David's Blog

Reflections On Shelter-In-Place

Friday marked the end of three weeks of 100% working from home and about a week and a half of Bay Area shelter-in-place being in effect. The weekend started to feel like staying at home was “the new normal”. Overall, I think that I have adjusted to the working remote part of this experience rather well but less so to the other parts of shelter-in-place (nor do I hope to ever fully adjust to those…). I even like certain aspects of working from home more than being in the office: easy impromptu Zoom meetings w/o booking a room, more control over my space/desk, a more relaxing and less urgent morning overall. I even purchased a webcam to make meetings from my desk easier!

Of course, I miss seeing people in the office daily and sharing things like lunch or tea with my coworkers. It would certainly be nice to have a dedicated space for working as well. One side effect of not having that dedicated space (as well as more time at home overall) is that I’ve noticed it’s much easier to let work happen after working hours. For example I needlessly jumped into debugging a minor incident at work when others were already on it and I was not paged (though I am on call this week for other systems).

The little I’ve been out in visiting businesses, it has also seemed that people are adjusting and taking reasonable precautions: Grocery stores like Luke’s Local and Safeway have instituted “one in, one out” rules to limit the number of visitors in their stores and there are lines outside. My favorite coffee shop in the city, Bernie’s, had chairs blocking direct access to their bar area to create more space between those working and customers. People broadly seem to be more respectful of the “6 feet” rule now as well.

For working days, I have been trying to remain in a decent morning routine: make tea, go for a walk, have breakfast, and start work either after breakfast or while eating it. I do need to get better about "after work" routines though. I’ve also been either going for a run or a second walk when I sign off of work for the day. One problem I have been encountering is that it is too easy to leave my work computer plugged into my monitor and keyboard at my desk – partially because I need to crawl behind my desk to swap it back to my other computer) and it is also too easy to leave Slack up and get sucked in to work if something comes up. I’m trying to improve the after work routine this week.

All of that said, I worry this pandemic will continue to get worse in the coming days and weeks – both in California and in the country as a whole. I think this has affected my overall productivity in work and everyday life. On the one hand I know that I am incredibly fortunate and privileged to have a job that I enjoy and can continue doing in the face of all these societal changes. Especially considering that 3 million+ people applied for unemployment insurance in the US just last week. On the other hand, things being less productive adds to my personal worry a small amount ("I’m not working like the normal me"). That is OK. I try to remind myself that things aren’t supposed to be normal right now and am fortunate that work is supportive of adjusted expectations in this time.

The bright spot is that early indications are that shelter in place is working for the Bay Area. I’m happy that we moved on that early. I’ve been following the John’s Hopkins daily situation report and, more recently, the SF Chronicle’s case tracking graphs for CA and the Bay Area. The Chronicle uses a combination of state/local health department data as well as that from the COVID Tracking project. Early indications aside (fingers crossed that they are true), California’s 60K pending tests are a big unknown.Here’s to the next two to four weeks seeing marked improvement in the Bay Area, followed by California and the country at large...