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WFH Advice

Any words of wisdom to share with our community?

April 6, 2020
 
 

How long have you been working from home? How’s it going? Any words of wisdom to share with our community?

Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Three words: Noise. Canceling. Headphones. Also, two weeks in, I’ve started “dressing up” for work again, including putting on makeup. It’s part of my “old” routine, but also has made a startling difference since I have to stare at myself in Zoom meetings all day every day. One thing I’m currently struggling with is how disconnected we’ve become as a family as we all work from home in one way or another. We hunker down with our tasks, which were usually signaled at an end when we all came home. Now, we stay hunkered, mostly because we’re all going a little stir-crazy. There is no space, literal and figurative, to transition from work to home, because it’s all the same now. So, set boundaries and rules, I guess. Processes. And leave the house every once in a while.

Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

I’ve been referring to my Zoom meeting wardrobe as the “mullet of fashion”: business on top and something comfy on the bottom. I have a festive curtain in my Zoom background, but what you can’t see is my son doing schoolwork at a desk next to mine, and you can’t hear me micromanaging his work every time I hit the mute button on my Zoom calls. I think it’s important to be gentle with myself and with the people I live with and my co-workers. This is new and traumatic for all of us. I’ve been trying to make each day special in some small way, like make a special meal, or make brownies, or go on a new trail on our daily nature walks. I try to remember to notice and enjoy the little things.

Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Academic Impressions, Denver, Colo.

I just started working from home full-time two weeks ago. I, too, love my noise-cancellation headphones! I also purchased a cheap standing laptop desk on Amazon for $70. This gives me several options for working during the day. Short daily walks outside are a must. Finally, I’ve found that one to two minutes of stretching or meditating between meetings helps me maintain my stamina.

Niya Bond, University of Maine, Orono, Me.

I like my routines, even (or especially!) during a pandemic. I am still starting every morning with some quiet, mug-first time, and I am still, even (or especially!) when working wrapped in my comfy blanket, putting on makeup and my favorite perfume. However, my experience as a fully remote English faculty a few years ago, while nursing a baby and tending to a 2-year-old, helped me realize the importance of being adaptable, flexible and kind to myself (and others), even (or especially!) when my routine runs away from me. And my routine runs away from me quite a bit these days. We are still adjusting to being a mostly homebound family of four (six if you count the dog and cat, and I do), all living, learning and working together, often simultaneously. My words of wisdom are: start with whatever sliver of normalcy is sustainable (and comforting), but be ready to shift necessarily to the new normal/not so normal. With the emergency shift to remote teaching/learning, lots of folks have been talking about pivoting -- and that word applies to emergency emotional shifts, too. I think "pivot" might be my new professional and personal power word.

Mary Churchill, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

The last time either my 15-year-old son or I left our house/yard was March 12, and my husband has been here since March 13. So, almost three weeks, and I don’t anticipate leaving for another couple of weeks.

My top tips: 1-Stay healthy. For me that means focusing on sleep, eating fruits and vegetables, doing yoga, meditating and hitting 10,000 steps daily. 2-Trim the to-do list. While you might be tempted to add items, I recommend prioritizing and eliminating unnecessary items, lowering expectations and being realistic. 3-Have fun. That may sound impossible, but I’ve been enjoying dance parties on IG with DJ D-Nice, accessorizing my meetings with thematic Zoom backgrounds, wearing bright and colorful shirts, and trying to bring a little joy to everyday life.

Melissa Nicolas, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.

This is week three of staying at home. Besides my walks, the last time I was out of the house was about 10 days ago to go grocery shopping. I’m struggling with being homebound because I am someone who is (was) constantly on the go. We -- my husband, 13-year-old son and I -- are fortunate because we have enough computers and rooms for each of us to do our homework without getting in each other’s way. But I’m noticing that turning our home into an office is having the weird effect of making our home a little less homey. It’s hard to maintain a separation between work and home life when they are happening in the same space.

Some things that are keeping me sane: trying to stick to regular working hours, not checking email in the evening and minimally on the weekend, setting writing goals for each day, and relaxing my expectations for myself.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

I need to get some of those noise-canceling headphones to cut down on the background sounds of my sons and husband, not to mention the dog, who is rather frustrated that our time at home has not resulted in 24-7 attention for him. Rather than one long break in the middle of the day, I take lots of short breaks. I run downstairs and put in a few puzzle pieces between meetings several times a day, but I eat lunch at my desk. If and when the weather gets warm, then I suspect I will want to go sit on my patio for a leisurely lunch, but I definitely will have finished my current puzzle before that happens!

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