So much of what I do is possible through close collaboration with others. I've spent the better part of the last five years in a newsroom, and I have to say, the ability to spitball ideas on the fly is invaluable.
The office was also a place where I could go to work and — with years of training — leave it behind at the end of the day. My brain doesn't just stop thinking about work when the clock reads 5, but on the 45-minute drive home, at least I had the opportunity to decompress.
Is it weird that I miss my commute?
Spending 45 minutes in heavy Denver traffic used to drive me and my co-pilot Toro batty. And yes, my dog did come to the office with me every day.
But for the last six months, Toro, my fiancé and I have been working from home. This is nothing new to me. I used to work from home about once a week during my days at the Winona Daily News, but this has been different. I've never worked from home for this long.
The saving grace is the news business is fast paced. To be honest, it has been a welcome distraction from the pandemic, political upheaval, and a world on the edge. However, as much as it helps to stay busy, news is a double-edged sword. As a journalist, you can't really tune out the news, and the national news never seems to be all that great these days.
For almost half a year, I've been in this holding pattern: trying to stay busy, trying not to get overwhelmed by a world on fire. I mean that last bit both metaphorically and literally. As I write this, Colorado's western slope is ablaze.
No end in sight
Word of a Russian vaccine for COVID-19 entering production lifted my spirits this week. Who cares who cracked the code, if it means the world can start returning to some semblance of normalcy, right? Yet, in the back of my mind, I know it won't be so simple. The world we know will be forever changed by this painful episode of history.
I can't imagine blowing out the candles on a birthday cake or walking into a crowded bar ever again.
But still, news of any vaccine raised my spirits just in time to discover we wouldn't be returning to the office in 2020, and I suspect I won't be ringing in the new year from the office either.
Rationally, I know it isn't safe to head back to the office just yet, and I knew the tentative plans to return in mid-October were probably a little optimistic, but the prospect of spending another four months working from home was a lot to process.
I guess it's time to accept that this is my new normal. Am I the only one who's been living in denial these past six months?
Taking my home office seriously
Because I've just been going through the motions, I really haven't taken any steps to improve my working environment.
Sure, I've done the basics. I keep a pretty strict schedule; I only work late when I have to; I take my whole lunch break; and I try to stay active. Toro still needs to be walked after all.
And we have made some improvements. One of the most critical was to our home network. In June, we switched to a gigabit internet service and in short order swapped out our Google WiFi system for an enterprise router, switch, and a couple of access points we found on eBay. You can read about that whole ordeal here.
But there are some things that I've been putting off for far too long.
For example, I've been dragging a kitchen chair into our spare bedroom every morning. That might sound crazy, but when we moved into our place last year, we embraced a minimalist lifestyle and focused on spending as much of our days outside rather than cooped up indoors. Oh, the irony.
And our kitchen chairs did a fine job, as long as we weren't planting our butts in them for eight hours a day. They really aren't the most ergonomic. So, it's time for a change. I'm still not buying a desk chair though. Instead, I'll borrow one from the office — with permission of course.
A monitor will probably be finding its way into my shopping cart before long too. For a long time, a second monitor was more of a nice to have, but now maybe I can justify it. I'm trying to save for a wedding too though, so I'll have to convince my fiancé first. While I'm at it, I'll have to check and see if she's changed her mind about a Zoom wedding. If the answer is no, I guess I'll be borrowing two things from the office.
Bringing some life into our home.
Now that I'm working from home, I think I'll try my hand at keeping a plant or 10 alive for more than a week. House plants not only look good, but I guess they help purify the air too.
My parents kept a huge garden with two big raspberry patches when I was growing up, so, you'd think I'd be a natural at keeping plants alive. While I certainly spent a lot of time seeding, watering and harvesting plants, it seems my thumb turned black around the time I ran off to college.
Niecie thinks this is a fools errand and a waste of money, but to hell with it. I love greenery.
Even if I can turn my ink-stained thumbs green again, the real trick will be finding a few hearty house plants that won't kill my animals.
If you've got any suggestions for any animal-safe plants that my two cats and dog won't destroy in the first week, I'd love to hear them. So far, the cats have dispatched a majesty palm, and I've managed to overwater a money plant. I'm still holding out hope for this green thumb thing.
Some final thoughts
Despite these less-than-ideal working conditions, I realize that I'm lucky to have a job at all. Millions are out of work right now, and many more are struggling to make ends meet while they await much needed unemployment.
The coronavirus continues to plague the U.S. and many parts of the world. While you and I may be in a position to work from home, many including several close friends are considered essential workers and are putting their lives at risk every day in service to others.
If you haven't already, take some time to thank the essential workers in your life.
How has your WFH experience been? Share your thoughts in the comments below:
- How are you staying sane working from home these days?
- What tips or tricks can you share?
- What WFH blogs are you reading? All of the ones I've found seem to be focused on making money.
- Plants! Which ones should I get, and how can I stop my kitties from getting the munchies. Waking up to green goop is awful.
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