Project Description

A new

Having the time of my life : teleworking in the coronavirus lockdown has taught me the importance of preparing for retirement.

I need a plan. Teleworking during the coronavirus has taught me that. I am four years away from retirement. From here I can see and almost taste what it would be like to no longer have to get up and go to work and have the freedom to do what I want; a future that is close, but for the moment still out of reach.

Working from home during the pandemic, however, has made me think very carefully of what I would do with the time and freedom retirement may bring. Form a personal perspective, working from home has required me to find a different kind of motivation from a source that I am unused to and not very good at, namely self-discipline.

I have always been motivated more by working with and for others and by external pressures and stimulus. I played football regularly for years, travelling for kilometres to play anywhere, at any time and in any weather, but could never find the moral strength and self-discipline to walk to the local gym alone. Being honest for myself, responding to external pressures and stimulus has always been the easier option for me, not least

because I always have a lot going on. Workwise, I have data to analyse, reports to write, meetings to attend, colleagues to speak to, resources to manage and deadlines to meet. An active family life spread over two countries comprising older children with careers and younger children at school also keeps me busy.

Motivations and distractions

An action plan

Working from home has removed some of the motivation provided to me by the outside pressures and stimulus of an office work environment. In the office there are fewer distractions; there is ready access to material and equipment and there is the stimulus of sharing the highs and lows of working life with other people. At home I am ‘alone’. My wife is working in her study. I’m surrounded by books I want to read and films I want to watch. Unlike at work where the kitchen is two floors down and open for a limited period, at home the fridge is a few steps away and open 24/7. At home, the external pressures and stimulus motivate me in very different ways.

This does not mean that teleworking has been unsuccessful; far from it. I have, I think, been very productive. My colleagues and I have worked well and delivered.  But while there is still work to do and deadlines to meet, I find that my motivation to meet them must come, increasingly, from within. Rather than being a source of inspiration to work, outside pressures and stimulus now need to be resisted.

I am working on motivating myself and self-discipline. I have structured my day around work periods and objectives, rather than strict times; lunch is later and longer to coincide with my daughters’ return home from school and the breakdown of their day. My day also includes time for exercise, which is essential in my ongoing struggle with the fridge; I also exercise alone. However, despite these changes, much more of the motivation to put myself in front of my lap top and work needs to come from within.

Self-discipline, I feel, will matter even more once the lock-down is over. Currently I can spread my work over pretty much the whole day, but when the lockdown ends my time in the evening will be curtailed by my job as an unpaid chauffeur for my daughters’ extra-curricular activities. On the positive side, I think being able to telework from outside my house (from my favourite coffee shop for example) will help my motivation.

My personal struggles with my nature during the coronavirus lockdown have emphasised the hole in my life that leaving work will leave and what I need to do to fill it. Retired friends have told me how quickly time goes and how, in one sense, they are busier than ever; I do not doubt that, but my experience of working at home has highlighted my tendency to drift without external pressures and stimulus helping to define what I need to do.

I already have ideas about what I should like to do when I retire; I have many interests.

However, if my ideas are to become more than just an unfulfilled half page of scribbled lines, then I need a plan. As well as what to do, that plan must include finding ways of motivating myself from within. The coronavirus lockdown has taught me that, with retirement in perspective, that plan needs to start now.

Steve Brainbridge

European vocational education and training policy
analyst at Cedefop (the European Centre of the
Development for Vocational Training).

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