COVID19 Work

Day 75: WFH or not?

May 29, 2020

So lately I have been struggling on my working from home days. I think it’s because my work has really ramped up and . . . my kids are distracting.

At the same time, I feel (yep) guilty about leaving them all day. This means our nanny has to manage school all on her own ( <– though this will be a moot point soon since there are 3 academic days left in our school year). It means G will probably get a lot of screen time while C gets school help.

On the plus side for staying home, it has been nice to save my commuting time (about 25 min each way) and to take walks during some conference calls. I could theoretically do that at work too but the streets surrounding the hospital don’t feel entirely safe.

There’s also the infection risk question – why work in a relatively crowded workspace and add to the “shared human space” burden on a daily basis when one doesn’t have to? (Not talking about days I am physically seeing patients or even doing telemed with a resident, but my non-clinical days.)

I’m torn. But I’m also behind.

PS: I thought the news was upsetting before but now we have reached new heights. OMG it’s to hard to watch/read. The conspiracy theorists. The hatred. The politics. The recent tragedies — along with millions of others, I cried listening to footage of George Floyd. In a way, I want to remain informed because it feels responsible, but I also feel that for my own mental health . . . I need to mostly stay away.

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I’m curious to a) test out this poll feature and b) see what others would do in my situation!

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Also, it’s Friday. This felt like the longest short week ever.

Just 3 days left of remote school. . . in this academic year, anyway!

(Sort of shocked that I will have a 3rd grader next year. That sounds . . . old!)


  • Reply Julia May 29, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Working from home seems like it’s the harder option but prob better for the nanny and G. Plus like you said, the whole pandemic issue.

    The news is very depressing and I have been feeling guilty about not reading more. I feel irresponsible for not working to reduce the racism all around us and in us in many cases.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 29, 2020 at 7:35 am

      Yes. 100% agree. And I am determined to figure out how to properly educate my own children about the issues, too. I know it’s NOT enough to just be sad. (Though it is also so heartbreakingly sad.)

  • Reply chelseamcatmath May 29, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Could you split WFH and non-WFH time? Like Monday is the “office” day where you can close the door and have peace and quiet and really get through tasks that need a lot of focus and Wednesday is the “home” day where you batch stuff that you can do with background kid noise.

    Or WFH but make “updgrades” like noise cancelling headphones (noise is a huge distraction for me) to minimize distractions, and then really put your foot down about how “When Mommy is in the office she is at work and Nanny is in charge.” (I feel like Laura has talked about this in her WFH set up). I’m hopeful, too, that the distractions will go down once the kids are done with school.

  • Reply Heather May 29, 2020 at 7:36 am

    We are not allowing office workers back until at least Labor Day. The risk of contracting at work is still very high (indoors, A/C blowing everything around). I’d limit exposure as much as possible.

  • Reply gwinne May 29, 2020 at 7:46 am

    Your risk already seems higher than some. You live in a state with some poor decision-making. You and your husband work in healthcare. You have outside help coming and going, which means multiple household involvement….

    I’d second the comments to find a way to disappear but still work from home. Yesterday I worked in my CAR for an hour. (not recommending that!) Can you move your desk? Can you work in a garage? Can you work with noise cancelling headphones, etc?

    That said I hear you. I have no childcare other than LG and that…

  • Reply September Gerety May 29, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Having a dedicated office space with a door makes a huge difference! When I started wfh (in 2012) it took awhile to train my family that if I am in my office with the door shut, that means that they can’t interrupt me. If the door is open, they can pop in to say hi or ask a quick question. My husband actually had a harder time getting used to that than the kids! In his mind, if I was traveling, I was working, and if I was home, I wasn’t. He would even say things like, “are you working next week?” Um…I work every week! The other issue is my own distraction- sometimes I come downstairs with my laptop, but that only works if everyone is occupied and not playing a movie or music, because I get super distracted by sound. I do have noise-canceling headphones, but don’t love wearing them at home, so that is a last resort.

  • Reply Stephanie Spinapolice May 29, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Here is a vote to work from home. I’m an early riser like you and have been getting up early to do my deep, focused work while everyone else is sleeping. I then exercise or write for fun when the kids are around and noisy.

  • Reply Alissa May 29, 2020 at 8:44 am

    WFH has gotten more challenging since my children finished “school.” I agree with the other comments about splitting time. I go in the office one afternoon a week and that is enough to get me caught up. After reading everything on our state reopening plan it’s still advising wfh so I’m doing that and having my staff do it as well when possible.

