Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic and working from home

The novel coronavirus has turned this year upside down with a pandemic. Starting the coming Monday, we all decided to work from home to minimize human interactions. We are not sure when we will go back to work from the office. I have rarely worked from home except during my MSc/Ph.D. days. So this period brings me back my memories.

Although I have worked from home rarely during the past ~2 years in Atlanta, those were often only a day in a few months. Since this time is going to be a continuous long-term work from home, I decided to set up some own self-policies to ensure I work a sufficient amount of time, while also not overworking. With deadline-induced panic, during my Ph.D. days, I have overworked at times, like 60 hours non-stop with no sleep in between once. But then I also had more flexibility to take days off following such stints. It was well-balanced. But now, we are preparing for an outbreak. I will keep these personal work hours policies updated with amendments if the work-from-home drags on for a long time.

Personal work hour policies during the work-from-home era of the Coronavirus pandemic

I made these policies to emulate my work habits as if I am working from my actual office.

1. Work from a specific "office" area at home
My "home office."
Today I brought back my office laptop home. I have a home laptop with all the stuff I needed to do my office work configured. But, since this is going to be a long time, I will work only on my office laptop during work hours. I have also set up our dining table as my office table. My other laptop table remains in my room with my personal laptop on it.

2. Use the office laptop for office work only.
I will use it for work only, and everything else on my personal laptop. Conversely, I won't use my own laptop to do office work during these days.

3. Wake up and work at the same time as usual
Every day I arrive at work at 7:25 a.m. and leave at 4:45 p.m. I will continue the same work hours during these days. Similarly, during the weekdays, I will continue to wake up at the same time (6 a.m).

4. No music
I like to listen to music. Mainly Romanian, Chinese, and Indian music. But I never listen to music at work (except with an exception during my time in Saudi Arabia where I used music and an earphone to combat the background noise). I like quiet environments to work. My apartment is quiet, especially given that currently, I am home alone. I will maintain it by not introducing any music.

5. No Twitter
Twitter is the only active social media I currently use. I will not use Twitter except during lunchtime while I am working at home. Although I still check Twitter once in a while at work from my office, I will avoid that when I work from home to avoid getting dragged into a long conversation. These days, with the pandemic and panic going on, it is easy to lose track of time on Twitter.

6. Wear proper clothes 
When I am working from home, I will wear regular clothes, instead of working in underwear.

7. No alcohol
I always have some alcohol in my fridge. I am not addicted. I drink when I want to. I am very alcohol-tolerant. But as a practice, I won't drink during my work hours. 

8. Follow the lunch timing
Usually, I cook during the evenings after work for my dinner and lunch the next day. I pack the lunch for the next day in a lunch box so that I can use the microwave to heat it. I will continue this practice, rather than trying to cook during lunch hours.

9. No personal calls
Unless it is a quick one. Typically, I do not make calls from the office since there is no place to make calls from. That means, lack of privacy, and if I did make a call that would disturb others.

10. Make random meaningless coffee-time video calls to my colleagues
This one actually depends on my colleagues. If they do not agree, this won't work. :P I like people - I am an extrovert since 2012. I do not want to be away from humanity for too long. At work, we often make our small fun activities, like making poems and talking nonsense. It is nice to continue the tradition. These calls are not the same as the progress meetings or weekly standups. Those meetings have a purpose.

11. Go for coffee with colleagues
In case of a severe outbreak, this would break the purpose of working from home. But I think at least for now, a coffee walk with my colleagues who live close by is not a big problem (as long as they are up for that). At work, we often go for coffee at least once a week.

12. Track how everything goes
I just want to work as usual. Not to work slower or not to work to death. I still estimate we have 2 more weeks of regular life. But if things get worse by then, we need to be ready for a bumpy ride.

This year so far has been horrible. Previously 2016 and 2007 were the only two years I felt hopeless. This pandemic and some other problems made my 2020 go bad. But today, I met my mentor, and her positive words made me optimistic again. I believe we all will overcome this pandemic together. Whatever that doesn't wipe the humanity off the earth, will make us stronger.

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