannister is also schooling his eight-year old – again proving just how productive you can be while working from home. He notes: “In the week, I home school my eight-year old in the morning while I do my more mundane work. In the afternoon, while he is watching TV or reading, I get into my more demanding work for which I need to lock myself away and concentrate.”
A challenge of working from home is sticking to traditional office hours. With no clear cut-off, Bannister finds himself still working till seven or eight at night. “There is no start time or finish time with my work,” he says. “I just continue when there is opportunity to do so. I miss the structure of an eight-to-five and the physical interaction with people, but you get used to it and the benefits outweigh the negatives.”
Luckily, Bannister has been able to implement some structure by not working over the weekend. “I’m still on my computer a lot as I’m writing a book, helping my wife with her study assignments and my eldest boy with his grade 12 studying,” he explains. He does take some time to sit in the sun and indulge in his wife’s delicious cooking. Although she works during the day, she uses her free time for culinary creativity.
The fear of COVID-19, of course, still looms large in Bannister’s mind. “My biggest concern is what happens if the virus gets into our house, particularly since I am fully dependent for transferring,” he says. “If someone gets it in the house, how can they transfer me onto a toilet, for example, without giving the virus to me or visa versa? How do I self-isolate for two weeks to protect my family?
“We are concerned about the pandemic, just like every other citizen in South Africa and the world. Currently, we are making the best of the scenario we are in. It is what it is, and we must deal with it in the best way that we can,” Bannister adds.
“It is like my disability: I don’t cry about things I can’t change, but rather use the situation to perform better in other areas. In the case of the coronavirus, I am trying to be a better father, a better husband and more conscious person towards the world and its population. We can all come out of this better,” he concludes.
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