Book Review: Finding your Campfire – A Remote Working Survival Guide

Since March 2020, and the beginning of lockdown, I made a conscious effort to spend more time unplugged and with my family. News of the seriousness and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and across the world scared me (as it should), and the thought of friends or family succumbing to this nasty disease affected me in a way I’ve not felt before. What if Christmas 2019 really would be the last time I saw my parents??

To this end I stopped reading some work-related books in my evenings, read less and less online and made an effort to be more ‘present’ with my friends and family – focus on the work and ‘day job’ during the day and focus on the other stuff the rest of the time. Like many, I never really put much effort a the start into planning my days or weeks at the home desk, other than I knew where my work would be, and that’s where I went during the day. I just got on with it. The rest of the house was still my home, I kept work in the small room/office, and I appreciated how lucky/privileged I was that I was able to do that.

But, fast forward to January 2021 and after 10 months of working remotely, or working from home, my old friend Julian Stodd has released his latest ebook (soon to be paperback) – Finding your Campfire: A Remote Working Survival Guide. Now I’m ready to read more, to learn more about the state of things around me and that are influencing me.

“We have been thrust into a new way of working, with little time to prepare for the expedition: we are in the wilderness, and must take time to Pause – Refresh – Renew.”

It’s an interesting and well thought out book – taking the concept of camping as a metaphor for preparing for remote work, the book covers all the things we’ve had to deal with these last 10 months. – preserving the home when working from home, downtime and space, technology vs technology-free areas, teamwork, wellbeing, belonging, collaboration and motivation, etc. It’s all here.

In some ways I’m glad I didn’t read this last March, I’m not sure how well prepared I would have been for the journey ahead (hell, I knew then I wasn’t prepared, but I also knew I didn’t want to read much about it either!). With a little hindsight and a fair wind, I am now prepared to reflect on the journey and to see where I could have done better and can still improve.

“The weight of the move to remote working will be carried by us all, as individuals: organisations will see an impact in terms of productivity and profit, but the emotional and social cost will be carried by the team.”

Working remotely, working-at-home or working-from-home isn’t for everyone. I get that. I’ve spent at least nine months convincing myself I don’t want to return to the office, but month 10 must be magic as I can now see the benefit of, perhaps, returning for a day a week, for example, or maybe one week in four on a rotation basis. The ability to connect with new colleagues who have joined us in the last 10 months is really important, as is to reconnect to colleagues I’ve only seen from the shoulders up on Zoom or Teams calls.

Whilst I always used to dread the noise of the open-plan office and +50 people all thumping their keyboards a the same time, multiple phone calls and meetings taking place all over the place, the meeting rooms booked out but not being used, etc. the usual office gripes that used to annoy me now make me whistful for the ‘old times’. Lunchtime and the multitude of aroma from the kitchen area as multiple dinners are nuked in the microwave, whilst still make me feel nauseous, kind makes me want to go back.

“Work is like syrup: if you spill it, it does not run fast like water, but if you leave it, it gradually spreads around until everything you touch is sticky. And then it takes ages to clean it off.”

Throughout the book, Julian offers some advice, which he says at the start he doesn’t usually like to do, but sometimes advice is needed and is a really good way to reinforce the message of what you’re reading – the ‘expedition notes’ are useful reminders that this is real stuff we’re dealing with here, not a concept or theory. It doesn’t get much more real than what we’ve been living through for the last year!

Julian closes the book with a very poignant statement, that we need to look after ourselves as well as each other, that it’s OK to have good and bad days, and that together we can weather the storm and make tomorrow better than yesterday.

“You need space, you need community, you need firewood, but also kindling, oxygen, and matches. We will carry different loads, but do not let anyone carry more weight than they can bear, and ensure that your first action is to listen to the silence, and ensure that nobody is left in the wilderness alone.”

Whether you think you’ve lost yourself in the work and stress of life in lockdown, think you’ve got a good handle on life as we currently know it, or are somewhere in between hovering daily between the two extremes, Julian’s book does have something for you. You want reassurance that you’ve done well and everything went according to plan? Read it and get the reassurance you desire. You want some tips to understand where you are and where you could go? That’s here too – take what you want from the book, throw away what you don’t want, and adapt the things you think you’ll need some time down the path.

Julian Stodd, Sea Salt Learning – Finding your Campfire: A Remote Working Survival Guide

Imge source: Julian Stodd