Designing from a Distance: 365 Days of Work from Home

Today is March 17th, 2021 which marks for me a year since I have started working remotely full-time due to COVID-19. As I reflect on my last 365 days, I thought I would share some of my experiences and lessons learned with you all!

Before I start, I wanted to mention my general situation. As my partner is in healthcare, I am typically home alone with our dog most days, so what has worked for me may not work for your personal situation.

Virtually Connecting

Through the past year, I have learned how to connect with folks virtually and am still learning!

There was a learning curve as our Bridge group got used to sharing screens and communicating virtually, but I think we have gotten into a great workflow. Before March 2020, our group was casually starting to use Microsoft Teams, but with the work from home, we began to rely on this tool even more. For example, we have started to use to share tips like how to used the “Read Aloud” Function for Word Documents and emails like shown in the photo below:

Our group’s Fun Committee has also created a bunch of prompts about new hobbies we have taken up during the work from home and other things like Super Bowl picks contest. These small posts have definitely helped us all feel connected while still working remotely.

New Habits and Routines

Over the past year, I have established new routines that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to use in the typical office. The first is listening to music out loud which I talked about during my post about Transition to Work From Home During COVID-19 Crisis, but there have been many other positives! I have started to use my Google Home Mini to set timers so that I can set it and forget it! There are a lot of awesome things that the Google Home Mini can do and would be happy to put together a seperate post just on that if anyone is interested!

More by necessity, I have also decreased my reliance on printing. I used to heavily rely on printing markups out so that I could physically highlight the sheet when I had completed it. Since the work from home, I have gotten better using at Bluebeam Revu tool and shortcuts which has reduced my personal consumption of paper and printing files that I used to use to complete various tasks.

Silver Linings

There have been many positives of the work from home which I have been calling ‘Pandemic Silver Linings’. The first I noticed was the lack of commute time and smaller environmental footprint associated with it. I used to spend about 45 minutes each day getting to and from work. Now I use that time to sleep in, or do other tasks such as laundry or general cleaning of the apartment. Another silver lining was the ability for my partner and I to adopt a dog and getting to spend more time with him as my “co-worker.”

While I do miss in-person events, there is a silver lining in terms of events that I have enjoyed; I have been able to attend virtual events hosted around the world! I have even been honored to be a speaker at some of them like the SWE India Conference to just this past week when I presented to the student chapters of SWE and ASCE at Ohio University.

This time has also made stop and slow down to truly appreciate how much the people around me mean to me. It was the push I needed to reconnect virtually with my highschool friends who are located across the US. It has also taken me on a journey that has truly made me look at my relationships and realize which ones are healthy and helping me grow into a better person.

Setting a Schedule and Boundaries

Throughout this year, I have generally tried to keep to my regular 8 AM – 5 PM hours with an hour for lunch that I had while working in the office. When I need to stray from this schedule, I make sure to communicate this with my supervisor and team. Similar to relationships, I have also used this time to set boundaries of when I will yes to an opportunity or meeting when it comes to professional society work.

This past year, I have been able to enact good habits that would have been harder if I was in the office such as cooking lunch instead of takeout. I have been doing a lot more cooking recently and have been expanding my knowledge of go-to and healthy recipes.

The screen time is probably my main con with the work from home. As such, I make sure to schedule breaks into my schedule! Longer ones for snacks and walking Nemo, but also like the quick break to close my eyes and listen after staring at screens for way too long. It is important for your mental and physical health to take the time to leave your desk every once in a while as you would have in the office to chat with a co-worker or to refill your coffee cup.

Patience is Key

In March the work environment changed and I am certain that there will be an entirely new normal to which we will all have to adjust. Over the past year, we have learned to work, study, and many other things primarily from our own homes, blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives. Regardless of your specific situation – there is one thing in common for us all – the importance of patience. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic in a different way and remembering and understanding that is important now more than ever. We’ve all seen how difficult this year has been and I hope that we can grant each other and a bit of grace moving forward.

It also reminded me to be kinder to myself! Having empathy, compassion, and patience for others is important, but also remember to treat ourselves this way as well!

What do I see for the future of work? I am still unsure. What I have learned that as we go back to “normal” life, we don’t need necessarily need to do all the things we were doing before. One main take away for me is slowing down and really looking at opportunities, setting boundaries and not confused being busy with being productive.

The work environment as we knew it has changed. If I have learned anything over the past year, it is living through the pandemic has shown me that humans are capable of remarkable things and of persevering through very difficult times.

Blog post about my initial transition to home: https://danitheengineer.home.blog/2020/04/03/transition-to-work-from-home-during-covid-19-crisis/

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