Working from home: Sarah Boyack
The Lothian MSP describes her working from home experience
Describe the view and what it means to you.
I work in my mini conservatory/dining room. From here the view is peaceful with lots of trees, birds and occasionally a visiting squirrel. I’ve also got around to growing herbs indoors which has improved the quality of my cooking!
Tell me about a few things that you have in the work area that are important/essential to you working in there.
My laptop, laptop stand, wi-fi and an endless supply of de-caff coffee. But I’m still working off my dining room table so my office has taken over my living space. I think I’m one of the few MSPs who doesn’t have a bookcase behind them. In my house, my bookcases are spread throughout the house.
What’s your top tip for working from home?
Do not sit at the table all day. After eight weeks of homeworking I got a proper seat which has helped reduce back, shoulder and neck pain! But getting out for a walk or cycle is essential. My top tip is that you can do a phone call while going for a walk. I’ve also been treating myself by listening to my music collection while I work to help focus.
How do you avoid distractions and what is the biggest one?
Social media is the biggest distraction. But, on the other hand, it’s a substitute for our normal capacity to meet up and see friends and relatives, so it’s allowed.
What do you miss most when you are working from home rather than from the office?
Speaking to people, informal catch-ups, getting out to visit local groups, being able to work alongside people in the community and networking with people in the Parliament through Cross Party Groups.
The problems of working at home fall into context every time I receive a constituent’s email where someone needs urgent help. People who’ve been shielding, having difficulty getting access to food deliveries, emailing in about IVF, cancer, increasing cost of rents and the difficulty of keeping their business afloat, all of this concentrates the mind.
The interaction with colleagues is critical and, going forward, emails, using Teams, Skype and Zoom are really important to keep people connected and able to have their voice heard. We’ve all gone digital, which mostly works for us, but many of our constituents don’t have the same access to iPads and laptops so home schooling, and getting the help and support they need, is really hard for some people.
The inequalities that were there before are even deeper now. As we come through the pandemic the isolation and pressures will mean many will need help to get their lives back on track, and access to mental health support will be critical.
I feel privileged still being able to work, to be able to get to the Parliament without difficulty, to catch up with colleagues (socially distanced, of course), being able to ask questions in the Chamber and speak on the issues we are all focused on