I’ll admit that when I pictured myself writing this post back in the spring, I imagined I would be describing the challenges of settling into a new country or the beautiful scenery on the walk to my new office. Even though the pandemic has put those adventures on hold, I am still writing this post from a new city with lots of new experiences to report on!
It has been about a month now since I started a remote internship with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), and moved to Ottawa to live in a house with four of my MAGG peers. My roommates and I are all in the same boat. We are working for organizations based across the world, but our internships have been moved online. This summer, when we all realized we wouldn’t be travelling to complete our internships in person, we decided to move to our nation’s capital region together and set-up our own sort of “office.”
Working from home has definitely posed its challenges for all of us. For example, everyone is working in different time-zones. Someone could have a meeting on Bangkok time at 10PM, while someone could be waking up at 5AM to connect with co-workers in Johannesburg.
However, sharing the experience of working from home has also come with a lot of positives for me and for our house of MAGGs. First, we have created a productive space where we can get our work done and encourage each other. Although we are working on a diverse array of projects, we support each other by sharing interesting things we have read, providing feedback, and reminding each other to set boundaries. And, we hang out at coffee and lunch breaks like a normal office!
Second, we have really enjoyed exploring a new city together. The past few weeks have brought stricter social distancing measures in an attempt to slow the second wave of COVID-19. Luckily, we live right next to the Ottawa Canal and Strathcona Park. We have stayed safe and taken advantage of the lingering warm weather with lots of walks and picnics.
Setting boundaries is perhaps one of the greatest challenges that I have dealt with while working from home. My internship is project-based rather than hourly, so it can be easy to treat it like a continuation of my coursework. This allows me the flexibility to work for a few hours and then take a bike ride, for example. But it also becomes easy to blur the line between leisure and work.
Before the pandemic, I used to go to the library or a coffee shop to get myself in the proper mindset to work. However, with remote work, I have found it helpful to block off time in my calendar and to designate certain spaces in the house for work and relaxation. I have set-up a workspace in one of the common areas to set a physical boundary for myself and am trying to stick to a daily schedule. I’ll admit that I still work in my pyjamas most days, though!
Even though I have had to adjust my expectations for this internship, I am learning lots of great skills working remotely, such as adaptability and self-motivation. I keep reminding myself that I am lucky to be able to work from home, and that our efforts are important in keeping each other healthy. Meanwhile, I am very grateful for my amazing peers that double as friends, roommates, and “co-workers.”