Well we’ve all experienced quite a change in the last two weeks. Many of us have either started or been working remotely, trying to work on projects in a new work space, get ready for classes, and just generally staying on top of things. Last week, I began to work from home and while the transition was generally easy, I have to say that many of my new coworkers are whiny, unreasonable, and don’t respect personal space. While this does sound like a nightmare regularly, many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. But I guess that’s what happens when you work with a five and three year old!
Working from home has been relatively easy this last week: I have my workstation set up, I have relative solitude, and all of my files are on the cloud so it is easy to continue my ongoing projects. Likewise my institution has been expanding online teaching options for years, so our online teaching infrastructure is very solid. However, it is not without problems: my wireless network is for personal, not work use, and the expanded need for broadband has made certain tasks very difficult. For instance, Blackboard collaborate has not only been a problem for me but for my students. Luckily we have a number of fallbacks available including VidGrid, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom if needed. I have been making due and we’ll see how the students like these new experiences.
Unfortunately it is impossible and impractical to pretend that work continues as usual. These disruptions would be difficult in the most neutral of environments; they are certainly made more difficult by being around my children, who while relatively respectful of my need to work, are still children and don’t fully understand why I’m in front of my computer all the time (in fact, as I write this, my youngest son keeps yelling at me to watch how Humpty Dumpty falls and to watch out for the hot lava). While it is enjoyable to be around my kids so much, at certain times I need to just tell them to leave me alone!
Yet even when the leave me alone it is impossible to ignore them completely. My wife works at home by taking care of our children regularly, and she has tried to maintain “normal operations” while I’m around. Just like my work schedule is interrupted so is hers, and there is really nothing that either of us can do about it. It is entirely counterintuitive to ignore my children fighting or crying, even if I were so inclined to and even though my wife has kindly asked me to (no joke). My parental instincts kick in so that I go out to see what is going on and help resolve the situation with as little tears as possible (I won’t say whether it is the children’s’ or mine…) but which causes interference with my routine, my wife’s routine, and my children’s’ routine.
I hope I don’t come off sounding like I’m complaining: I am incredibly happy that I have a job where I can work from home at almost 80% effectiveness, especially considering the state of many other career situations. Similarly, being around my wife and children during this time has been quite calming and reduced my stress tremendously. But with all of those good qualities it is important to admit that the situation in relation to my work is at best a constant distraction and at worst an outright inconvenience: it would be much easier to be in my office right now. I hope to be back there soon, but until then I will work with my “coworkers” as best as I can. I hope that everyone reading this is safe and healthy, and that things return to “as normal as possible” very soon. Take care!