One year ago, on March 17, 2020, I went into the office knowing it would be my last day there for a little awhile. We had been discussing the Coronavirus pandemic for a few weeks, updating our emergency plan, following state guidelines, and now finally being told that office personnel should work from home until further notice. As a medical device manufacturer, we still had essential personnel on-site because our cardiovascular (and other) devices would still be needed, but most of the support staff would be able to do our jobs remotely.
I worked most of that morning trying to clean up loose ends, meeting in person with people for the last time, and then around noon I packed up my laptop, extra monitor, a few files and a notebook, so I could head home in time to do my first remote conference call that afternoon. I remember looking back at my desk feeling like it was one of those situations where decades later someone
will come in and see the office completely abandoned, as if the occupants ran out in a hurry and never looked back. I actually felt like I was about to walk away and never return. I realize how silly that was since we assumed it was only going to be for a few weeks.
Boy, was I wrong!
As I mentioned, leading up to this day our senior leadership spent weeks preparing for what could happen. Our state had already announced the kids would be home from school until March 20th, then that kept getting pushed out. Our office assumed we would be working from home for maybe three weeks (this was a mandate from the corporate office, so no one knew exactly when they would give the guidance to return). Looking back at my old emails, I saw all of my responses said "since I will be (temporarily) working from home, we will be doing this over video call..." Eventually over time I started removing the "temporary".
When I got home that day, I set myself up on the couch, reclined with an extra large lap desk on my legs, and my laptop and extra monitor propped on top. I did my first conference call without a headset so my husband sat on the other side of the sectional watching tv on mute. Three hours, and two aching legs later, I realized this was not an ideal set up. I eventually moved to the dining room table. I took that over for weeks and once my son started up remote schooling, I forced him to sit across from me so I could watch him do his work (all independent assignments at this time), while I did mine. As a feisty 6th grade boy, he took advantage of those times I was preoccupied on calls and would announce "all done!" then close his Chromebook and run upstairs to his Xbox, while I couldn't protest or chase after him for fear of missing something important on my call. It was very stressful, but I kept telling myself it was going to get better once he got into a routine.
Yup, wrong again!
One year later and I am counting down the days until he goes back to school in person full-time (2 more weeks to go)! It has not been easy for working parents that are trying to oversee schoolwork as well. As for my own work, I have adjusted very well to working from home. Eventually I moved my workspace from the dining room table to a desk in the upstairs hallway, although video calls can be a little more challenging with the bathroom door as my background (that only proved to be a really bad idea once). I have been more productive and not as distracted as I feared I would be. It has actually been hard to separate work and home time, since it is pretty easy to jump on the laptop as I walk by my desk in the hallway. I was supposed to take some "use or lose" time off last week, but since I had no place to go, I ended up logging on anyway and working a full day. I have been in the office about a dozen times over the year and it's nice to see my co-workers, but it is definitely an eerie feeling when I am the only person in my area and there isn't the buzz of phone conversations or meetings. Everything was just as I left it, but there wasn't a thick layer of dust and debris as I had imagined there would be. No indication of a mass exodus, just an odd sense of calm. I am not ready to go back to the office full time just yet, but it will be nice to get back to normal eventually.
How can a lot change in a year, yet not much change at all? When I am back on site full time again will it feel like we have all woken up from a long sleep? I actually fear it may take me longer to readjust to the place I spent every weekday for 11 years than it did to adjust to the last 365 days at home.....
And I probably should have taken my plant with me a year ago......