Use the coronavirus downtime to read and better yourself

Friday March 20 2020

Working from home is a new experience for most Kenyans, who now have to learn about social distancing, isolation and how to keep oneself busy throughout the day. PHOTO | SHUTTER STOCK


I am writing this from home, where I have been working from since earlier this week. As have most other Kenyans. Working from home is not new to me. I always look for reason to work outside the office.

I have worked in coffee houses, workspaces of pals, restaurants and bars (before happy hour at 4pm, when I shut down and order for a buy-one-get-one-free cocktail).

This is different because it is not out of choice but out of current global circumstances — coronavirus has us here, turning our dining table into a co-sharing workspace.


I didn’t realise how narrow this table is until I have had to share it with my husband, GB. We are sitting across the table from each other and our laptop lids are touching. There is barely enough room for our notebooks, let alone a tumbler of water.

It is only day three and I am finding his work habits peculiar — he constantly slaps the table without warning, grunts then picks up his phone to make a call in the bedroom.


I realise now that his workday is about following up on delegated work, dishing instructions to his team and video conferencing with his peers. I honestly thought he did more heavy lifting.

He finds it peculiar that I sit at my laptop all day banging words and not having conversations of whichever kind with anyone. I tell him rather defensively, “My mind is having creative conversations with my fingers.”

Our toddler — Muna, she’s four, in kindergarten — believes her school is on holiday. Every morning she has asked me, “Mummy, is today day for school and for work?” And I will tell her, “No, mama. President Uhuru said we all stay home because of coronavirus.” She will chew the insides of her mouth digesting my words.


The next morning she will ask again, “Mummy is today day for school and day for work?” And I will tell her, “No, remember I told you President Uhuru has said we stay home because of, because of …?” And she will look away thinking then say wide-eyed, “Because Mr Kevin has not opened the school and the work!” I sigh. I suppose Mr Kevin is much easier to recall than corona.

Anyway, all of this is new to Kenyans — the social distancing, the isolation and the partial lockdown. Working from home is an especially new culture to us. We are somehow finding ourselves in the digs at loose ends.

The Internet has all these nifty suggestions on how to make this downtime a much more pleasant and fun experience. There are suggestions for family-friendly board games, comforting movies, binge-worthy series and podcasts you must listen to.

To be honest with you, my productivity has been close to nil. I am struggling to string sentences together and meet my copy deadlines.

I wonder how it is going for other working-from-home Kenyans, are you also struggling? In between battling my own productivity and shaking off the niggling feeling that I, too, am on holiday, I have spent far too many hours being a couch potato and catching TV. I am disgusted with myself.


I have this terrible habit of rewatching old shows that I loved instead of taking my chances with a new show that I will possibly regret. There are several low-budget movies out there, especially on Netflix, where most of Nairobi chills.

This new culture of working from home should be a time to replace such old unproductive habits as watching TV with new productive habits, habits that will better us as Kenyan individuals.

For one, I must put a quota on my TV watching. Aside from the 45 minutes for the 9pm evening news, I will catch, at most, one hour of uselessly entertaining TV.

I will also read more books. I have been under the weather for most of the last three months and have spent my convalescing time in bed reading paperback novels. That was nice.

There is a feeling of accomplishment that comes when you complete a novel — I don’t get the same feeling when I have completed a movie and the credits are rolling up. Books fill me up, TV empties me out.

I will also give this podcast thing a whirl. I have downloaded an app to my phone that streams podcasts, it’s called Castbox. My only concern is that I will spend more of this isolated time isolating myself with my earphones plugged into my ears. I hope I won’t forget to wash my hands while at it.