I haven’t been in my office since March 5th. I took my laptop, some books and notes, and went home. After three weeks, and increasing neck pain, my husband went in to my office and brought the computer monitor back home, and I set it up on my sewing table (after banishing my sewing machine to another room). And here I am, still working from home. I am happy that I can do my job from home, and that I have a flexible manager and lovely co-workers who have to take a larger share of all the campus-related activities, like interlibrary loans, staffing the circulation desk etc. There are a lot of upsides to working from home, other than NOT being infected with a potentially deadly virus, like less stress in the morning, less packed lunches, using my diesel fulled car less, and being able to get some dinner prep done during my lunch break. The afternoon just flows a little easier when everyone is fed before their blood sugar hit rock bottom.
Obviously, there are also some downsides to this working from home situation. I have, luckily, never been very concerned with a strict separation of work and leisure times, but even I can sometimes feel the strain now of this “always in or near my office” thing. The first few months I didn’t really think about it, but it is becoming more of an issue now that we are more inside all the time, too. March, even with all its sharp winds and shifting weather, was inviting you to get out. In November, with fog, rain, almost no daylight – not so much. I get this November gloominess more this year than I have before. Another issue is the lack of input. Jung said that no one is completely introvert or extrovert (without also being in a lunatic asylum – not very PC), nor am I, but I am much more of an extrovert than an introvert. Being with other people usually brings some energy and new impulses and ideas. Even though meetings online make up for some of this, it is not quite the same. Meetings online, for better and worse, are more structures. You show up at a given time and stick more to the agenda. This is mostly a good thing, but there is an x factor to the daily interaction with people face-to-face, too. Some of my better ideas have usually been born after an informal conversation with a friend or colleague. When I talk to them these days it is as a result of planning – you know, planning a meeting or making the action to pick up the phone. The serendipitous meetings are no more.
I have had a lot of projects going on this past year, and I have done quite a bit of writing since lock-down in March. Some of the projects are still going on, while others have been finished. But the last few weeks I have to admit that my concentration levels are lower. I start something, and work diligently for 45 minutes, but then I just sort of lose the thread of my thinking, and after trying more coffee or a piece of fruit, the energy is back, but I can’t get into the flow anymore. I have never had these issues before (thank goodness I am not studying for any exams at the moment!), and it is uncomfortable to be unable to concentrate for longer periods of time. I think these issues are connected to the lack of input, the lack of energy you get from being outside, the monotony of being alone at the home office – and maybe a little “concern fatigue” that comes from worrying about the pandemic and all its consequences.
To sum things up: I am glad to be able to work from home and to not have to worry about losing my job over it. I am happy to be able to have more time in the afternoon with my children, and very happy that I actually have a house and not a tiny apartment somewhere. I am very aware that I should count my blessings – and I do – and yet, I have to say that working from home also have its challenges, and after eight months I am starting to feel them.