working out of a backpack:  adventures of an IT worker in a pandemic

When the shit hit the fan last March I found myself working at home, pretty much overnight. Our campus was notified that Spring Break was going to be extended to two weeks instead of the traditional one, and the faculty were told to get their classes ready to be delivered remotely. On Friday, the day before my birthday, I packed up all the pieces and parts of my office I thought I would need and that was that. I went from driving to campus and working in my own dedicated office five days a week to working in my pjs with the cats “helping.” I was also in the midst of a triangular move involving Mom and Lancelot, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve told before. Anyway, I started working full time from home and found that when I was able to setup my very own dedicated office at home I really rather enjoyed it.

There’s a ton of flexibility to be had when you only have to really be “dressed” from the waist up, like you can put in a load of laundry when you take a break to stretch, and you can start cooking dinner whenever you need to. Access to the fridge, freezer, and pantry was also pretty damn nice. Shoes? Who needs shoes! It’s rather heavenly. Plus, no commute other than to pick up Lancelot from his job in the morning and for me there was almost no temptation to go out to get food. Living in various states of lockdown and being afraid of catching the plague absolutely sucked, but work wasn’t the same source of stress that it had been.

One of the other added bonuses for me is that I was able to see Lancelot more than I ever had. I still had to keep my working hours during the standard day time, but having him just in another part of the house meant that I could grab a quick hug if I needed it. That emotional support was amazing.

The team I work with proved, well beyond any shadow of doubt, that we could not only perform our necessary functions working remotely but we could offer an even higher level of service than we did before. Working from home helped us to hone some of our skills and forced us to find ways to do more and do it better. And because demand for our services grew exponentially the team expanded in a big way.

So much so that there’s no longer enough physical space for all of us in our designated office suite, even if we weren’t needing to continue observing social distancing guidelines (which we are). We now rotate who is there which days so that we can each have a space for that day where we don’t have to wear a mask the whole time. It’s not awful, but it sure is strange.

I’ve worked here for 20 years. I’ve had 9 different work areas. I’ve never had to share my work area like this. I’m not kidding you when I say I work out of my backpack. I had to figure out what all I need to carry with me every time I go in, including my personal office supplies. I do have a shelf in a closet where I keep a few “kitchen” type supplies for myself but that’s it. Everything else I carry with me on my back, every single time.

It’s not awful but it’s also not great. I always used to joke that my office was my home away from home, and it looked like it.

That was how it used to look. Very personalized, very me.

What’s actually hardest for me is the going back and forth. I work on campus two days a week, Thursday and Friday, and going between home and campus is rough. I can’t keep to the same routines every day, I don’t have my same supports in place, and there are no orange kitties on campus to walk on the keyboard. The funny thing is that I wouldn’t mind going back to working on campus full time, because that would be consistent. It’s the inconsistencies of this that throw my bipolar off kilter.

Even after all this time, 15 years now, it never ceases to amaze me how much of a creature of habit I have to be in order to maintain my sanity.

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