Working From Home Can Do That To You, Too

COVID-19 lockdowns had same effect on memory as serving jail time: study

Last month, the local software developer’s group had a panel discussion on the pros and cons of working from home. One of the very last questions was about how working from home affects your sense of time. I don’t know whether the questioner had seen similar studies, but I have often given this thought over the years and certainly since the developer meetup–I came right home and started drafting a post for the group’s Discord server, but I showed a draft of it to my beautiful wife, but she was not impressed, so I discarded instead of discording.

However, here’s a bit of a related musing:

1. In the short term, your time is integrated.
I found that once I started working from home, my days were no longer bifurcated into the work day spent away at work and the home life, spent at home and everywhere else. I mean, when I would think back on this or that, work time was separate from the rest of my life, and I didn’t correlate last Tuesday at the office with last Tuesday night having dinner with my wife and watching hockey. If I wanted to remember when something happened for work or in real life, I would have to count back using the events at work to remember something from work or using life at home to remember things from home. It was weird.

Once I started working from home, though, all time and experience flowed into a single bucket. My whole timeline was integrated in a way it had not been before. So that was really nice.

2. Over the long term, though, time melts together.

I’ve worked from home for 18 of the last 19 years, and 14 of those have been from my office at Nogglestead. As I have mentioned, we don’t change things up very much at Nogglestead, and my office has not really changed since we moved in–after all, the bookshelves, arcade game, and giant desk with enormous hutch really can only fit together one way (although it should be noted that in our little under 3 years in Old Trees, I did move my office from one place to another as we made room for another baby). I have had numerous clients and a couple of full time jobs, and the look and experience of going to work has been almost exactly the same, day in and day out, for fourteen years. My office with F—-, my office with G—–, and now my office with C—- have all looked the same. A big monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard.

So events of the years have blended together in memory. I rely an awful lot on this blog to help me remember where I was or what I was doing or reading or watching at any given point in time–and if you read my book reports or movie reports, you’ll often find me saying, “I read/watched this related thing …. how many years ago?”

It’s probably exacerbated by the fact that I’m quite a homebody, and my choice of leisure is often sitting at my computer or in the recliner which is very much the same year after year, too.

So, basically, the old saw that “The days are long, but the years are short” becomes “The days are longer, but the years are shorter.”

And now if anyone asks me what it’s like working from home, I’m going to answer that it’s a lot like prison. And the more introverted you are, the worst it is.

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