That feeling of unease

The COVID-19 epidemic forced all the university staff to work from home. I consider myself very lucky for having a job that can be performed from home in its entirety,  because my main issue has been to follow all the recommendations to avoid as much as possible catching the virus: many people had to struggle with that but at the same time lost their jobs or passed through a really hard time because of lack of the usual volume of income.

While working from home I have started feeling more stressed than the usual. At the beginning, I was attributing this to the situation of being at home entire days, seldom going out for groceries or a walk. More recently, now that the lockdown started being lifted, I started going out more but the feeling of stress didn’t go down.

I thought that maybe I just don’t work well at home, but personally I enjoy quite a lot working from home: although I have some interruptions from the family, I can focus pretty well, I have my cats nearby, all my books nearby, my comfy armchair, and so on and so forth.

Then I went a couple days at the university, and it dawned on me. When I commute, I profit from two very strong effects. First, I have uninterrupted time in which I can only think with no distractions, and can’t do anything else. Second, commuting forces me to stop working at a very precise hour, in order to arrive home in time. Yesterday I made an approximate count of the daily hours I worked during the lockdown, and it turns out I worked on average two hours per day more than usual: no wonder I was feeling stressed and unhappy, with the feeling that I could not detach from work!

The good news is that the solution is very simple: I’ll just track my working hours and shut down the laptop when I reach the daily maximum! This is something I had already learnt years ago, but the epidemic-induced unstructured time (no “I arrive at work X, I leave work at Y” boundaries) sneaked up on me in a very deceitful way! No more!