I’ve been struggling to identify something to write about this month given the circumstances of a global pandemic. It doesn’t feel like I have anything useful to offer given the circumstances and yet posting on “normal” academic topics seems trivial. So what I decide to do is share how my transition to working from home is going.
In my work life, perhaps the most jarring change has been suddenly working from home with no notice or time to prepare. Under normal circumstances, working from home is the exception, not the rule for me. I go to campus and work in my office where I enjoy my chocolate drawer, all of my books, a large monitor to spread out my work, and a quiet space where I can close the door and be left alone. At home, I do home stuff: I cook, clean, play with my toddler, talk to my partner, knit, watch bad tv shows, and generally decompress. The only time I normally work from home is when I’m not prepared for a deadline, which usually entails working for a few hours over the weekend when it happens. I like the separation of spaces and the time it gives me to connect with my family and for my brain to process things and recover from a day or a week of work.
When my university decided that courses would be going online post-spring break, I fully intended to continue to go to my office. But as we learned more about the outbreak, that seemed like an unwise decision, so I opted to work from home and limit any travel outside of the home to the essential. The first week of this was really challenging. I was overwhelmed by the news of what was happening in the world around me, feeling anxious about being “stuck” inside, was worried about friends and family in other states and cities, and totally uncertain of how to get anything done around a toddler who was so ecstatic that mom wasn’t leaving for work that they wanted to be by my side at all times. I was not sleeping well and increasingly stressed and anxious.
Now, we’re in week 3. Emotionally, things have calmed down as I’ve been in communication with my family and friends, and I’ve gotten used to the new “normal” of being home all day every day. I’ve also figured out ways to make some work happen. I won’t lie and say I have a routine. I definitely do not. But I have a number of strategies to overcome the inconvenience of not having a quiet office space where I can close the door and not be disturbed. When I can drag myself out of bed, I get up before the toddler to at least have a moment of alone time before anyone else is up and demanding my time and energy. To be completely honest, this only works a couple times a week for me because of my body demanding more rest. I use screentime liberally since if I’m on my “screen” (laptop) then the kiddo wants to have a screen too. Finally, I expect to take breaks frequently to play with the kiddo and take cues from them about when that should happen. Thankfully, my partner is also at home and joins me in these efforts, taking on entertaining the toddler whenever I need some quiet to get some reading or writing done or I have a meeting. We play it all by ear, but it’s made it possible for me to get a little bit of work done every day, even if it’s mostly work for my teaching.
It’s not perfect. It’s not equivalent to my normal work life by any stretch. But it’s how I’m making do right now. I’m doing what I can by putting one foot in front of the other.