During the pandemic, many of us who used to work in offices were forced to work from home, which bought many challenges and changes.
One of the main changes that has occurred has been our ability to listen to our own music or podcasts while we work. It’s actually one of the few benefits of working from home. While I definitely feel isolated and find it hard to find a good work/ life balance, I do like the fact that I can listen to what I like.
After all, when you’re in an office, you have to listen to something that everyone likes, which means that many of us often end up with the radio or a playlist of generic pop music. No one wants to say anything or put their headphones in, and given the focus on collaborative work and the need to answer the phone, that’s often impossible.
At home, if you get to work alone then you can listen to your own sounds. Even if you share a workspace with a housemate or partner, then you can at least wear headphones. Or you could just turn the sound down- I live in a shared house and literally no one complains about the sound of my audiobooks coming out of the tiny speakers on my phone.
While I don’t think for a second that listening to audiobooks is the same as reading a physical novel, it is a useful way to enjoy literature while I’m doing other tasks. I’d also recommend checking out podcasts themed around literature, like Potterless, a brilliant show about an adult man who’s never read the Harry Potter book series. While I still don’t support J.K Rowling and her blatant transphobia, I do love listening to the hilarious ramblings of an American who’s experiencing the books for the first time.
There are also storytelling podcasts such as This American Life, which combines journalism with storytelling to provide a unique take on current events and real life in America. It’s another great way to learn more about the world and see it from a new perspective.
I used to think listening to audiobooks and other audio shows would be distracting, especially in my job as a writer. I always used to believe that, eventually, I’d start typing the words I was hearing. However, I’ve learned since I started listening to audiobooks online at work, that they actually help me to concentrate and manage my workload. Often, I bribe myself by telling myself I need to get something finished before the end of the next chapter or I’ll switch the story off! It’s a useful technique, particularly if you happen to have the mind of a hyperactive toddler.
All this doesn’t mean I no longer read books. I always thought it would, but, in fact, I’ve found that audiobooks and physical books help me to separate my work life from my home one. During work, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, which I find more soothing than music. After work, while I’m out and about or just before bed, I read my physical novels.
As I say, audiobooks and literary-themed podcasts are soothing to me while I’m working, but only certain ones. I think a John Grisham or an Andy McNab audiobook might be a bit too intense for a working day, whereas an Agatha Christie or a Ngaio Marsh story is relaxing. It sometimes helps if I’ve already read the book and know the plot, particularly if I’m having a busy or stressful day, or I’m feeling particularly anxious.
In all, while I still love reading physical books, I’m enjoying listening to stories and podcasts and I think others might too. It probably sounds really obvious, and not worthy of a blog post, but I think it’s relevant, particularly for anyone who’s still working from home and feeling isolated. I know from experiencing working with my team that many remote workers are struggling right now, and even with connected technology, it’s easy to feel alone. That’s especially true if you live alone or the people you live with are out of the house all day. With audiobooks and podcasts, you can hear a person’s voice and become immersed in a story while keeping busy at the same time.