Law School,  Legal Practice,  Work Life Balance

Working in the time of COVID

First, I have to preface this by saying–this is bonkers. This is bonkers!! Like some days I still can’t believe we’re living in the midst of a pandemic with such little control. It’s a bit much. As I shared with folks on insta, I’m working from home because I’m “high risk” because of my asthma. Asthma that was just diagnosed this past fall so being able to navigate that on top of a demanding, high stress job while everything seems to be The Worst is a lot. But at the same time I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home and not deal with the fears many others have about losing their employment or increasing exposure to this new illness. I say all this because no one should expect you to be the perfect worker or student right now. My hope is that once this settles and we begin a new normal, the experiences we had to go through during this time are looked at through a lens of grace. Especially if you’re still a student. And it doesn’t have to be a hope, this can be something we demand as a community going forward. That “bad” grades or whatever other consequence from this is not used against you when you go on to your next milestone.

Ok, that’s the preface. At the same time, we are still expecting to be as present and participatory as possible in our work/school life. So I want to share some work from home tips that have worked for me both during this time and in other instances where I’ve had to study/work in stressful situations:

One. Find your space. It’s at home, duh. But what I mean is to try to find a spot that is as conducive to concentrating as possible. Currently, I’m working from my couch–I shifted my coffee table into a desk and I work from there during the days and mentally shift “off” by switching where I sit in the evenings. Find your spot, where you are, if it’s your bedroom, the living room, etc. And equip it with whatever you can to make it as productive as possible, which means removing distractions like the TV or clutter. People don’t recommend working in bed, but if that’s the only quiet spot in the house, I say that’s preferable to a loud/busy living room. Limiting distractions is key if you’re trying to be productive.

Two. State your boundaries. Whew, this is a toughy. For many, you’re going home to spaces that perhaps don’t support your studying as much as they could; or don’t understand the time you have to put into this; or expect you to contribute to the household as if you don’t have obligations (reading cases takes time!). This is difficult, but I really encourage an open dialogue with folks. Have a conversation at a time when people aren’t super upset (maybe after dinner) and say that you need their help with this (limited interruptions, a fixed schedule on chores so you’re not expected to clean at all hours, support while you study, whatever it is that you need).. Explain why you need it (my homework takes about x hours a day, plus classes so they see the math behind it). I hate to say it but you may get push back, that you’re being dramatic, that you’re being selfish, etc etc. You know your fam’s temp better than I, but I encourage you to do it and advocate for those boundaries. It can feel uncomfy and maybe even they still won’t agree to what you’re asking for, but at least you’ve tried, and standing up for yourself is important. Of course, I know there are families that are more toxic and dangerous, and please, if you feel unsafe in your home reach out for help.

Three. Keep aware of your mental state. Um, these are troubling, anxious times. I go back and forth all the time about how nervous I am about this. I am nervous af. It’s normal to be anxious, to feel overwhelmed, to feel depressed, etc. Make sure you know when you’re not doing well to address it before it spirals. There’s also the stress that comes from family, if people have lost their job or are being exposed to the illness. It is scary to not know what financially (and health-wise) lies ahead. My only comfort is that these are unprecedented times and the desire and ability to help those impacted by this financially are there–advocate with your local leaders for relief and services. Make sure all immigrants are included. And then inform your family and community when things are available to help alleviate this stress. That won’t solve the stress, but it can make you feel like you’re addressing the problem (which you are!).

But more than that, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel scared or angry or overwhelmed. These are scary, anxious, overwhelming times. But if you have the ability to stay at home and study/work, one way to distract and to limit those feelings is to focus on your goals and what you’ve been charged to do. If you are working towards your degree, keep working so that this is just a slight bump in your journey, not a barrier. And if you’re working professionally, remind yourself that you have a duty to your client to continue to support them. Not every day will be perfect, but we don’t need perfect, we just need you to stay safe. <3

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