It was two years ago last month when newsroom employees at the Times Free Press were sent home due to COVID-19.
Now, as we make our way back to the office, I'm struck by how much working remotely changed my routines. Somehow, your whole worldview changes when you trade an office cubicle for a dining room table.
There are definitely pros and cons to working from home, including some I would never have imagined.
At the moment, I'm still splitting time between home and the office, but increasing my hours on 11th Street. With only a handful of new COVID-19 cases reported each day it's time to get back to a more normal office life.
Here, in no particular order, are 10 observations about remote work as COVID-19 retreats:
> Dogs have a routine and an infinite capacity to love their "people." Until the pandemic, I didn't know our 9-year-old poodle mix Boise divided the day into thirds: a third in his kennel, a third looking at squirrels and birds out the back door and a third taking an afternoon nap on the couch. Oh, and in between he comes and stares at me longingly. Wait, is he smiling? That's a good boy.
> Hearing the brakes on the school bus outside every day at 3:09 p.m. is an outstanding sensation. That's when our 15-year-old arrives home from ninth grade. He immediately plays with an overjoyed Boise and gives dad a real hug.
> Phone interviews at home are boss. In the newsroom, we writers sit inside cubicles. All interviews are essentially audible to everyone else. I guess that's good for transparency, but it can also be stressful during difficult or emotional conversations. Too, office calls can be inaudible if people are talking around you. My phone interviews at home, almost always done alone, are much more productive. I've started using a meeting room at work as my primary work station.
> I love my co-workers, and conversation helps us do our jobs. But, frankly, sometimes we talk too much. Gather dozens of smart people and put them in a big, open room and you'll get lots of conversation. Most times that's a good thing, but sometimes it eats into productivity. Also, Zoom meetings are almost universally shorter at home than in-person meetings in the office.
> Tree leaves take a lot longer to bloom than you think. OK, so this is completely random, but this is the third year I've watched the arrival of spring in March and April, and waiting for the leaves to come in is like watching a kettle boil — it takes forever.
> My midday walk is medicine for the body and soul. Working at home allows for a quick lunch and a walk in the neighborhood. I usually get a midday walk and another in the evening to get in my 10,000 daily steps. As a result I weigh less, and have less stress, than any other time in my adult life. It's hard to overestimate the value of this, and I want to keep the momentum by walking more downtown.
> The dishwasher is the perfect background noise. Can I get an amen? There's something about writing to the sound of the dishwasher sloshing that puts me in a relaxed state of mind and calms my hyperactive brain. I might get a white-noise app on my phone for the office.
> Savings in gasoline and dry cleaning from working at home are offset by extra spending for coffee and snacks. It's hard to get in the car these days without thinking about gas, and I figure I'm saving about $100 a month on dry-cleaning. But I make two pots of coffee a day and Oreos don't last long at the Kennedy house, so it evens out.
> For introverts like me, solitude is addictive. I come out of meetings at work and my face feels flush. Almost any interaction with a big group inflames my brain. Remote work has been a nice respite from the blood-pressure roller coaster. I think a hybrid workweek will give me the respites I need.
> Snow holidays are never coming back. And I can't imagine ever going to work again with cold or flu symptoms. On the other hand, remote work never stops; it just pauses. Sometimes the sensation of actually "getting off work" when you leave the office is important.
So, yes, there are pros and cons to office work.
I guess adapting to change is what makes you a pro.
Email Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.