I suspect that March 2020 will be a defining point in our personal and professional histories. Among all the other transitions, one thing that changed for many of us was a shift to working at home. My day changed from a commute to our office on a university campus to a commute up the stairs to my home workspace. While I recognize that everyone’s situation is distinct, here are some of the things I learned.
Having a clearly delineated space to work is important for me. The short commute up the stairs is a way for me to set limits on my workday. When I am at my desk, I focus on my tasks and when I walk downstairs at the end of the day my workday is over (mostly). If I had kept my computer on the kitchen table, I would have been way more tempted to work evenings and weekends on a regular basis. This habit keeps my work from bleeding into all areas of life.
Within this boundary, I also allow myself some flexibility in my schedule that I didn’t feel when working at the office. While working around the multitude of Zoom calls, I occasionally start work an hour or so late because I want to take a walk in the morning, go pick up a London Fog or sometimes just go to Costco when the lineups are not crazy long (or maybe because I watched Netflix too late the night before). Once the weather warmed up and the snow melted, I would occasionally take an extended lunch break to go for a bike ride. I can then catch up on the “missed” time later that day or another day. It feels like a treat to do these things on a workday!
I’m not sure what your typical day is like, but pre-Covid, I’d get to the office in the morning and not get any fresh air again until I walked to my car at the end of the day. And most days I’d throw my lunch in the microwave and eat at my desk. Since working at home, I usually eat my lunch on my deck. I live downtown and there is always lots to watch while lunching. The fresh air, sunshine and change in environment are good for my soul.
We have a small staff: if we are all in the office on the same day, you can count us all on one hand and still have leftover fingers! Pre-Covid, even on those days when we were all on-site at the same time, we didn’t always use this time to connect with each other. The opportunity was there, but we didn’t take advantage of it regularly. Since we all began working from home, we have been consistently holding Zoom meetings. We keep each other up to date on our work, offer assistance and feedback to each other, and together brainstorm ways to do our work in the new context. In addition, we begin each meeting with a “check-in” time using a different question or prompt each time (not just “how are you doing?”). Through these conversations, we have connected with each other in ways we hadn’t done before. Despite the distance (or in our case, because of the distance), we as a staff feel more united and spend more time engaging in purposeful and intentional conversations.
Lastly, I bought flowers. The week that everything went remote, I began buying three batches of flowers every Saturday. One I dropped off for my mom, one I gave to someone different each week, and the last one was for my desk. Those flowers brightened up my office space and gave me joy at a time when things were so challenging. But now that I think about it: buy flowers for yourself, regardless of where you are working!
Working remotely certainly has its challenges, but I have found some ways to create healthy rhythms that are allowing me to sustain my focus and enthusiasm for the work God has called me to do at this time. I wonder how I can continue these rhythms when I return to the office. I wonder how you can carry your own healthy rhythms back to your school or workplace when you return. And I wonder if I can find a batch of sunflowers somewhere!
Note: This article was originally published in November 2020.