It started like any other Friday morning, uneventful and quiet. The air was thick with the promise of the peace weekends are known for. The coffee that morning was strong and thick like maple syrup. Honestly, that Friday morning passed like so many others in their own placid way. But by noon, a storm had come ashore.
All morning, a flurry of rumors had been brewing on the other side of the world. Thousands of miles away an unimaginable disaster was unfolding. It was as if we had traveled back to 1918.
Throughout that morning there were rumblings — like distant thunder — of concerns. Nothing seemed certain anymore. The tension was so thick we could have cut it with a knife, but a feeling of uncertainty had blunted that knife’s edge. Amid this downpour of information the one thing that struck me as odd was this happened on Friday, March 13.
All of this came to a head — at light speed — when my employer announced at 3 p.m. that it would close to the public due to the spread of COVID-19 in America. The closure would start at 5 p.m. that day. All we could do was go home and wait to hear more. I thought I’d be back Monday morning as usual. There is no more usual.
Late that Sunday, I learned that I would be working remotely on Monday and that more information would follow. Monday came quickly. I set up at my kitchen table with only my personal laptop and cell phone. This was my new office.
So, how have I navigated these uncharted waters? Carefully, and with all the tools I can find to ease this sudden change. The last time I went to the office was Tuesday, March 17. It was like entering a cemetery, oddly quiet and certain.
Honestly, this has been great in more ways than it’s been bad. I am working from home full time now. That is something I’ve wished for like a small child wishes at Christmas. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. I don’t set an alarm as early as I did before. This means less of the buzzing, ringing, invasive mechanical steward policing my consciousness. My wife and I are also enjoying daily hot breakfasts and second cups of coffee. It’s nice, really nice.
And while there’s something to be said for not needing socks to work, this shift has required some quick thinking, moving and adjusting. Here’s a brief look at two of those things.
The first thing is space. We rent a sixth-floor one-bedroom apartment in downtown Portland. While this allots us great views of the sea-faded brickwork that is Portland, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for an office. So how do we deal with this small, yet comfortable, arrangement? Keeping my work to the kitchen table — and between the hours of 9 and 5 — helps. Headphones help keep the sounds of meetings separate. Taking an actual lunch break, and a coffee break, and snack breaks and pet-the-cats-breaks helps manage the space.
The other major requirement is technology. My work provides a laptop for my use — thankfully. But something that I never fully appreciated was the need for an actual mouse. Without one my wrist cramps as if someone crocheted my tendons into mittens. WI-FI, good lighting, comfortable furniture, pens and on and on are all helpful. The idea is to build a miniature and mobile office. One that has everything you need but can be put away for Friday night pizza.
Overall, the past few weeks have been many things. This time has been interesting, unusual, strange, uncertain and even a little scary. Amid all of this, it’s important to remember that being safe, healthy and working from home is a fortunate way to be. We’ll continue to do what we can. We’ll get through this, together.