Now more than ever, there’s an overlap between professional and personal life

An image showing a woman working from home

Source: © Emma Pewsey

It’s not quite the Chemistry World office, but it’ll do

I’m writing this from my conservatory. The RSC office in Cambridge is closed, and every day more companies, schools and universities worldwide are implementing similar shutdowns.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I can do my normal job with just a laptop, and living with someone who has worked from home full-time for years means I have access to high-speed internet and a variety of spare monitors, keyboards and other useful tech (though we only have one decent office chair between us).

Despite these advantages, setting up for a long period stuck at home has been somewhat disorientating. Many days seem to have slipped away before I feel like they’ve properly begun. I attribute that in part to the feeling of starting a new routine (it reminds me a bit of how I feel when starting a new job). But there are more unfamiliar concerns constantly bubbling in the back of my mind too, as I absorb the news of the pandemic and wonder who or what will be affected next.

But I’m fortunate. I don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen with upcoming exams, and what that’ll mean for the grades that’ll be on my CV for the rest of my career. I haven’t had to shut down experiments and work out what this means for my PhD graduation deadline, or the imminent end of my funding period. I’m not worried about job security, and I don’t have to figure out how to care for children or vulnerable relatives while working in self-isolation.

And I can isolate. Some of you will still be heading out every day to provide vital support and keep key services running, despite increasing travel restrictions and reduced public transport services.

There’s heaps of advice out there about how best to work through the coming weeks and months. While many of these tips are helpful, remember that you don’t have to live up to the ideals that some of them present. If you’re unable to do your normal work but can spend time learning a new skill instead then go ahead and relish the opportunity. But you shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re less productive than usual for any reason, or even unable to do anything at all.

In many ways, heading out to work or study every day helps to separate it from the rest of life. Now more than ever, many people’s home concerns are going to overlap with their day job. Whether you’re an employer, employee or student it’s time to be kind, be patient, and be considerate of what others might be dealing with outside of their professional environment. Hopefully, normalising that kind of attitude in the workplace can be a tiny positive that we can maintain in the longer-term, after this difficult situation is over.