  • Reply KGC May 29, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Another vote for a hybrid system, with some caveats. If you have your own office at work, and can minimize close contact with others and take other appropriate precautions, then maybe go there 1-2 days a week when you need quiet/no distractions/deep thinking time. The rest of the time, stay home and set stricter rules (for both you and the kids/nanny) about when you are available and when you aren’t.

    If you have a shared office at work (which, I think you don’t…based on my memory of your pumping stories?), then it gets much harder and probably staying at home full time is best.

    Your previous post about making calculated risks should weigh in here, too. If you are behind at your job, which you must keep (and generally be successful at) to maintain financial security and general happiness, then it is important to figure out the requirements to make that happen. If the requirements are that you must go to the office some number of days per week, then that’s a calculated risk that you should probably take. If you decide that a) going into the office is NOT a requirement for you to be successful at your job, or b) that your job is NOT required for financial security and general happiness, or c) that the health risk of being there is too high to justify, then going into the office is probably not the right answer.

    It also doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. You could go for a few days, get caught up enough to stay home for a few weeks, then repeat in July. Or, you could go, assess how you feel about the risk of being there (are people congregating around a shared drinking fountain? is no one washing their hands? are people coughing on each other? these are clearly ridiculous but I’m just trying to make a point) and then decide that you aren’t comfortable with it and change your mind. Or maybe you’ll find that the office is deserted, it’s easy to social distance, and you like being there so…go every day!

    My (large academic) university is making plans to return people to the research labs and are contemplating requiring 400 square feet per person, shift work to avoid having too many people in lab, signup sheets for shared equipement, etc…it sounds like a logistical nightmare for researchers and grad students. Personally, I work in allied health FOR a research lab but not IN one (I have my own office) so I suspect they will still want me to stay away for many more weeks/months since I can do my job 100% from home. We still have fulltime childcare outside the home, so I am perfectly content to stay where I am…but I am positive that if my kids were at home (even with fulltime childcare), I would want to escape to my office, too!

    • Reply Gillian May 29, 2020 at 9:58 am

      Yep! This!

  • Reply Kt May 29, 2020 at 9:14 am

    I agree that separating from the news can be good for mental health, but there are ways to ensure we all are working on anti-racism actively:

  • Reply ehartung7 May 29, 2020 at 9:24 am

    I feel like it is so hard to focus when I am at home sometimes so I voted for the office. Maybe just to have a few long and very dedicated days for work but honestly you could try that at home too. I think it is so hard and we are seeing how it truly is impossible to do it all.

  • Reply Erin May 29, 2020 at 9:30 am

    This is actually my second time WFH with a nanny/children at home because my youngest (now almost 3) completely refused a bottle when she was a baby and I had to WFH. I’m on the research side of academia, but in a discipline where working at home is not too difficult. My research group will be WFH for the foreseeable future, even as campus opens back up, just to reduce relative risk because we can.

    My kids are now almost 3 and almost 6, and I wouldn’t say I’m completely doing my best at home, but I think it’s more that the distractions are different than they are in the office. I did plenty of lunches out, casual conversations that were maybe 10-20% work related and the rest just socializing (not like I’m a terrible employee – many of these with my boss/PI), and other “non-productive” things when in the office. When I really need to focus at home, I will retreat to a room with a door and will listen to music on headphones while I work. It has been interesting, though — my husband and I are both working at our dining room table, and at transition points (snack time/lunch time/etc) they will come up to me for hugs/kisses/updates, but completely ignore my husband who is mere feet away from me. We have a very equitable setup so that has been surprising to see just how more “interruptable” while working I appear to my kids, relative to my husband.

    • Reply KGC May 29, 2020 at 10:19 am

      100% this. Not quite the same as work interruptions, but I find that my 4 year old will observe my husband doing something 3 feet away, turn to me, and say, “Why is Daddy doing XYZ?” I cannot fathom why he needs me to answer this question when his father is LITERALLY right there. I’ve started to just reply with, “Why don’t you ask Daddy? He’s…right there…” I have no doubt that if they were home with us while we work, I would get 100% of the interruptions and he would get none. Sarah, hopefully your kids are a little better about asking your nanny for things instead of you while you WFH!

