Home office during Covid-19 set up in the guest room. CC-BY-ND 4.0

The room that I call ‘kontoret’ (‘the office’, in English) at home is actually the guest room. It has already a small desk and we attached one of the screens for the PC unit to the wall with a mounting, so it could work as well as an extra monitor as it could serve as a screen for watching something online. I also use this room to hide my remaining analog books, mostly language learning textbooks, and a few fiction titles in various languages.

The microphone is a leftover from when I was incapacitated during a long term illness and couldn’t type, write, or use a mouse or touchpad so I had to dictate all my writing. I had planned to sell it since I no longer had use for it, but forgot about it after the move. Lucky me!

I also have a good amount of office supplies. It’s a bit of a passion, actually, and something I’ve enjoyed since my teenage years. Yes: I like browsing for – and owning – office supplies. Beat that! So I was lucky again to have a good supply of pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks in all shapes and sizes, a hole puncher, a magnifying glass, reading support, post-its, and whatnot. I also have a fair amount of adapters, extenders, and power cables (even though I found myself lacking adapters for the work laptop…). So I’m pretty well set up for doing the home office in that regard.

We bought wireless noise-canceling headphones and a proper webcam for the remote teaching and meetings we are having (a lot of), so not too much stuff and it will have a use afterward…

However, it turns out that there’s a significant difference between using a desk a couple of hours per month, on occasion, for short periods of time and using it every day for a full day of work. It’s not adjustable, it’s not deep enough, and it has these protruding knobs on the inbuilt drawers that poke me quite uncomfortably. There’s generally little space since the room is dominated by a daybed (which is not used at the moment). It’s also pretty cold in the room since we removed the electric radiator to replace it with a nicer one – which obviously didn’t happen because the room is so seldomly used…

I found out, however, that running folding at home on the old gaming PC hidden behind the daybed creates so much heat that it works as a veritable radiator replacement!

I’ve considered buying a small printer so that I can print out stuff to read (I get very quickly very tired and strained from reading long texts on pdfs on the computer screen), but I really don’t want to have it clutter the apartment. So I’m considering getting an eReader with notebook functionality instead. Yet another device, but it might work better in the longer term and it is smaller.

It’s day 15 of the Covid-19 physical distancing measures here in Norway now, let’s see how things develop in the future. My partner and I need to share the little office, so one of us will sit in the living room instead, which works well enough for reading and working on the laptop. But the sitting position is even less ergonomic and the environment invites for procrastination. There’s nothing else to do than trying out how to work from home like this and make adjustments where and when possible.

I consider myself incredibly lucky living in where I live – if I get cabin fever, I have the woods right behind the house. Stay safe!

Mushroom hunting in Lillomarka, Norway. © Annika Rockenberger

Norway responded to the Covid-19 pandemic on March 11 with broad restrictions and preventive measures. On March 13, my employer, the University of Oslo was closed for all students and staff which is not necessary for safety and security. Everyone who does not serve a critical role in society is to work from home, and those who have been abroad from February 27 onwards, have to go into quarantine for at least 14 days. So: as of March 11, I have had ‘home office’ and as of March 12, I have been in quarantine at home.

Today, on Twitter, Remi van Trijp coined the neologism “procoronastinate”, meaning “Not being able to concentrate/work because of the coronavirus” in his tweet while sharing an article in the BBC’s Worklife section on “Why procrastination is about managing emotions, not time.” – Yes, this is exactly what has been happening to me. Even though I have an actual office/guest room at home, had brought my work laptop, have stable WiFi, a high-quality microphone, extra screen, and whatnot and no children, cats, or dogs to care for, I was not able to get anything done. My motivation was non-existent, I was feeling easily irritable and frustrated, not able to focus, let alone work! I am not afraid of contracting the Coronavirus, and I am not afraid of society breaking down. But I have never been in a remotely similar situation in my life, I have no experience to draw on, no frame for understanding what is going on.

Instead of working (or reading something), I found myself feverishly checking Twitter – my only Social Media platform – and the websites of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Ministry of Health for up-to-date information about what is going on, what to expect, what I am allowed and not allowed to do. I hit the refresh button in the browser constantly, checked emails, messenger apps. There was no panic, no drama, no one in my family and friend circles who is immediately threatened, but I could not let go.

Since then, a couple of days have passed, and I am slowly, very slowly, settling into the new situation. I’ve had a remote meeting with my colleagues from work, I’ve set up a couple of remote meetings with the StudyGroup I am part of, and I am looking forward to joining a webinar and a virtual Stammtisch in the next few days. I have also started doing “office-stuff”, nothing big or important, but some Zotero maintenance, replying to emails, cleaning up my Desktop and Downloads folders, etc. Small things, but it felt good to get something done, small accomplishments, progress.

This is only Day 7 of the Covid-19 restrictions, and it might be weeks, or even months of mainly doing work from home, remotely, and with reduced physical contact with friends and colleagues, going out and being around people. I want to try taking care of myself: taking it a day at a time, doing what I feel like doing, rather than trying to get as much as possible done. Let’s see how this will turn out. I am optimistic: All will be well, eventually.

See you all on the other side! Stay safe and #stayhome!