Working from home is something I have done for over 15 years, so I didn’t have to give up going to the office when New York went on lockdown. In many ways, it is the ideal situation for me: I live alone, have a designated workspace, a quiet neighborhood, and tend to do most of my business communication by email, text, and phone.
But I hate chatting on video. In fact, my motto during shelter-in-place has been, “If the meeting is on Zoom, there is no meeting.” I no longer wear my contact lens, makeup, or even blow dry my hair. Why put colleagues through that?
Most New Yorkers, however, are used to going to an office. But all that has changed. And now, for months, many of you have been working with your kids and pets—all in the same space. And most businesses will continue to have employees work from home even after New York opens fully—so get used to this.
You might be excited about never having to get dressed up for work and navigate a long commute. Being able to sanitize your work environment safely is a big plus.
Or maybe you’re finding there’s no separation of your home and work lives—and so you may find yourself working more because you essentially now live in your office, or maybe you’re working less, or less productively, because it is easy to be distracted by all the turmoil in the news. Maybe you miss socializing—sharing memes is just not enough to replace human interaction.
You might feel that working from home is a drag because you live in a small apartment—like everyone else. Maybe it even feels a little unfair: Are you subsidizing your employer by setting up your own office, shelling out for furniture and supplies from your own pocket? (In order to claim a home office deduction on your taxes, there are some very specific, hard-to-meet requirements.) Some companies like Google are giving employees $1,000 to outfit their home office, but most companies are not Google.
You’re not alone if you’re not on board with working from home: According to a recent study of over 2,600 Americans from Commercial Café , 59 percent of people do not want to have to work from home full-time.
Then there are the can’t-make-this-up fails—usually involving pets, or children—or forgetting to wear pants on a Google Hangout with colleagues. Remember when a reporter, now referred to as “BBC dad,” was giving a live interview that was interrupted by his two young children?
Brick Underground asked New Yorkers about their work from home experience during the pandemic. Read on for their fails, frustrations, hacks, and why remembering to put yourself on mute when nature calls is essential.
Falling asleep on the job
“It was 7:30 p.m. and I had just put my kids to sleep. I was exhausted after having had to manage their sugar rush, homework, dinner, and play. However, I still had to conduct the closing meeting for the day with my team.
I started the video meeting and while waiting for my team members to connect, I laid my head on the table. I woke up three hours later.
The entire team had connected and after 10 minutes of hopelessly trying to wake me up, decided that it would be best to let me sleep!” —Joe, formerly of NYC, now sheltering in Truxton, CO
“I just moved out of a two bedroom in Alphabet City/East Village and into a studio, so I realllllly needed a change of scenery. I made my fire escape into my WFH office—it has been one of my funniest experiences in quarantine.
I'll paint a picture: There's a yoga mat on the ground, a sh*tty blanket fashioned into a cushion, a box for my laptop and a small succulent to really give the ‘desk’ vibe. The stairs going up are my ‘floating shelves’ for papers (with weights), drinks (coffee), snacks, and a small speaker. It's the little things that make this bearable. Sometimes I can pull off making calls with Air Pods for work, and sometimes without for friends that can tolerate it. Generally, I'm lucky the street is quiet, and that not many people are out right now – except for the cheering at 7 p.m.” —Tori, Gramercy Park
The people’s court
“I am a lawyer. I was on a telephone hearing with the judge and a bunch of people waiting for their case to be called, along with their attorneys. There are usually 15 clients plus their counsel. Someone was flushing their toilet and forgot to put it on mute! Thankfully it was just audio and not video. I couldn’t help but laughing out loud—my phone was on mute. The judge didn’t think it was as funny. He advised whoever it was to mute their phone.” —KK, Staten Island
Ghost in the machine
“I am severely immunocompromised and must stay at home in the city, so I started using FaceTime every day for work and social interactions. A colleague inherited his parents’ home in Queens. Almost every single FaceTime session, I see orb-like shapes flying all across the screen. He’s told me it must simply be a reflection of his glasses or of the TV screen. But I think differently: I know it’s his (deceased) mother in the room saying hello! It can be very distracting and make it hard to concentrate on our video discussion. It is extremely difficult to take a screenshot as the orbs travel very fast all across the video. He doesn’t see any orbs on my side, and I explained it is because no one otherworldly is visiting me. LOL!” —Amy, Carnegie Hill
“Working from home can be extremely difficult when you have a downstairs neighbor who has been furloughed and is home 24 hours a day with his old and very yappy dog. Prior to the mandate, I had issues with the noise and complained to management many times.
But now that doggie daycare is closed, and he has nowhere else to go, and neither do I, the issue has clearly escalated. It is difficult enough keeping my own dog—who thankfully never makes noise—out of the video frame, but it is nearly impossible to keep my downstairs neighbor’s dog from being heard. This issue culminated with an in-person run-in with him at a local grocery store where he called me an expletive (for complaining about him). It ultimately ended with the police coming during the pandemic, when they clearly have better things to deal with.” —Pete, Midtown
The drummer boy
“This isn’t my noise but my co-worker’s, who lives in the East Village. We were on our team’s Zoom happy hour and everyone was confused about the background banging noise. It turns out her upstairs neighbor is a drummer, and quarantine has not quieted his practice. I would’ve lost it a long time ago but she is a saint for putting up with it!
I am sheltering in both our apartment in Harlem and my husband’s house up in Hudson. Not all WFH interruptions are annoying: My coworkers are treated daily to my two giant dogs interrupting. They are really cute.” —Ashley, Harlem/Hudson
Down the drain
“In late March, I had a particularly busy Monday with seven, back-to-back, video meetings. And three minutes before my first meeting of the day, I accidentally dropped my earbuds into my coffee. They went into a bag of rice, but I got glared at for using speakerphone for the rest of the day!” —Ashley, Yorkville
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