      And Erin: Your point about the non-work things that happen at work has been the biggest revelation for me, personally, in working from home. I realized that I don’t actually put in a full 8 hours of WORK at work, since there is time for lunch, sometimes some brief bill-paying or other must-get-done stuff, and some amount of time spent in socialization (also often with boss/PI – sometimes work-related, sometimes not…sounds like you and I may have similar work situations). Realizing that I could be equally productive in, say, 6-7 hours of work time at home, was huge – and means that I don’t feel bad taking a break to do something house-productive (fold a load of laundry, clean up, etc.). I realize that many people don’t want to be doing those things, but this is the first time in my life since having children that I finally feel on top of house tasks and it’s because I have the extra time to do them because I’m physically in the house and available for these 10-minute breaks. I realize my anecdote wasn’t at all the point of your post, but it has been an interesting realization to me to see level of productivity at home vs. in the office during this whole thing!

  • Reply cbs May 29, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Ugh, if there was a way to get to my office safely, I’d likely go, but I don’t work in a healthcare setting. We’re in a 2 bed flat and my toddler refused a nap today so was playing in the sitting room where my desk is.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns May 29, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Our son is in daycare and I am working from home. But I do not have a choice – our office is closed and you have to get permission from 3 levels of management to go into the office to get something! I work in financial services so there is just really no reason for us to be in the office. Everything has been running pretty smoothly with everyone working from home and our governor has asked that you work from home if you are able to do so. I hated it at first but now I don’t mind it so much now that I have a better work station set up with a real keyboard and large monitor (I worked exclusively on a laptop for 7 weeks and hated it). I actually work more hours now that I’m working from home and I think that is the case for many of my colleagues… there isn’t a hard stop now that I don’t have a bus to catch. So I will look up and realize it’s past when I am usually done working. So yah… I will need to work on setting some boundaries at some point.

    In your case, I’d consider where you are most productive and where you feel safest. I would try not to feel guilty about leaving your nanny with the 3 kids – especially once school is done. I know they would have been in camp in the past, but she is used to managing the 3. You could give her a raise, akin to what retails stores have done for their employees during these weird times. It could be a temporary “hardship bonus” or something along those lines to account for the fact that she is doing more than she normally would? That might help with the guilt (assuming you can afford to do so).

    • Reply Sophia May 29, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      We gave our nanny overtime rates when she had all 3 of our kids. She usually had 1-2 at a time.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 29, 2020 at 9:36 pm

        We did a raise when this whole thing started (bc of school at home) and pay overtime.

  • Reply Kip May 29, 2020 at 10:41 am

    I voted at home. If you only have 3 school days left maybe see how it goes after school is out. Hopefully it’ll get easier, if not maybe have one day in the office a week to get the big items done?
    My husband and I are both lucky enough to both to still be employed right now. I work in financial services and have the ability to work from home while my husband still has to go into work. Before the pandemic I was averaging 45-50 hr work weeks. Now I’m also homeschooling a 1st and 3rd grader. Fortunately my 3rd grader can do 90% of his work on his own. My very strong-willed 1st grader needs A LOT of support. I have an autoimmune and my 3rd grader has mild asthma and a growth delay (which I don’t think puts him at higher risk but always a concern of mine) so I wasn’t comfortable bringing in extra help. I am also an introvert and am struggling with being around people(kids and husband) 24/7. It is really hard. I constantly feel behind at work and at home. We have 9 days left of school. I am counting down! We just learned that our summer camp is opening up. I am very apprehensive about it. The kids are in group of 10 that remain consistent but my kids would be in two different groups due to their ages. At this point I’m 80% leaning towards keeping them at home for now. They are old enough to play on their own and once school is over I should be able to get much more work done and catch up. I’ve decided not to worry about school in the fall until the end of July when our district should announce their plan for the school year. I think they really need to be in school for social and academic reasons but I’m also very concerned about the risk. We are in LA county so there are a lot of cases here.
    I am trying to focus on the positive. I don’t have to worry about finances. I am working out almost every day now. Based on your recommendation I’m doing 21 day fix! I’m on round 2. I started meditating every weekday morning. I also get a lot more time with my kids and they have more time at home. I don’t have a commute or school drop off! I’m not rushed to get dinner ready so the kids can get to bed on time. I’m able to chat/text with my bff much more frequently. I get a lot more hugs all day long.

