February’s community call recap – Scientific community managers share their experiences of working from home

Almost one year on from the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to check in with members of the CSCCE community and find out how they have adapted to working remotely. To that end, this month’s call featured presentations, polls, and breakout rooms to encourage resource sharing and conversation, acknowledging that there is no one way to work productively at home, nor is any one resource a panacea. 

This blog post summarizes the call, including video archives of both presentations, and includes a resource list curated from our collaborative notes doc and the Zoom chat. Next month, we’re focusing on virtual and hybrid workshops and conferences, so if you are interested in presenting please let us know by emailing info@cscce.org

Setting up your home “office”

As Isabel Mendoza (The Global Plant Council) noted in her presentation, the “good old tips” are repeated for a reason: they work! Having a dedicated space in your home to work is one such oft-repeated wisdom, but where that space is may not necessarily be an office. If you’re space-limited, picking a spot that works for you might depend on light, heat, air conditioning, or access to a comfortable chair or standing-height desk. One thing that’s worth investing in, though, is a quality office chair and footrest, to keep your posture in check for those long days crouched over a computer. Both Isabel and Emily, our second speaker, mentioned the vital importance of getting some form of daily exercise, to keep away physical aches and pains and/or ensuring some time spent outdoors. Time management in general is also really important; set a start and stop time for your work day, track your time spent on different tasks, and set aside your most productive hours for “deep-focus” work, rather than fragmented tasks like email. 

When your family lives at work with you

Although Emily Lescak (Code for Science and Society) has worked from home for a few years, homeschooling at the same time? That’s brand new. In 2020, Emily jokes, not only did she start a new job, she also became a kindergarten teacher. She and her husband take turns looking after their 3 and 6 year old children during the day, but, like Isabel, they have a rough schedule that they try and stick to to make sure they not only get work and school done, they workout and walk the dog. Emily likened this to running a relay with herself, alternating between answering email and helping her daughter with her school work. Her primary focus since the beginning of the pandemic has been on optimizing efficiency; she has automated repetitive processes, started scheduling “work blocks” instead of Zoom meetings to collaborate more effectively (a work block involves scheduling a time where your team works together on a document or task), and emphasized the importance of being present and completely focusing on the task at hand. 

Community in action

One of the benefits of being part of a community of practice is that your fellow members can help you through difficult patches. Within the CSCCE community of practice, several of our members have found virtual co-working to be a great way of getting things done while also emulating the collegial nature of working in an office. In their 2020 blog post, Stefanie Butland and Naomi Penfold describe how this works, and some of the ways virtual co-working has impacted their work life. In one of the breakout rooms on this month’s community call, Stefanie shared her tips with call participants, and helped to set them up with potential work partners. 

Isabel and Emily also hosted breakout rooms to continue the conversation about working remotely and balancing work with parenting. And, in a fourth breakout, CSCCE’s communications director (and qualified yoga instructor!) Katie Pratt offered a “stretch and reset” standing yoga sequence to get participants on their feet and moving between Zoom meetings. 

Resources

A big thank you to Emily and Isabel for sharing their insights, pro-tips, and suggestions, and to Stefanie for hosting the co-working discussion. And, to all of the call participants who were so generous with their recommendations in the chat. We’ve collected all the resources shared on the call here, but if you have more ideas please share them in the comments below. 

Note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of resources, nor is any resource’s inclusion an endorsement by the CSCCE.

Further reading

Productivity and wellness apps

  • Calendly – An app to help you schedule meetings without generating a ton of emails. Send a link to a colleague and they can choose a time to meet with you depending on your availability. 
  • Reclaim – A smart calendar assistant that blocks flexible time for anything you care about.
  • Spark –  An email application that helps you prioritize people vs. newsletters vs. notifications.
  • Asana – This project management tool helps organize to-do lists across teams.
  • Trello – Another project management and team productivity tool.
  • Rescuetime – This app lets you track how you use your time according to different categories (e.g., communication vs. writing vs. meetings, etc) and is particularly useful for setting goals and specifically tracking them (e.g., 1h per day of writing/reading/coding).
  • Harvest – Another time tracking app, this time for teams. 
  • Timeular – You guessed it, another time tracking option. 
  • Toggl – OK, one more! Find your favorite time tracking app and figure out how much time your community management tasks really take. 
  • TomatoTimer – A pomodoro timer, particularly helpful for large projects which need to be attacked in chunks. 
  • MyNoise – Find background sounds to help you focus, e.g., CafeRestaurant, Waterfall, and CalmOffice.  
  • Radio Garden – For listening to radio stations from around the world. 
  • Down Dog – For exercise at home. One subscription includes Yoga, HIIT, Meditation, and Barre.

Hardware

  • Year Compass – A free, physical booklet that helps you reflect on the year and plan the next one. 
  • Panda Planner – A planner with spaces for reflecting on weekly and monthly wins.
  • Self Planner – Another physical planner to help you focus on the bigger picture. 
  • DeskCycle – If you’re keen on gentle exercise while working, this exercise bike/desk is super quiet and discreet – except your colleagues might notice some gentle swaying during meetings!
  • Autonomous.ai – A source of ergonomic office furniture, including chairs and standing desks.

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