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Faculty and Staff

Working from Home in the College of Natural Resources

Working from home in the College of Natural Resources, College of Natural Resources, desk with NC State stuff, Lauren McLaughlin, feature

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic sent much of the NC State community home to continue their work from a safe distance. After four months of adapting to new routines, we asked College of Natural Resources faculty, staff and graduate students to share how they were doing working from home.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

It’s no surprise that many people cited challenges with technology, communication and a lack of contact with others. Working from home moves in-person communication online, taking away meaningful interaction and often increasing accessibility outside work hours.

It can also mean more distractions, and in many cases, parents must find solutions to childcare. Moving out of typical work spaces has led some to settle for makeshift home offices. This lack of separation between work and home can lead to stress and unbalance.

Despite the problems faced, working from home has its benefits, too. The lack of commute was most often listed as the best thing about working from home. Time usually spent in the car is now being used to do other things, such as exercise, cook or spend time with family. 

Dr. George Hess in Forestry and Environmental Resources says he can now “make nice family breakfasts,” and Dr. Megan Lupek of the Environmental First Year Program is enjoying the company of her new office mates: Bruce the greyhound and Manco the cat.

Working from home in the College of Natural Resources, College of Natural Resources, Bruce and Manco, courtesy Dr Megan Lupek

While balance can be lost through the blending of work and home environments, it can also be found through increased flexibility. Jill Sidebottom says, “I feel like I am the master of my own time, rather than trying to fit myself into other people’s schedules.”

Balancing It All

In this time of social distancing we can still lend each other a virtual hand in the form of advice. Here are five tips from staff, faculty and students about working and staying at home:

  • Create a routine and timeline for your day and stick to it. For instance, log on and start at 8 a.m., work until 11:30, take lunch and go for a walk, and then get back to work and end at 4:30 – 5 p.m. Shut down your laptop when you are done working and don’t log back in.”
    – Jordan Wilkins, Dean’s Office
  • Create a brain board: “I think I have found the right combination using “retreat size” Post-it Notes, markers, colored pencils and a variety of other sized Post-its. This keeps me on track.”
    – Jennifer Piercy, Forest Biomaterials
  • Make time for FaceTime. I have made time to see other family and friends by cooking with them while using Zoom, setting up a time for them to just talk from our couches, [and] making regular ‘visits’ with them.”
    – Ashley Hamilton, Forestry and Environmental Resources
  • “Make sure to stick with the fundamental: clear communication, explain and manage expectations, [and] learn how to navigate in [an] online environment.”
    – Jerry Lee, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
  • “You’re not alone at all. Reach out to others, let your own team know what you’re dealing with, and make a plan to overcome it.”
    – Julius Emanuel, Center for Geospatial Analytics

Laughing Through It

Whether it’s been a seamless transition or a bumpy road, working from home was bound to yield some funny stories. Here are a few:

Cathy Moon, Dean’s Office

“I have two cats. One is little and a heat seeking missile. She is drawn to my laptop. One time she jumped up on my computer when I was in a meeting and proceeded to press a bunch of F function buttons which simultaneously muted the session, turned on voice control and locked the keyboard. I had a real learning experience trying to undo that since I’m not an IT person. Luckily she sleeps most days so the tiny terror isn’t always trying to get in on my work.”  

Jason Bocarro, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

“I have many, as do others, but one was that I had a meeting with a committee I was chairing on tenure and promotion standards. It was a serious meeting. However, my first grade son Liam also had a Zoom meeting with his class at the same time. So I helped him log on and got him set up on an IPad and then ran over to my office for the meeting. When I logged on to my Zoom meeting, for some reason it knocked him off his first grade class Zoom meeting and put him in my meeting – so as we started discussing tenure standards, my son’s 7-year-old confused face popped up on our meeting. People started worrying why a child was in the meeting. He ran in worried about a bunch of strange people appearing on the screen.”

Gene Brothers, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

“After class students were placed in breakout rooms and sometimes it was difficult to end a session because the students wanted to just hangout and talk about what was going on in their stay at home lives.”

Lauren Lewandowski, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

“It’s always interesting to see what my pet parrot is going to decide to say whenever I turn on my microphone for a professional work meeting or phone call!”

Julius Emanuel, Center for Geospatial Analytics

“I put my work laptop on my night stand and woke up one morning literally five minutes before a meeting was scheduled. I rolled over, signed in, joined the call and laid right there.”