  • Reply Holly May 29, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I would encourage you to continue to engage with the news and the situation to the extent that you are able. It’s our responsibility as white people to educate ourselves and actively work to reduce racism. Someone above linked a helpful resource; I’ve seen many other helpful links on social media. It’s not as simple as knowing you don’t intentionally act racist – we need to work to reduce our implicit biases and change unfair systems and institutions. We have the privilege of being able to tune out because it doesn’t affect our daily lives – many communities and people of color do not.

    Re: WFH, I’d stay home and truly try to lock yourself away, as others have suggested. This seems like an ‘optional’ risk if the work can be done from home – and in the vein of cost/benefit, I’d rather save my risk-taking for more truly required outside the home time!

  • Reply jjiraffe May 29, 2020 at 11:19 am

    One of my best friends works at a hospital clinic where she is considered an essential worker (she is a therapist for dialysis patients). She’s worked part-time splitting up in-person vs. telehealth appointments since this began. But, one day a week she has to goes into her office (at the same hospital clinic) — because of security reasons she has to file certain documents from her computer there. I’ve been worried about her for a while, but she feels confident her hospital and clinic have put the right measures into place. Luckily she has not gotten Covid-19. I guess it’s a matter of how much you trust your workplace to handle safety? If you can go in at least sometimes, might be best?

    I hear you on the news. It’s just all so grim.

  • Reply omdg May 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    For me? WFH the whole way. Sometimes there will be distractions, but that happens in the office too. Sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that you won’t get as much done as you want. You can also try hiding in room and locking the door with a noise machine app to block out distracting noises, or if you want to do work requiring deep thought, take a walk outside alone, without being on a conference call, phone call, or listening to music.

  • Reply Dominique May 29, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I assume you’ve talked to your nanny about it and what is best for her. I know sometimes it is easier for the childcare provider to be 100% in charge, which is easier when you are just gone. Also, I absolutely hate the split attention of WFH and love the physical separation that work provides. (Can you tell I miss it so much?) If going to your office is a relatively safe option, would allow you to do better work, and thus have better, more focused time with your kids, I would do it. Figure out what you need to do to make it work – maybe a big bonus for the nanny for the three kids, or something else.

    Currently, I am working a regular full-time job during the week and sprinting to finish a Ph.D. on the weekends. Prior to the shut-down, I was going to the library and working for 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I tried doing that at home in March and April, but realized it is useless. Somehow any possibility of interruption, even from my husband, means I can’t sink into the deep analysis and writing required. So now I am working midnight to 5 am Friday and Saturday nights and sleeping in to get it done. It feels crazy, but it is working.

  • Reply Lindsey May 29, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Working from home with kids is so challenging! I think during this time it’s important to remember that we are all doing the best we can, but that’s way easier said than done.

  • Reply Li May 29, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    Its a bit late now with so few days but I had wondered whether extra childcare to help out your nanny is at all possible (is it allowed) ? Don’t know the rules in Florida…I’m in Australia).Could it be someone your nanny is already in contact with (a household member?) so you still limit the number of contacts? Or whatever your personal risk assessment allows…

    • Reply Li May 30, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      if extra help is feasible, i think it could be worthwhile regardless of whether you WFH or not… (and probably can come out of the budget for summer camp?)

  • Reply Coco May 29, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    I’ll be the first one to sign up when office re-opens. while the past 77 days has been less bad as I expected when we started. I do miss interaction with my team. I miss putting decent cloth, put light makeup and look normal.
    My commute takes less than 5 min to office so I’ve always had the flexibility to come home if needed. So i think for many who commute long hours WFH would be preferred option.

  • Reply Kirsten May 30, 2020 at 6:06 am

    It’s not your responsibility to be informed about every single thing that happens. It’s good to have a general idea of what’s happening, but going to the extent of forcing yourself to listen to the pleas of a dying man is helping No-one and is just stressing you out.

    Constantly watching the news creates symptoms of ptsd. It’s not as bad as if you were actually there watching but it is partly like that. Why cause that harm to yourself?

    • Reply Layap May 31, 2020 at 6:33 am

      Because it is important to listen and acknowledge the suffering that has affected the lives of people of color for generations. But I am not surprised by this response. Turning a blind eye to the killing of innocent victims because of the color of their skin is wrong and it is important to acknowledge that. The ability to ignore racism by turning off the news is a privilege and perpetrates the systemic inequalities that exist in our country.

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