Working From Home

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It’s hard to believe that I have been, with the exception of two days when I had no internet compliments of Tropical Storm Isasis, working exclusively from home for almost six months. I was never an advocate of working from home full time, primarily because I thought it would be boring as hell, but I have to admit that I’ve changed my tune. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, but there are definitely more pros than cons with this arrangement.

PROS

No Commute:  I live more than thirty five miles from the office, and my one-way commute lasts between thirty five and forty-five minutes depending on the time of day I leave or return. If there is an accident along the way, add another thirty minutes to an hour to the drive depending on the severity of the wreck. Now all I have to do is get up, roll out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, grab a cup of coffee and fire up the laptop. All of that takes a whopping fifteen minutes.

More Sleep: In order to accommodate my early bird tendencies and desire to miss the morning and afternoon rush hours, I’d wake up at an insanely early hour. Now that this is no longer an issue, I get an hour’s extra sleep. That makes a big difference, although K still insists I’m still not getting enough rest.

More Productive: Not having to listen to the office politics and drama has both its good and bad points. The good part of it is there are less distractions, and I can work with less interruptions. It also reduces the annoyance factor because the office at times feels like a glorified Kindergarten class for adults, and I have no patience for that kind of shit.

Weight: The most shocking thing about this experience has been that I’ve actually lost close to fifteen pounds. Part of the reason for this loss must from the stress related to the anxiety related to selling out house, but a lot of it also has to do with less access to food. There are always a number of candy jars laying around the office that I would avail myself to at various times of the day, and there was often an event going on that involved food of some kind. There is none of that here, so my day time snacking has disappeared.

The View: As you can see from the photo that leads this post, I have an nice view outside the window next to the table I work from. It’s very soothing and Zen-like. All I have to do if I get stressed is take a deep breath, stare out the window and let my mind wander for a few minutes.  Back at the office, I didn’t have any view at all, and what was available whenever I’d venture away from my desk was a parking lot. No comparison there.

Every Day is Dress Down Day: My typical work attire was a suit and tie, which I never minded because that has been the routine for over thirty years. I have traded in the suit and tie for shorts and a t-shirt of some kind. On most days I don’t even wear socks. Even with the beard I would have to shave every day to get rid of the stubble on my neck and parts of my face if I were reporting to the office. Now I shave whenever I think of it, which isn’t very often.

It’s Cost Effective: My monthly gas and dry cleaning expenses averaged close to $300 pre-Covid. I haven’t spent a dime on dry cleaning since I’ve been home and at most I will fill my car’s gas tank twice a month. These two items alone have saved me over $230 a month. That adds up over time.

More Flexibility at Home:  If I need to run a quick errand I can. If I need to take a minute to help K with something I can. More can get accomplished that way which means there are less items to catch up on during the weekends.

THE CONS

It’s Isolating: Our worlds have shrunk and this arrangement shrinks them more.  I’ve never been a social butterfly, but I do miss being around the people I work with.

Not Being In the Loop: While not having to deal with the office politics and drama is a welcome respite, the other side of that coin is that you can learn a lot about what is going on in the organization and with some people in particular just by being around and paying attention. That is no longer possible, and while virtual staff meetings can fill some of that gap, it isn’t the same as being a fly on the wall and listening when other folks aren’t aware you’re around.

Longer Hours: Even though I sleep more, the time that would be spent commuting is now spent working. There’s nothing wrong with that as there is plenty of work to fill the time, but is interesting how I have added five work hours on average to my week since I’ve been home.

A “Longer” Day: There is no way around this one. The day seems to pass by more quickly when I am in the office compared to when I am home. It doesn’t drag, but it doesn’t fly by either.

Family Politics: If something happened at home I’d be insulated from it at the office. That is obviously no longer the case, and even though you try not to pay attention to anything that comes up during the course of a day, it’s hard to ignore. And sometimes it is hard to put it out of your mind.

 

I suspect this arrangement will be the norm for at least another six months, as I don’t envision a vaccine, or at least one that works compared to one that is politically expedient,  being available any sooner than that. As an immunocompromised person, there are no expectations to consider returning to the office until that day comes.

Be that as it may, I suspect that certain organizations and industries will have learned they can be as productive with people working from home. Not only that, not having to rent or lease office space will improve their bottom lines, so these alternative work arrangements are here to stay in my opinion.

Regardless, I’m converted. I don’t ever see myself returning to the office full time whenever it is safe to venture outside without restrictions. Twice a week is more than enough.

 

 

 

My Shrinking World

World

I’ve been working exclusively from home for over a month. It doesn’t feel that long, but in other ways it feels like it has been forever.

I’m fortunate to work for a very forward thinking healthcare system. A few years ago our department leadership saw the day when we would run out of office space, and also the need to be flexible in terms of where people work to make itself an attractive place for college grads entering the work force. Thus emerged the Alternate Work Arrangement initiative, which was the catalyst to getting folks wired so they could work from home. It certainly has served us well when the virus hit and we had to transition a lot of people from the office to their homes.

