CYBERSECURITY technical project manager Mel Corrigan moved to working remotely in March and after four months of solitude in West Cork, with her two rescue dogs Indie and Archie, she has found a new love for the office environment.
Working with online security networks for a multitude of companies, from hospitals to food distributors, with Smarttech247, Mel has missed her colleagues during lockdown.
“I always wondered about working from home, I live in the countryside. I love the country and I always thought it would be really cool,” she said.
Mel, who had been living in Bantry up until February had made the move to Ballinspittle for a shorter commute.
“I had moved in here a few weeks, then lockdown happened, so that will get you used to your 2km radius, out here, 2km will get you to the neighbours.”
As well as being new to the area, Mel came down with a chest infection at the start of lockdown and was tested for Covid-19.
“They thought that I had Covid, but it was a chest infection.
“I actually lost my voice, so not only was I living alone in a new place in total lockdown, I was also being cocooned and had no voice. It was a very interesting couple of weeks.”
Mel said her work colleagues were very supportive.
“The lads at work were amazing, I used to get phones calls and text messages and we’d do catch-ups every week.
“Interchangeable catch-ups with different groups of people every week where you would have a coffee and a chat about how you were getting on. That was amazing for me. I didn’t realise how much I relied on the office environment until it was taken.”
Despite the difficulties, Mel isn’t about to change her living arrangements any time soon.
“Don’t get me wrong I love living alone, but wow, did I miss people.
“I have neighbours, and I used to be sitting outside and saying hello to them for human interaction!”
Mel, who moved to West Cork following seven years in Melbourne, said she likes being away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
“I’m in my mid-thirties, I’ve done the city life, I have worked and lived in really busy areas, and I like that it is quiet and calm here. It suits me better.”
Looking back to March, it was an interesting experience leaving the office to set up at home.
“It was an interesting thing to look at, everyone walking out the door with screens under our arms and packing them in the car and setting up home offices.
“It was a little bit scary and to not know what was going to happen. We had no dates, originally it was for four weeks, and we thought it was so long — it was this huge big deal.”
Mel had a home office in her spare room in her two-bedroom cabin on the grounds of a West Cork guesthouse, but she moved into her main living space to get away from the cold in the middle of March.
Since then, the cybersecurity project manager has been working from her living room with her two staffie pitbulls; Indie and Archie, joining her on Zoom calls from time to time.
“They are amazing except when on calls. I have all wooden floors, and the dogs are 30 kilos each and the noise of them and the snoring — that was a big thing. I had a couple of calls where I had to mute and roar at them, that was interesting!
“They are great company and they are ecstatic, they just think I’m at home all day with them and they are delighted. Dogs everywhere think this is amazing.
“They get me out as well, it makes you get dressed properly, out of the tracksuit pants and go outside and go to the beach or into the woods.”
While working from home, Mel found it difficult to schedule herself initially.
“I struggled with getting up at a certain time and all that, so I decided I needed separate spaces and I pulled my desk out and my dining room is up on its side in the spare room, set up with screens looking out a window.
“I felt the need to create those spaces. It was getting to a point, where I would look at the clock and it was 3pm and I had no lunch, so for my mental health, I think it’s very important to have routines.
“I made a routine, get up at this time, break at this time, lunch at this time, kept to it religiously for a few weeks until I felt a bit more comfortable and then slowly it became the norm.”
Since moving to remote working, Mel has noticed a substantial increase of savings.
“I’m murder with the coffees and stuff, so I might get a coffee and pastry and forget my lunch, so that’s another tenner.
“I knew how much I spent on stuff, but I don’t think I actually realised until I stopped spending it, because it wasn’t just that, it was diesel and my insurance halved, the rebate from car insurance, basic day to day stuff, but it adds up like crazy.”
At the moment, Mel is gradually coming back to the office, once or twice a week, but there are no plans to move back permanently.
“There are no concrete plans to go back. We are working really well remotely, it is working really well for us, we are super busy, being super productive, so it is not a priority.
“We are probably a little less rushed to get back to the office in regards to work practices and we want to make sure it is as safe as possible.”
Although there are set date, Mel is looking forward to getting back to the office, whenever that may be.
“I love the office, we have a great team. Jobs are often about who you work with and we have an amazing team, we all get along really well, the banter, you miss it, going for lunch together, having the chats, the face to face interactions it’s not the same laughing at a text on your own, so I kind of don’t think working remotely would be for me full time for sure.”