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Reflections on a year of working from home during a worldwide pandemic

minute read

One year ago, CCTSI researchers and staff were told to continue our programs of research from home to keep ourselves, our colleagues, families and communities safe from COVID-19. Books and files were collected, labs were closed, clinical trials were put on hold, teaching and program management were moved online. Makeshift offices were created in closets, bedrooms, garages and on kitchen counters. I found myself at home with my husband and two teenagers. I continued my research where I could and connected with colleagues over Zoom while supporting my family through the COVID-19 lockdown.

Heather M. Gilmartin

In the first weeks of the pandemic, my colleagues and I became curious about the impact remote work due to COVID-19 would have on CCTSI researchers and staff. In April 2020, we conducted a mixed-methods survey study which many of you participated in. You told us about how much COVID-19 and remote work interfered with your research. You told us you missed your colleagues and the office routine. You shared how hard it was to balance work, family and the anxiety of living in a pandemic. Many wished for more frequent and frank communication from university and department leadership. Others indicated they felt supported and valued by their team leaders. Living and working through a pandemic was psychologically taxing for many, particularly for those who lived alone.

Over the last year, my colleagues and I have learned from and been inspired by our shared experiences. We never thought remote work would be a long-term solution to the mitigation of COVID-19. However, here we are, one year later – with many of us still working from home. Parents have reported being “multitasked to death”. Women and Academic Mothers report significant impacts on their work and productivity. The good news is that the COVID-19 epidemic curve continues to decline, effective vaccines are available, and our communities are slowly reopening. We have gotten into a groove that some enjoy, while others are eager to return to the office and campus.

What lies ahead? Do we go back to our labs, classrooms and offices like nothing has happened? Or do we test out hybrid virtual and in-person research, learning and work environments? Fortunately, the collaboration platforms (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom), strategic workarounds (e.g., home office equipment, team huddles), and leadership strategies (e.g., clear messaging, empathy, presence) used in the early months of COVID-19 will also help prepare for whatever lies ahead. We’d love to hear your suggestions on the future of work at CCTSI. Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.

Topics: COVID-19