New blog: Lifting the brain fog of lockdown

The old saying goes that you only miss something when it’s gone.

But one lesson from the last 12 months is that you only truly realise what you’ve missed when it’s gone and then given back to you.

And it turns out I have really missed an office.

Earlier this month I had the fortune to have been asked to help “test run” a new co-working venue in Edinburgh, The Melting Pot. 

As construction crews finalised the electrics and the desk construction, a few co-workers fed back on the experience, our ability to maintain social distancing and how the space felt.

I volunteered partly because I needed to go “into town” to pick up post and attend medical appointments, but also because I was keen to see if I had even missed an office environment. 

Being part of a remote working, collective model has meant that I’ve not worked full-time from a traditional office in well over five years.

Friends and PR pals have become bored with me explaining how the remote working lifestyle benefits everyone and how I’d never go back to an office.

But my experience at The Melting Pot this month was nothing short of a revelation. My productivity doubled (I even completed my daily to do list) and my optimism levels shot through the roof. 

When Moya Sarner’s article appeared in the Guardian explaining how we are struggling with a lockdown “brain fog” it focussed my thoughts on the issue.

When you’re working from home, you become overwhelmed by your surroundings. There is too much to do. There are too many things to think about. 

All of us who do desk-bound jobs have experienced the feeling of being unable to concentrate in online meetings, a lack of attention to detail, or to multi-task to the same degree as we used to.

Sarner describes this “dulled, useless state of mind – epitomised by the act of going into a room and then forgetting why we are there” as lifeless. This all-encompassing brain fog then affects our everything we need to work productively. Our creativity, our memory, our attention and our ability to problem-solve to our capacity to be creative.

Yes, I thought when I read the article. That is exactly what has been affecting me. I just didn’t know it.

Stepping away from the home environment and into an office, if only as a co-worker and only for a few hours, gave me distance and perspective.

It was as if my own brain fog had been lifted. 

For a few brief hours I had a glimpse of what life will be like after lockdown, and I can tell you that it is nothing short of awesome.

This guest post is by PRFest steering group member, Simon Francis. He is a member of social enterprise Campaign Collective and former chair of the PRCA Council.