As I am writing this post at the end of March, it’s been more than a year since my university campus closed due to COVID-19, and I’ve been working from home ever since. In this post, I wanted to share with you my main insights from a year of working from home – for those of you who work from home more often under all circumstances, for those who are still working from home because of the pandemic, and for those of you who are considering a combination between working in the office and working from home in a post-pandemic world (and, for my own reflective practice).
My main insights from working from home are the following:
- It’s easy to let work bleed into the entire day and the weekend. With the physical boundaries between work and life removed, it’s easy to let work bleed into the entire day, as well as into the weekend. Even though I was juggling parenting and work at the beginning of the pandemic, and work with homeschooling later in the pandemic, and now have the help of my mother-in-law to see my daughter during the day, my childcare situation is reduced as compared to pre-pandemic times. Yet, I’ve put in more hours in 2020 than any year before. My workload has increased, and I’ve allowed work to take my early mornings, my entire day, my evening, and my weekend. I worked 361 days out of 365 in 2020 on my computer (according to my RescueTime stats), and I know that this lifestyle is not sustainable and does not do me any good.
- An investment in your gear goes a long way. In this year of working from home, I got some additional furniture, I took my new university desktop computer home (in March 2021, so I did spend most of the year working on my old laptop), I got a pretty planner and a nice agenda, some decoration for my desk, and an aromatherapy diffuser. I got a better chair for my husband. Having these things around me has made my work environment more pleasant, and it’s been worth the investment, since I have been in the same spot every day.
- Breaks are important. I have started to include a morning break, a lunch break, and an afternoon break into my schedule. I am using my morning break to go for a quick walk, my lunch break to prepare my lunch, eat, and sometimes listen to something inspiring, and then my afternoon break to do a quick yoga class or go for another walk (while listening to an audio book). Perhaps I will miss these activities when I’m back in my university office.
- A bit of variety can help dissociate activities. I’ve been trying to see which activities I can do on my desktop, my laptop, my tablet, and my phone. Switching device, even though I’m still staring at a screen, helps me to bring at least a bit of variety in my day. On my desktop, I do most of my work. On my laptop, I do my early morning writing and sometimes my Zoom calls. On my tablet, I do marking up of PDFs and reading – often in a different place of the house or even outside. On my phone, I can listen in to Zoom calls and webinars and go for a walk at the same time.
- Sometimes, I need a day without Zoom. I was so excited about having a day without Zoom that I blogged about it. It made me realize that I need to block time off from my calendar to have one day a week without Zoom. It doesn’t work every week, but I’m trying my best to keep my Tuesdays Zoom-free.
- Values can help my activities align with a deeper sense of fulfillment. in the midst of loss and grief, I’ve learned this year that the best motivator for me is to align my values with my work. I’ve included a modules on the future of concrete construction in my course, which addresses how structural engineers can work towards a more sustainable future. As I feel rather pessimistic about the future of our planet and the disastrous impact of climate change on the stability of societies, I feel that bringing this topic to my classroom (or the Zoom-version thereof) brings more purpose to my teaching. Similarly, one of my core values in life is compassion – and the ability to be compassionate towards my students and colleagues means much more to me than writing just another paper.