Oh No, the Kids Are Back: Reflections and Forebodings on Working from Home

no kids

I don’t remember what it was like at the start of the pandemic half an eternity…I mean half a year ago, when we were all suddenly sent to our rooms as punishment for being human. It was March or April and so the weather (at least in Minnesota) wouldn’t have been great yet. But like I said, I can’t remember what life was like back then. All I know is it’s been summer and the weather has been nice and the kids have been outside. That means I’ve been able to safely go off mute, my internet connection has been relatively stable, and I could think without headphones on.

But guys, look at the picture. What’s wrong with this picture?! There are no kids. Nobody on the trampoline, nobody on the swing set, nobody in the pool. THE KIDS ARE BACK INSIDE THE HOUSE. The weather is getting colder and they have to “do school”. It’s a double whammy: there’s more chaos in the background of calls and my picture is frozen (no doubt in an embarrassing eyes-half-mast portrait) as my internet connection bends under the pressure of a hundred concurrent Zoom sessions.

Don’t get me wrong, working from home has its challenges any time of year. But at least in the summer their shrieks were faint. I might have had to open my window on occasion to yell at them to stop just so the neighbors wouldn’t call the police, but now when their hubbub rises to the level of distraction, I have to go find them first. Somehow the sounds of racquetball/wrestling/drumline/animal calls/whatever the blazes they are doing really travels through walls and floors.

Ok talking it out, I’m feeling a little better already. To keep things going, here are some other random reflections that may indicate perpetual work from home is catching up with me mentally and emotionally:

  • There is a woodpecker destroying my house and my sanity. A woodpecker! When I open my window and then slam it closed, he leaves for all of 15 seconds and then returns and redoubles his efforts to turn my house into one big hole.
  • I’m currently working on a project with daily meetings that started with video on and thankfully moved to audio-only as everyone realized being on camera all day is exhausting (which is the only reason I didn’t go into modeling). Now each meeting is a game of chicken to see who will break the silence and talk first at the top of the call. Am I a bad person that I never talk first and kind of hope nobody does?
  • Is it normal (and healthy) to drink coffee all day? This doesn’t really have anything to do with working from home specifically but I’m asking for a friend.
  • Did I mention the woodpecker? One day while I was on a call (when am I not on a call?) my father-in-law stopped by to drop something off and the woodpecker followed him into the house. I kid you not. There was apparently quite the commotion as he and the kids eventually shepherded the house-murderer back outside. I say “apparently” because the level of commotion seemed completely normal to me at this point in my life.
  • Remember lunch? The thing where you left your desk for a few minutes in the middle of the work day to walk or drive, sometimes even with other people, to buy something to eat? And at least as far as you knew a microwave wasn’t involved in the process?
  • At what age do kids stop announcing to the world they are visiting the restroom facilities? Or at least check in first, preferably in a whisper: “Dad, are you on mute? I have something important to tell everyone but I wanted to make sure I didn’t disturb you or your colleagues.”
  • You know what we need? Another video conferencing platform. Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, Teams, GoToMeeting…there just aren’t enough to choose from. Let’s create a new platform with all of my favorite features from each:
    • Silent join so there’s no visual or audio indication that someone joined late – it’s not like that’s ever backfired and you talked about someone you thought wasn’t on the call
    • Twelve clicks to leave – there’s nothing better than saying “bye” and then spending an extremely awkward several seconds trying to get out (“yes I’m sure, hang up!!!”)
    • Control buttons that are close enough together that the odds are high I will accidentally turn on my camera instead of unmuting, and offer a brief glimpse that tells everyone “I did not intend to be on camera today”
    • Nightmare-inducing artificial backgrounds that give people hideously misshapen heads and make them appear to be getting sucked into a black hole when they back up too far
    • I know, we’ll call it Hinder™
  • Ever heard of golfer’s elbow? No, not tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow. It’s like tennis elbow but on the other side of your arm. Well, I’m pretty sure I have it. And I’m also pretty sure it’s thanks to my standing “desk” I fashioned out of cast-off furniture I found around the house.
  • I can’t even with the woodpecker. It’s pecking as I type this. Please send help.

That was cathartic. Thank you for listening. I’d love to hear from you if you can provide any answers, help, or suggestions for features we should include in the next craze Hinder!

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Kevin Campbell

I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare business intelligence and performance improvement, including developing enterprise data warehouses for large hospital and clinic systems. My work with other healthcare consulting firms and desire to help healthcare organizations leverage scarce resources through innovative approaches led me to co-found DTA; I believe we offer a unique value and perspective to organizations struggling with outcomes stagnation or other problems.

We’ve helped clients across the country accelerate toward value-based healthcare delivery.

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