While I was never an advocate for or desired working home full time, I did dip my toe into the water by working home one day a week. I enjoyed not having the daily commute where the round trip took between an hour and a half to two hours. I also enjoyed rolling out of bed, making some coffee, and working in my sweats. I didn’t have to get up as early to get to the office at my desired time, and finished the work day at home a lot earlier too.

When the reality of what was coming was irrefutable, I was glad to have been set up for a remote location and have taken to it like a duck to water. The only downside was that my world began to shrink considerably. But I have to admit,  I enjoyed spreading my stuff out on the kitchen table, and enjoyed the casualness of working from home. I still do.

However, the recent flood forced me to reorganize the work place at home because my mother in law is living in the big open area that includes the living room, where she sleeps, and the kitchen. I removed a table and the rolling office chair that went with it from downstairs, deposited it into a  corner of my bedroom,  and parked my laptop upon it.

Every morning now, I literally crawl out of bed, throw on some sweats, brush my teeth, shuffle over to the kitchen to make my coffee, then head back to the bedroom to pull the table and chair away from the corner and get to work. This takes all of maybe seven minutes.

It’s a more comfortable set-up, and the view, which you can see from the picture that leads this post, is much nicer than anything I can look at from the office back at the mother ship, but my shrinking world has become even smaller. Other than occasionally going to the bathroom and kitchen, I am there from about 5:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. I enjoy the new house and my new work space, but sometimes it feels like a glorified prison.

The psychology behind self-isolation is a weird thing. It’s a necessary evil, but we are more alone than ever. I don’t know about you, but being alone with my thoughts isn’t always a good thing, especially now. How can you not wonder where this will all lead, and what things will look like on the other side? When this all started, I firmly believed, and still do, that someone who is near and dear would perish from it, and there was a good possibility who this person was would turn out to be a complete surprise. So far, I know one person who I believe has the virus (not tested but has symptoms and is self-quarantined). Thankfully, he seems to be doing well. I have not been near him since that time. A good friend of ours who is a nurse was exposed at work due to a colossal management fuck-up that from the way she describes it is negligent at best and borderline criminal at worst. K and I worry about her.

It is hard not to feel alone even when I venture to the store. Social distancing requires us to give everyone a wide berth, so if I see someone I don’t know heading in my direction I turn the other way. And when I see someone I do know, I make sure I’m at least ten feet away from them. How can anyone feel connected to anything under those circumstances? When I do go to the store, it’s at 6AM on Saturday mornings, when practically nobody is there, so even these chance meetings are infrequent.

Most of the news is bad, so I have sworn off watching news programming of any kind, getting my information via the print media instead, which only creates a different kind of isolation. Because of the MS and how it affects my walking, I can’t go for an easy outside stroll, or visit state parks, the beaches or nature preserves. I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the plight of many with MS who have had lived like this for a long time because their disabilities make it hard to do otherwise.

I can’t explain why this came as a surprise, but isolation is also boring as hell, so I’m trying to cope in a variety of ways. Other than pouring myself into my work more than usual, I am also working out a lot more. I try to get outside at least once a day to breathe real air. The good stuff on Netflix, Amazon and all those services is really limited, even thought there is tons of stuff to see. I’ve refused to watch dramas because there is too much drama in real life as it is, and there are no sports. So I’ve reverted to watching a lot of documentaries.

I’m also drinking more. Not a lot mind you, and certainly nothing to be concerned about, but where before that was something that was reserved for weekends, a can of beer or glass or wine has become an every night kind of thing, along with the MMJ. On weekends I’ll indulge and have a vodka (or whiskey) and seltzer (or two). And there have been nights where I have made sure I was numb to anything and everything.

Whatever has been preying on my mind never seems as terrible with a buzz-on. It also helps me stop thinking about shit I don’t want to think about, at least most of the time. It is hard to think about happy things when the world around you is turning into shit, so this becomes an emotional crutch.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this, so I can’t help but wonder if there going to be a lot more people with substance abuse issues compared to before this started.

Life has become routine and predictable: Get up, work, work out, have dinner, clean up, take a shower, have something to drink and toke/eat, watch television, then get up the next day and do the same exact thing. Just like the subject of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender,” I sometimes feel like a happy idiot, struggling for the legal tender.

On weekends, add house cleaning, whatever outside stuff that needs to be done, and a trip to the store, but those diversions don’t change the fact that we have become solitary, secluded beings out of necessity, and it isn’t fun.

Each day and week that goes by deepens the feeling of my detachment from the world. At least I have a spouse that I adore and can hang with, but that doesn’t prevent the feeling of separation from everything I know from building and deepening every day and week this continues. I can’t imagine how this will feel in another month or two.

All we can fall back on is that we are doing the right thing. The short-term sacrifice will help hasten the spread of this thing and save lives in the process (unless the Federal Government continues to downplay the severity of this), so how can anyone bitch about that?

Still, I sometimes feel like the incredible shrinking man, whose only connection to the world outside of my family unit are the words on texts or the voices on the phone. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but it’s better then nothing.

We will all be changed when this is over. Only time will tell if that is for the better or worse.