In March 2020, when I received notification that Appalachian State University was pivoting to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that employees would immediately begin working from home, I packed up my computer expecting to be back in the office within a couple of weeks.
Over a year later, the dining room table is still serving as my “office;” however, I expect to be returning to campus this summer.
This has been my first time working from home, except for the occasional inclement weather day, so it’s been an adjustment. As the months blurred by, I discovered that working from home is both good and bad, with a little stir crazy thrown in.
I will also acknowledge that my routine has not been affected by kids or pets, since I have neither. I admire and respect those readers who have had their routines upended in this way. That being said, what has the experience taught me? It turns out, quite a bit.
Our house is not very large and lacks well placed outlets; therefore, setting up on the dining room table was my only option. Believe me, I tried to find another option. At one point, my husband, Roger, and I even talked about putting a tiny house in the yard to serve as another office space. Alas, we abandoned that idea once I heard that I was heading back to campus.
Roger already had a home office space, but even so, we’ve had to learn to share space in a new way. Some things have been nice — having breakfast together each morning and enjoying lunch on the deck in good weather — but there have been challenges. For example, Roger has had to walk through my “office” to get to the kitchen and/or front door and I’ve had to walk through his to get to the bathroom with all my stuff.
We’ve managed, but I do look forward to reclaiming the dining room table and using it for its intended purpose.
Hair and Makeup Shakeup
I previously had to (bitterly) drag myself out of bed around 5:30 a.m. to have time to complete my ablutions and leave the house by 7:30 a.m.
While working from home, I’ve been letting my hair air dry — something I’d avoided because my texture is a random mix of straight and wavy with a side of cowlicks — and not touching my hair dryer has saved time and made my hair healthier.
In addition, pre-COVID-19 my makeup routine included foundation, blush, bronzer, highlighting powder, eye liner and shadow, mascara, lip liner and lipstick, setting powder and a setting spray to finish. Whew!
Now, it’s been simplified down to powder and lipstick. Thanks to this shakeup and not having to commute to town, my morning alarm has been pushed back about an hour. I must say that I’ve relished the extra sleep!
Will I return to my old routine? That remains to be seen, but now that I know I can air dry my hair and go out with minimal makeup — without making children and random strangers shriek and/or flee in terror — it’s hard to imagine going back. Also, there’s that extra sleep I mentioned.
I never stopped getting “dressed” for work, and yes, this has included wearing real shoes. It’s been good for me to stick with this particular routine, because I feel more professional and more productive when I’m dressed up a little. Also, I like my work clothes and hated to see them moldering in my closet.
This does not mean, however, that I’ve been wearing suits or anything constrictive or uncomfortable. There has been some relaxing of my work attire — more denim and flowy dresses — and I’ve only worn flats. My office is not super dressy, so I expect this will continue when I go back. And, I wonder: Will I ever wear heels again? Probably, but also, probably nothing super high.
Check That List Twice
I haven’t missed the daily commute, which previously ate up an hour of my day. I’ve also not missed shoveling snow or driving in winter weather.
The downside is that while working from home, my trips to town have been few and sometimes, far between. This has meant no quick errands and/or trips to the grocery store and no spontaneous grabbing takeout for dinner. And, alas, there’s no food delivery where we live.
I’ve had to plan ahead and combine my errands with scheduled trips to town. I was already in the habit of making a weekly menu and grocery list, but I’ve had to double and triple check said list to make sure I haven’t forgotten some essential ingredient.
One of my favorite things about working from home has been sneaking in a chore or three during the day — laundry, dishes and more. This has also provided much needed “movement breaks” away from my computer and has freed up my weekends. An exception: It’s challenging to participate in Zoom meetings while the lawn is being mowed.
I’ll miss this and will be sad to see Saturdays revert back to chore day.
Namaste Every Day
Roger and I have been doing lunchtime yoga most days and this has been extremely beneficial for my wellness — physical and mental. I’m not ready to give this up and am determined to find a way to continue this practice once I’m back in the office.
In addition to yoga, we’ve taken advantage of the endless supply of exercise videos on YouTube. We’ve also prioritized getting outdoors for exercise, even in weather that I would have previously said was too cold. Our rule has been: if it’s sunny, we bundle and get outside. Except for when it’s been below 40 degrees; that’s too cold!
The Importance of Seeing Other People
While Roger and I enjoy each other’s company and have adapted well to being almost constantly together, we’ve still tried to occasionally see other people. I’ve encouraged Roger to meet his friends for disc golf and I’ve met mine for walks.
These little breaks have been crucial to keep us from going completely stir crazy.
In Sight, In Mind
Speaking of stir crazy, if out of sight is out of mind, the opposite is also true.
Being trapped at home, I started seeing things that I didn’t like about the house — mainly furniture. I’ve also wanted to rearrange entire rooms but have been prevented from doing so by the location of heating vents and/or outlets. Roger found random spots on the walls that he decided needed to be repainted.
In case you’re wondering, we did replace some furniture — two chairs and a futon mattress, and we purchased a new loveseat.
Back to Campus
As I approach the date when I have to return to campus, I’m feeling both anxious and excited. I know that being around other people — in person as opposed to on Zoom — will likely feel strange and unfamiliar at first. And, like a teenager on her first day of the school year, I’m suffering from outfit anxiety. What does one wear for one’s post-pandemic debut?