Don Your Way column: Back to the office after 183 days in the coronavirus wilderness

This week, I set foot inside my office again for the very first time in 183 days.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 2:17 pm

Like many hundreds of you across Doncaster and millions across the country, I’ve been working from home since March, making the most of a makeshift desk at the dinner table, eating too many biscuits, drinking too much coffee and generally slowly starting to go slightly nuts at staring at the same four walls each day.

But we’re all slowly getting back into the rhythm of life - my partner has already been back at her desk for a number of weeks and she warned me that getting back into the swing of things would be tough.

She wasn’t wrong.

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Darren Burke - back to the office after 183 days away.

Office clothes had to be dug out once again, shoes polished and waistbands checked to see if they still fitted after six months of trips to the biscuit barrel (thankfully, they still did).

I woke up staring at a time on a clock I almost forgotten had existed. Then, having shovelled down some toast and a cuppa, it was back onto the traffic paralysed joys of South Yorkshire’s motorway network to whizz over to Sheffield.

Oh, M18 and Sheffield Parkway – I’ve really not missed you.

And if I needed any reminder of how much things have changed in the last six months, it was apparent the moment I set foot inside the office.

No more than two people inside the lifts, seating plans telling me exactly where I would be working from (thankfully, my own desk was one of the ones deemed Covid-19 secure) and strict instructions not to make drinks for others were all part of the lengthy list of rules placed on my desk top, along with a face mask.

There were hand sanitiser and taped markings on the floor, sealed off urinals in the toilet and debate about whether a big tin of biscuits for colleagues to dip into would constitute a coronavirus hazard.

Having spent the last 183 days working from a laptop screen, the re-appearance of my full size monitor gave the impression of working in IMAX.

With only a handful of us in (I think there were about ten of us at most at the day’s peak), the office seemed sparse, echoey and sterile and it seems a long time before I’ll be face to face with many of my other friends and colleagues again.

I managed to get out for a quick drink and a bite to eat with one, swapping lockdown tales of the last six months and how we’d found working from home.

Sadly, as you will no doubt know, this week has been a busy week news wise in Doncaster, with the tragic killing of a newborn baby by a dog, the pulling of crowds at the St Leger and cases of coronavirus in many of the town's schools dominating the headlines.

So it wasn’t exactly a quiet start back after so many months away from the coal face.

Getting used to the ‘new normal’ as we now have to call it, is going to take time to adjust to.

By the end of my first shift and after my tea after returning home, I flaked out on the bed, much to the amusement of my other half Giulia, yep, the one who’d warned me it would take a little while to get back into the swing.

One thing’s for sure, it looks like the days of sitting in my PJs to file stories are sadly coming to an end though.

And I really haven’t missed the annoying PR types calling me up asking to send me their vacuous press releases.

But by ‘eck, it was good to be back amongst some familiar faces.