Here’s a helpful guide to dressing for success while we’re still working from home.
It’s been about a year since COVID-19 started making itself felt here. Patient Zero landed in Everett on January 18. It took a while, but by late February we started sensing that this could impact our lives. Assisted living facilities started experiencing the terrible toll first. Soon schools began worrying about COVID cases. On March 4, 2020, I was working from home when Benji’s school called: Someone at the school had tested positive for COVID, and they were sending all the kids home for a few weeks.
Today I had the most epic “the chaos of working from home” moment of this entire pandemic.
Before you can appreciate the chaos of the experience, let’s take minute to envision my typical day working from home. I have office space in our spare bedroom, while Ian retreats to his own man-cave office for the workday. Benji interrupts me frequently, particularly during school days, but also I often get 30- to 90-minute stretches of uninterrupted time when I can focus.
During those stretches, I really appreciate the superiority of my home office compared with my cubicle at work. Most of all, when nobody interrupts me, I work in a fairly quiet environment, not hearing constant distracting background conversations nearly as much as in the office. I play music on speakers, sparing my ears the experience of eight hours of earbuds.
I started to write, “It’s hard to believe, but we’ve done second grade remotely for four months already.” To be honest, though, I can hardly believe that only four months have passed. It feels more like a year.
We have all the advantages that should make remote schooling a success: A space and device dedicated to our child’s school, two work-from-home parents, an excellent internet connection, a devoted and engaged teacher, and a child who adapts to technology easily.
Despite all these advantages, remote schooling feels like a slow slide to failure. I don’t know if it’s his personality, his age, the situation, or some combination, but tracking and completing all his work eludes our child. He drops off Zoom calls early, loses physical papers, and avoids asynchronous work. He wants to play with his toys or with us, and “finishes” assignments with the minimal amount of work, not trying his best, just minimally touching it so he can say he’s done and can move on.
If I had to pick out one theme for our four days of Thanksgiving celebration, I couldn’t do much better than my child repeating “I can’t wait one more second” at decreasing intervals for hours. It really encapsulates the impatience, the demandingness, and the frequency of repetition that truly has driven me to the brink over this alleged holiday.
When I heard my coworkers talking today about their “calm,” “relaxing,” “chill” long weekends spent watching movies, having a weekend away, maybe going out for walks or otherwise leisurely enjoying the weather, I felt like I had entered some strange parallel universe. Could they truly be talking about the same weekend I had just endured? “Frustrating,” “trying,” and “high-stress” would more accurately reflect my experience. Certainly I returned to work more exhausted, run-down, and hopeless than when I left for the long weekend — and that’s saying something, given how I was doing before.
One of the things I find most fascinating (and personally relevant) about this pandemic is how each individual judges their risk of contracting COVID-19. As a rule, human beings are terrible judges of risk in today’s world. Our risk assessment ability evolved at a time when risks were pretty straightforward: Is the tiger chasing me? RUN AWAY NOW or die. We’re not well equipped to decide whether flying on an airplane, eating Thanksgiving with family members, or going for a walk with a friend could infect us with an invisible disease that can take up to two weeks to manifest itself — if it manifests any symptoms at all.