Employment Blog by Michael

Lemons to Lemonade

Working from home seemed like the ultimate dream to me for many reasons such as, not having to commute in the morning which saves on gas money, dressing more on the casual side, and not being able to forget anything at home, to name a few. Back in March of 2020, I received an email from Niagara College that until further notice all classes will be moved online and all co-op placements will come to an immediate closure. My first reaction was a mixture of joy, because of my schedule and commute to school but also sadness because I would not be able to say farewell to the children and youth from the three different co-op placements I had at the time. At the end of the day though, the pros outweighed the cons, and I thought it would remain that way.

While learning from home, I was faced with challenges that I never would have thought would come with online learning. For starters, my mother who has been working from home longer than I have, had to upgrade our home Wi-Fi to office speeds in order to support the amount of technology used, seeing as my twin brother and younger sister were also taking on the challenge of online learning. With our new Wi-Fi, I figured that I would not have any other issues seeing as we live in a fast-paced world of technology, but to my surprise it was only the beginning of what was to come.

At first, I thought it would be the perfect set up working from home as I could sleep in longer, have more time to myself and be in the comfort of my own home but, I slowly started to notice that it was difficult to turn a bedroom into a classroom and office. Before online learning began, I did not realize how much of an impact my 30-minute drive to school and my 30-minute drive home from school had on how the overall outcome of my day. Using that time to enjoy the drive with the windows down and music loud to separate myself from home to school or vice versa allowed for me to leave school issues at school/co-op and home projects at home so that I could focus on what was important without distractions. Separating home and school life has now become a daily struggle as I no longer have that time where I can build up to my day at school/co-op and unwind before coming home. With my two lives intertwining, I have had to adjust my behaviour in order to be successful with my new lifestyle. When possible, try and replace some of the time used that I would have been travelling with 30 minutes of personal time where I watch a video, scroll on the internet or if it is nice out, I’ll head out to the backyard and just sit on the patio listening to the surrounding noises. By taking the time to try to do something along those lines allows me to be in a better state of mind during dinner and the rest of my evening.

The other benefit I thought I would have during my time working from home was more time to move around and exercise, but then the gyms closed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. I knew that with the gyms closed that it would take a toll on me because being at the gym allowed me to really let out any issues I was facing throughout my day and even the time for simpler forms of daily exercise such as walking in the halls, to the car or even standing has been reduced dramatically. I went from a daily average of 11,500 steps without a workout to now roughly 6,500 steps and still no workouts, which has definitely impacted both my mental and physical wellbeing. In order for me to still watch my health and meet the expectations of my Apple Watch’s daily 30 minutes of exercise, I have taken on what seems like the number one trend within my neighbourhood during the pandemic: walking. Walking to me prior to the pandemic was something I never would have thought to become a part of my lifestyle, never mind something I look forward to. Taking the time to either walk alone or with someone has positively impacted my life seeing as I am not only exercising, but I also get to see things that I would have not otherwise and experience new things daily.

What I have found to be the biggest challenge up to this point due to working from home would be the amount of time on a screen. I cannot recall a time where I have spent more hours looking at either a laptop, phone or tablet for a consecutive period of time, especially that time being on a Zoom call. I am fortunate enough to say that I was able to upgrade my glasses to a new pair with blue light-blocking lenses, which has dramatically change how I feel at the end of my workday. Blue light comes from every screen and can damage your eyes over time and from my personal experience, caused headaches. I would definitely recommend blue light blocking glasses to anyone who is able to get them if they spend multiple hours a day on a screen, but if that is not an option something else that has improved my performance is taking a short 3–5-minute break from a screen to get a drink, walk to a different room of the house or simply close my eyes to just let them get refreshed.

All these challenges have taught me the true importance of mental health and the ability to develop new routines so that I am able to give 100 percent effort even though it sometimes feels like nothing is going back to normal. I feel like I have grown through this challenging time in many ways that will allow me to improve in the workplace in my home because prior to the pandemic, life was going in the right direction but moving too fast whereas now it feels like life is giving me the opportunity to think at a much slower pace.

Remember, in the race between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise won and all these challenges I have been faced with have helped me understand why that is.