What alternating weeks between working in the office and working remotely was like for me
I count myself lucky to be one of many essential employees still able to work and collect a paycheck while most are hunkered down in their homes during this COVID-19 stay at home order.
As a graphic designer, I’m fortunate to be able to perform my job with few hiccups while working from my living room. But while most of my coworkers are at home, there are a few of us still required to come into the office for various reasons. I am one of those workers.
Having split my time between working remotely and in-office during a pandemic, I’ve experienced both sides of the situation. Here’s what dual work environments looked like for me:
View from the Homefront:
Time flies when you’re having fun (or does it?)
Working from home affords me a little more time in the morning since I’m not necessarily putting on makeup or curling my hair. I noticed with this time savings that it was much easier for me to start work a little earlier (at least a half an hour) rather than scrambling to make it through the door at work on time.
Imagine my frustration when the early bird didn’t get the worm just because my Internet kept dropping my remote connection. The moment I found myself connected again, even the simplest tasks were taking forever. My work on the screen seemed to be constantly buffering. Once the lag stopped, whatever I meant to move slightly now leaped to the opposite side of the page. By lunchtime, I had decided it was just best to head into the office.
I really miss my three screens
I have one 24” monitor at home. At work I have one monitor that keeps Slack and Outlook open at all times. Screen two is where most of my focus remains during the day – InDesign is open and Photoshop and Illustrator are minimized on this one. Screen three has Chrome with multiple tabs open with essentials such as Asana and Shutterstock, just to name a few. I am used to working this way every day. When I work at home though, I don’t have that luxury. I either have to minimize everything that I’m not working on at the moment, or get real creative in how I resize and rearrange panels so that just one click brings the one I need to the forefront.
I don’t have a comfortable chair at home
The first week I worked from home I pulled up my dining room chair to my computer. This option was way too low. I felt like a little kid in need of a high chair. Next, I stole a wooden stool from the kitchen island. The height was better, but not ideal. Now I was perched a bit higher than I would have liked, but it would suffice. It didn’t take long for me to be reminded that I was sitting on a wooden stool – not the padded, high back chair back in the office. By lunch my tushy was numb and I had a slight hunchback.
Chaos breaks my concentration
At the office, random door slams or noisy equipment are generally the only things that startle me in an otherwise quiet environment. Working at home opened up a world of other distractions, namely my two dogs. I can’t count the number of times I yelled at them to be quiet. My 15-month old is in his crate. My 13-year old is roaming free and venturing too close to Jr.’s territory. All heck breaks loose and I hear growls. Did I mention they don’t really get along? Now imagine being on a conference call and forgetting to hit Mute and realizing everyone can hear the ‘call of the wild’ in the background!
My home printer is laughable
I regret losing my patience with our color printer at work. It works effortlessly compared to my old HP printer at home. Who knew duplexing would be such a big deal? And boy did I miss 12×18 paper! I found printing a large size document to an 8.5×11 sheet of paper extra challenging.
First of all, my printer slowly chugged out one sheet of paper. I mean sl..o…w……ly. Then I looked down only to see a very faint indication of what was supposed to be there. When a project is a rush, it’s not the most ideal time to suddenly remember that we needed to buy more ink cartridges. Thank goodness for the designers in the office who could retrieve the printouts I sent there, because I had to rely on them to check it for me.
View from the Office:
When I worked from home, I found so many instances where I missed my routine in the office. The times I was in the office, I found myself hoping the day went by quickly so I could return to the safety of home. When I return to the office, I am not only an essential employee but a frontline worker. I am acutely aware that every time I leave the house now, I am opening myself up to more health risks. It’s a sobering realization that introduces anxiety and paranoid behaviors into my day.
New safety procedures
As soon as I enter the building, I am sanitizing my hands. There are alcohol prep packets strategically placed in every area that is commonly shared by many. I’ve become obsessive/compulsive. Wipes are in my pocket and go everywhere with me. If leave my desk, when I return I immediately sanitize my hands.
Once I clock in, I have to take my temperature and record the reading. I am lucky to have an oral thermometer at home and routinely checked my temp even before I came into work. But I still repeat the process once I am in the office.
After the first week, a spray bottle of alcohol was added to the mix. Its purpose was to spray down any common work surfaces, as well as the plastic that housed each job ticket’s pertinent information. The idea was that before that ticket was passed onto another person, it would be sanitized.
I sprayed, wiped, and sanitized so much during the course of the day that hand lotion became my new best friend.
My assigned work became secondary
Rather than concentrating solely on my job tasks, myself and the one or two other people in the Digital Services department found ourselves spending more time accommodating the designers and sales reps working remotely. Now that I was in the office, I got a sense of what it was like to be the “eyes” for the person at home who needed to be certain the job they printed was received and that nothing looked out of place.
In the office, we were scrambling to ensure every procedure that was the norm prior to COVID-19 was still being followed. We filled out the proper paperwork for each job, and made sure to print out and document every email thread pertaining to it. Remembering to complete the checklists for our own jobs was hard enough, now we were keeping track of other designer’s jobs as well. Because of all the interruptions, work we could have easily completed within hours was now a stop-and-go work in progress that took all day to complete.
The upside to this abnormal work environment was that the day went by quickly. The downside was once I got home I was ready for bed!
Social distancing challenges
In the main office area, there were only a handful at most working each day. Our workstations are pretty spread out, and a wall separates me from my closest coworker. However, the production area held the greatest concentration of workers and they faced long hours in closer proximity. The demand of printing and mailing quarterly financial statements in the usual timely manner was greater than ever now, especially since many of our customers were also working from home. Yet somehow, we all managed to overcome obstacles and still get the work out as expected!
What was work like for you?
Do you have anything you’d like to share about your experiences of either working at home or being a frontline worker for an essential business? We’d love to hear from you!
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