The first days of the quarantine are over. We got acquainted with a new reality, faced unexpected challenges and made amazing discoveries. What about our colleagues? Which points became crucial for their perception of a new normality? And what conclusions did they come to? What helps them stay positive and joyful? How did they manage to balance remote work and a noisy family?
From April 26 to May 10, we carried out the survey “Work from Home, or New Facets of Everyday Life”. Today we would like to tell you about the findings of the survey in which 45 staff members of our laboratory took part. We thank all of them for their sincere answers, which would surely help everyone look at the world around us and ourselves in a slightly different way.
How long do you work remotely?
At the time the survey started, social distancing had been already lasting for the staff members of our laboratory for 3 to 45 days.
Some are also happy that they can work lying on the couch, others appreciate the option of working every moment at weekends or even at three at night when a fellow researcher suddenly calls, eager to share the idea he has just come up with. Third ones merely enjoy freedom of thoughts.
Quote: “Woke up – had breakfast – started working.”
To this question we got more emotional answers. Fundamental impossibility of working at home upsets some of us, others miss a good discussion and quick decisions.
Quote: “It’s not a fool’s idea to bring scientists together. The synergy increases the productivity greatly…”
The question What do you miss at home but have at your workplace? you answered using controversial statements. Some claim they have absolutely everything at home, others say they have nothing at all, and the others dream merely of a coffee machine.
Also, one misses a couch with a fluffy blanket and comfy home clothing, another one looks for books and a stepper, and a third dreams of a large sunny balcony.
Quote: There is “no opportunity for pointing with a live finger to a live Feynman diagram, writing formulas on the board while seizing a piece of chalk from each other…”
The respondents were asked to name the most unusual place at home where they worked, and 20% of them answered it was a kitchen. Some claimed that they work only at their special workspace. The others looked for something more comfortable (on the couch, on the floor in the living room, in the bathroom) or for better internet connection (in the hallway on the floor) or for fresh air and sunny surroundings (on the balcony, outdoors, in the country).
Quote: “I don’t have any unusual places at home, and work is in full swing wherever you are.”
What helps you stay focused?
To get focused, some of us need peace and quiet (15%), as well as music and children’s afternoon naps. Someone wrote there are no chances to concentrate at all; everything seems to be against it. Others do not have “any problems”: “started working – kept working”.
Moreover, our little ones like to press all buttons on our laptops and rush into the room crashing our video conference calls.
Quote: “We arranged that I have definite time for work. However, I often want to go out of the room, have a talk, do something for them…”
What did you learn from remote work?
We learned a lot from our work from home—how to assign tasks, rearrange them, make a working schedule more compact and efficient. We got a new look at multitasking, reflected on upsides of life and work before lockdown without any restrictions, started mastering all kinds of computer programmes and educational platforms. However, 20% of respondents said that they learned nothing. Some learned to be patient, laconic and not to interrupt their better half while working. Others trained themselves in tea brewing, the others tried out various recipes, and still the others cognized pedagogy and Zen.
Quote: “… realized that to be productive I should turn off all messengers for a while.”
QUESTION 18, 19, 20.
Quote: “I don’t know how long I can endure it yet”.
What did you promise yourself to do as soon as you return to the Laboratory?
- Start working (22%).
- Meet my colleagues and have a cup of tea/coffee (13%).
- Nothing (11%).
- Tidy my workplace up (8%).
- Water flowers (4%).
- Put into operation a new detector.
- Return to remote working.
- Copy all data sorting programs.
- Upgrade own computer.
- Take cooked food from home.
- Make a party.
Which is your tip for everybody on how to improve their work productivity and not to despond.
Quote of a pessimist: “Titanic is sinking, what can be advised here?”
Quotes of optimists: “The main point is to make things happen” and “remember that everything will end one day”.
How did lockdown affect the work within your collaboration? What changed?
Some of you claim the situation impaired dramatically—events, meetings and business trips were cancelled; working on several experiments was postponed; some important questions remained unsolved; there are no personal contacts and no options to control the work of the collaboration members; general productivity decreased.
Others believe that there were only a few changes. The major one is the transition of the main communications into the online format. For this reason, however, we also have more meetings and paperwork. In addition, virtual meetings cannot substitute a real communication to the full extent.
Thirds say their productivity increased, the collaboration on the projects became more intense, and there is even more time to thoroughly elaborate your own field of knowledge.
Quote: “Urgent cases changed to the category ‘no hurry’”.
Which decision made due to the changes within your institution or collaboration do you consider the most efficient?
This is the changeover to online meetings and seminars, 22% of teammates believe. And also, the quick decision about staff remote working, 10% of us say. The decisions not to reduce salaries, not to stop working and to prolong projects were mentioned as well.
Quote: “There were no efficient or inefficient ones, there were only those enforced and indispensable at the time of common madness”.
What kind of new problems and questions did you unexpectedly face?
- A low-capacity notebook.
- No computer desk chair and no monitor.
- It is not that easy to stay locked without any fresh air.
- Some complications of the collaborative experiment preparation.
- Computer support at CERN.
- It is hard to set distinct boundaries between home and work.
- No direct interaction with colleagues.
- Staff reorientation to perform other tasks, such as designing, modelling and analysis.
- Difficulties when collaborating and taking responsibilities.
- How to stay positive?
- How to organize a workspace at home if there is no place in the flat?
- Why does Mac heat up while some programs are running (Zoom, TeamViewer)?
- How to program using the command line?
- What to do with all the energy inside of us at home?
- How to walk more than 2,000 steps a day?
- Where can I get some money?
- What is the purpose of life?
Quote: “Now I see that people are more sociable than I thought earlier.”
Do you have any ideas how to optimize remote working?
- To permit occasionally access to the workplace.
- Remote working should be combined with live communication.
- To improve the staff’s living conditions—to grant one more room to make a study.
- To create within the flat separate areas for relaxing and working.
- To build test benches in the garage.
- To purchase the equipment for home office (printer, widescreen monitor, handy mouse, whiteboard, external webcam, microphone, tripod).
- To provide a high-speed internet connection.
- Temporary transfer processing powers to the home office.
- To use Vidyo, Overleaf.
- To choose only one social networking system or messenger for communication.
- Weekly online meetings within the group.
- To find remote working tasks for engineers, technicians and methodologists.
What other question would you like to answer but did not find it here?
- When will remote work end?
- Would you be happy if the Directorate proposes a partial remote work schedule for the future?
- Which decision made due to the changes in your institution or collaboration do you consider as the most unhelpful?
- What kind of psychological support to the staff in lockdown could be proposed in the future?
- Would it be of any interest to you to see on our website an overall analysis of facts and statistics appeared in mass media?
- Did you find some good films you can recommend without hesitation?
- Did you start reading more on lockdown?
- What about your hobbies?
- Which online decisions will stay with us after lockdown?
We would like to thank you for frank answers, shared viewpoints and useful proposals. There is a lot to think about. We hope everyone could find something valuable for themselves, reflect on how they do or just smile.
Take care of yourselves and see you soon!
Your Group of Scientific Communications