So… We are all working from home now (aka: expanding our virtual lab)
As a lab, we’ve occupied a virtual space for a number of years. Some students are co-directed with colleagues in France, others have had a mat-leave (including me), and others have stayed in Montreal following my move to Edmonton. For the first time, we are all working from home. This new arrangement is providing more flexibility (e.g., being able to return home to family) but also greater isolation. After about a month, here are some things that we have found helpful to explore.
(1) Be kind to yourself.
These changes in the way we work and live due to Covid-19 are enormous. I think it helps if you can allow yourself time to adapt to this new context and not to expect the same levels of productivity. If you can remember when you started graduate school, it took time to adjust to the new environment and to find your way of working. And now, you still know what you know but the way of working might need some adjustments. This learning will serve you well in the future as being flexible is helpful when we move to new jobs or change positions.
(2) Set up virtual lab meetings.
I began by setting up a weekly virtual lab meeting: same time, same place. I’ve encouraged everyone to make time to drop in. In this meeting we’ve discussed themes for future meetings and current questions. So far, we’ve begun drafting a questionnaire to ask about the COVID-19 experience of families who have children with communication disorders. We have also decided to include a virtual journal club in our meeting.
(3) Set up a virtual space for less formal check-ins.
I tried to set up a Google Chat Room, but it seemed to only be available to lab members with from my institution. To be able to include students co-supervised elsewhere, I set up a Trello board to allow for less formal check-ins and questions. My goal is to imitate what happens when we are in the lab together – you lean over, and ask “Hey, do you know how to get the formatting to work in this table?” The kind of small problem that can suck up time, and which also seems to minor to email someone about.
(4) Encourage student driven initiatives.
The awesome students in my lab have set up their own Pomodoro writing sessions online to provide some of that social writing space that we are missing out.
(5) Maintain regular meetings.
I have also continued our regular individual or project meetings. Through these meetings, we have time to talk about how we are coping, new questions, and identify roadblocks. We’re still making progress, even if the pace has changed.