During the early days of the pandemic, I spent very little time in the car. I think I was running on a single tank of gas for a few months in my vehicle (we’d take the minivan for our weekend hikes).
This week on the other hand…wow. Our new nanny is on vacation (a trip she’d planned a long time ago, before she was hired). We have a wonderful back-up option for the toddler, but that involves driving him. The other four kids are in three different camps, one of which is a half-day. Long time readers know that I create a camp spreadsheet every winter to map out the summer and coordinate the logistics of where everyone will go. This week’s schedule — with staggered drop-offs, and a noon pick-up right as a toddler would be heading home for nap — was brilliant with a full-time, driving caregiver. In the absence of that, my husband and I are both doing a morning run and an afternoon run, and I’m doing the mid-day pick-up. Plus there are the activities as usual, including belt-testing at karate this week and a new round of rock climbing lessons. So! A lot of time in the car.
It’s been fine. Everyone has gotten where they’ve needed to go. I listened to some podcasts, including Michelle Singletary’s interview on How to Money. And as for us, we just aim to be efficient. With my driving schedule, I work from 8:45-11:45. I’m usually back working by 12:45, going to 3:45. I might take a 30 minute break in there to “move by 3 p.m.” as a certain Tranquility by Tuesday rule goes. Home 4:15 from whatever camp run and I’ve done. I’ve generally been able to get another 60 minutes of work in somewhere after that, whether it’s at an activity, or in the evening (I’ve been doing the split shift some nights). So that’s 6.5-7 hours of work per day, though there are exceptions (I took the toddler to a pediatrician appointment one day this week). Hopefully next week will be less logistically complex.
This would not have worked quite so well if my husband hadn’t been working from home this week. He is still mostly here, 15 months after Covid. Pre-pandemic, far fewer organizations had experimented with remote work. I was interested to see Claire Cain Miller’s piece in the New York Times this week about serendipitous innovation, which had been a reason organizations gave for not allowing people to work from home. The idea is that proximity, and the random interactions it enables, leads to new ideas. You bump into someone from another department in the ladies room and the two of you generate a billion dollar product idea.
I jest, but that is the basic concept. It’s not crazy. There are certainly tales in the literature of highly productive research facilities where labs and experts cross-pollinated, as it were. But I think it’s also quite possible that 40 hours a week in an office is over-kill for much information work. Would you really be unable to innovate with your colleagues if you were in the office 2-3 days per week? There are also plenty of people who can’t easily work in the traditional way. Innovation requires smart, hard-working people. It seems unlikely that all the smart, hard-working people live within an hour of your headquarters, or have lives that allow them to commute in, and then work in a facility for 8 hours a day with no interruptions. I am hoping that, coming out of all this, that the hybrid model — allowing for a lot of flexibility — will become the norm.
This weekend we will visit my little brother for the first time since the pandemic began. He moved out of New York City once his employer began allowing remote work. It will be fascinating to see how that change will reshape cities, housing markets, etc.
If you worked in an office before the pandemic, what is your work schedule looking like now? Will remote work be a bigger part of the picture?
In other news: If you’re interested in my musings on remote work, I published an ebook called The New Corner Office last summer. I also hosted a podcast of the same name from April to December of 2020. You can check out those episodes here.
I will be starting my new planner this week! Anyone with a July start (academic year) planner will likely also be experiencing this as these planners tend to start with whatever week contains July 1st. Which, this year, is the week starting June 28! We shall see how I do with my Whitney English planner SHU bought me.
Photos: Hydrangeas! They’re everywhere now, along with the tiger lilies.