Working from home offers advantages, challenges

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | May 27, 2020

Image with caption: The College of Allied Health Professions held a Zoom meeting on April 3.

The College of Allied Health Professions held a Zoom meeting on April 3.

Most UNMC employees have been operating under work-from-home orders for several weeks now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you holding up?

Some think working from home is the best thing ever. There's the casual dress code. Lack of commute. And you can get down to business without a lot of the, ahem, "distractions" of the office.

"The 'homebodies' already are noting they don't really mind the stay-at-home recommendations," said Steven Wengel, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for campus wellness.

Others miss that hustle and bustle.

"I thought it would be great, working from home," said Dawn Nevarez, research recruitment specialist. But it turns out she couldn't quite concentrate without co-workers around. So, she finds herself going in when she can, to draw energy and solidarity from the nurses (socially distanced, of course) at the Clinical Research Center.

It's not uncommon to feel that way. Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., has been doing a video series in which he takes questions from employees during the COVID-19 crisis. And the second question was, "I miss my work family."

We'd only been out a few days!

"We all have different degrees of social connection needs, and those who tend to be more content to be alone are holding up pretty well, compared to those who are more gregarious," Dr. Wengel said.

But no matter your personality type, when working from home, there are often kids who need to be homeschooled, spouses also trying to work from home ("I'm on a Zoom meeting!"), and pets who look at you like, "Why are you still here? This is supposed to be 'me' time."

"I was a stay-at-home mom for four years," said Joy Beatie, a videographer in public relations. "And this is very reminiscent of that, so maybe the adjustment was a little easier for me."

Still, it is an adjustment, Beattie said. There can be a sense of isolation, away from the company of adults who aren't related to you by blood or marriage.

Plus, you may have prided yourself on your multi-tasking skills before -- but try juggling your Zoom meetings with your kid's school Zoom meetings while a bassoon screeches (beautifully, honey!) in the background. And then deadline is looming, but neither you nor your youngest can figure out these stupid math worksheets, while your spouse insists on going out to get one ingredient from the store (it's a PANDEMIC!) and -- wait, was that the sound of a dish crashing? -- there they go, kung fu fighting again! IF YOU GUYS DON'T START GETTING ALONG RIGHT NOW I'M GOING TO . . . !

Um . . .

NOT that any of this is going on at my house. (My kids play cello.)

When this all started, a handful of experts gave us work-from-home tips: make your bed; set a schedule; exercise; put on some darn pants; you know, the usual. All good advice.

But, turns out, we also needed real work-from-home tips.

Katrina Cordts, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, said when making your work schedule, be sure to pencil in some non-work: "This might include opportunities for social connection via technology, doing puzzles, reading a favorite book, and/or scheduled short breaks throughout the day," she said.

And in the UNMC Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Medicine, office associate Jess Cole said, they are keeping sane (and thus more productive) by sharing Monday Motivation and Friday Funny emails. Plus, email bingo.

How about a Zoom department happy hour (outside of work hours) to boost morale, Nevarez said? Or, Zoom Pictionary.

"Zoom has a whiteboard function," she said.

Again, that brings us back to the two types of work-from-home people. Those who love Zoom meetings . . . and those who love Zoom meetings!

Speaking of, beware "Zoom-itis," and other nonergonomic home-work ailments, Dr. Wengel said: "It would be a shame if one of the new side effects of the pandemic is a rash of neck problems!"

Make sure to do some "intentional movement," Dr. Cordts said. Make it a "walking" Zoom meeting, but don't trip.

And, keep up the good work. It's amazing what we are all accomplishing, under trying circumstances.

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Jenisha Cooper
May 27, 2020 at 9:45 AM

Excellent uplifting article! I smiled and giggled out loud reading this! :)

Dinah Clark
May 27, 2020 at 8:59 AM

Good article. :Dinah

Tom O’Connor
May 27, 2020 at 8:16 AM

Great story, Kalani. I loved it. Thanks for the levity - we need it.

Beth Beam
May 27, 2020 at 7:46 AM

Nice story Kalani. :)