When Work from Home Means All Alone

A laptop computer next to a University of California cup

By Jeané Blunt. The first few days of working from home were great. I got to wear my flannel pajama pants, snuggle with my dog on my lunch break, and ditch the morning commute.

Well, now I’m a few weeks into working from home and I am sick of these pajama pants, the dog is sick of me and I, somehow, miss my morning commute! I miss greeting my neighbors on the way to my car. I miss passing the kids playing on the schoolyard. I even miss the drivers who refuse to use their turn signals.

Okay maybe not that last one, but I do miss interacting with other humans. I am an extrovert and self-proclaimed “social butterfly.” I also live alone with my dog, 3,000 miles from the rest of my family. I never anticipated I would have to “shelter in place” in my apartment, by myself, for the foreseeable future. But here we are. How do those of us sheltering alone adapt and thrive?

Reaching Out

I use Zoom for video conferencing at work, but I rarely use it in my personal life. It wasn’t until we had our first team meeting after the stay-at-home order that I realized, as cheesy as it sounds, seeing and talking with my co-workers brightens my day.

Since then, I have made it my personal mission to get everyone I know connected through video chat. A friend of mine is having a “Family Happy Hour” using video chat and I just planned the first one for my family this weekend. Being able to see my mom’s expressions as we share stories has brought me a sense of comfort I didn’t know I needed. Laughing with my friends adds a sense of normalcy and familiarity to my day.

Tanya Jansen, IT communications lead at UCSF, believes staying in touch with friends, coworkers, and family is the best way to keep a level head throughout this whole process. She said, “Reach out to a colleague or friend. This has been really isolating. The first couple days I was pacing back and forth, almost like a caged tiger. But the more you reach out, the more connected you can stay.”

UC Santa Cruz CIO Van Williams is connecting with his IT staff – all 230 of them – through a weekly Zoom all-hands meeting. Lisa Bono, communications & marketing manager in the UCSC IT department, feels these meetings help staff stay engaged and get updated on COVID-19. “We take the first few minutes at the start of the meeting to turn on all our video webcams to share our remote work spaces,” she said. “It’s so much fun! People have been doing all kinds of creative and inventive backgrounds. One person placed his desk outside in the middle of the redwoods. There have been lots of pets on laps. One person dressed up as a unicorn. People show off their views. There are lots of slippers! It’s been wild. We need time to laugh before we talk about COVID-19.”

Staying Active-ly Connected

Exercise is a great way to increase your endorphins and improve your mood. Due to social distancing measures, most gyms and dance studios are closed for the time being. Jansen leads an active lifestyle and some of her favorite classes have moved online. “Since the dance studios have closed, many of them have taken to alternative platforms like Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live or Twitch,” she said. “My ballet studio has a Facebook Live every day. You can post pictures of yourself doing the workout and you can tag people.”

Jansen’s search for online classes helped her discover new platforms. “I’d never heard of Twitch. But one of my dance choreographers uses that platform so I created an account to attend her class. Now I can view her class, chat with her before and after, and the other students can chat too. We’re not all in the same room together, but it’s nice to be able to send a quick message.”

Gaming

Gamers mastered the art of the virtual connection a long time ago. Jackie DiOrio is lead records analyst at UCOP and she is an avid gamer. “My friends have set up a weekly schedule to help us all stay connected in light of the outbreak. Tuesday we play Team Fortress 2, which is how we actually met, playing it years ago. Friday night we’re doing streaming Jackbox. Saturday nights is Minecraft.”

DiOrio’s online community is mostly fun and games, but they also provide a safe space to talk openly about current events. “We’ve also got a Discord chat set up where we can talk about our lives and COVID-19. Having something to look forward to on specific days of the week has really helped,” she said.

In the spirit of staying connected, UC Santa Cruz ITS’s Instagram is posting photos from staff that show their at-home work station, (new) coworkers (eg., pets, children, partners), and what it’s like working from home. We are going to take a page from their book and ask you, our UC IT family, to share your photos of your new reality. It doesn’t have to be your work station either – use your imagination! Post them to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #UCITWorkFromHome (or email them to me directly) and we will repost some of them on the UC IT Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Jeané Blunt is IT communications and UC FCC licensing coordinator at UC Office of the President.Jeané Blunt is IT communications and UC FCC licensing coordinator, Information Technology Services, UC Office of the President.

Comment (1)

  1. Patricia Thornton

    I enjoyed reading your article. This is a true reality for all and a new kind of normal. Thank you for sharing your journey as well as others in your field of work. As an educator. I’m really challenged by remote learning and overwhelmed because it’s so much to learn at one time. Keep those ideas coming! Congratulations on such a great article.
    Patricia Thornton
    Los Angeles Unified School District
    Teacher

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *