Living and learning at home

For many, it was the first time they saw Executive Vice President Dale Hamel not dressed in a suit. 

Working from his dining room table, Hamel said, “I have a nice view of the Amazon trucks traversing the neighborhood while participating in meetings.”

He added he is disrupted “when the Amazon truck arrives at my house – it feels like multiple times a day – and the dogs provide their, ‘Hellos,’ from the dining room window. I retreat to the back porch.”

Hamel explained his wife “commandeered” the den for online working while his daughter, a senior at UMass Amherst, “has taken over the other room that has a door.”

With the University moving to remote learning and working, many students, administrators, faculty, and staff find themselves in similar situations struggling to find the perfect place to work in their homes free from disturbance. 

“I’m considering digging a bunker,” said Rachel Trousdale, an English professor. 

Trousdale explained how she and her husband take turns watching their children in an attempt to get work done. 

Unfortunately, sometimes they find themselves in meetings or classes at the same time. They then take turns doing “double duty.”

“Last week, I had to teach class with my 2-year-old napping on my lap,” she said. “Once she settled down she wasn’t visible, so I hope it wasn’t too distracting for the students, but she made it a bit harder for me to concentrate.”

Connie Cabello, vice president for diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, had moved into a new place only a week before remote working began. 

“My house was a complete disaster and nothing was set up,” she said. 

Initially, Cabello said, “I set up like a little office station in my kitchen, and I was there for like two weeks, but what I quickly realized is I needed to get myself out of the kitchen because I would not stop eating.”

She then moved her office upstairs. She explained she doesn’t have any small children, so she is free from disturbances and can focus.

Cabello said when she was getting her doctorate, the majority of the courses were online.

“So, I feel like that trained me a little bit for this experience,” she said.

“One of the reasons I like working on a college campus is you get to walk around,” Cabello said. “You can have meetings in different locations. You see people on your walk to meetings. 

“It’s much more social,” she added. “Sitting in the same room all day can be very exhausting.”

President F. Javier Cevallos had similar feelings, and said he misses the chats he had while changing locations in between meetings. 

Cevallos explained working online has been “more intense,” and there is less time to think and relax.

“I have learned to appreciate how important those little 5-to-15 minute breaks are for you just to come down to relax – to think,” he added.

Cevallos said he likes to start his morning meetings from his office in Dwight Hall. 

“I think it’s really important for me to go to my office just because I want to see people around,” he said. “I want people to know that I am around.

“I am not a ghost that has disappeared someplace,” Cevllos added. “I’m here.”

He explained there are roughly one or two people on his office floor, but most people are working remotely, which is what the University wants. 

Cevallos said he gets to his office around 8:30 a.m. where he has Zoom meetings until around 1 p.m. 

“It gets very lonely,” he said. “So, I go home for lunch.”

He then continues his Zoom meetings at home. 

Sarah Mulhall Adelman, a history professor, said she has her meetings and classes in her basement. 

“It is a basement, so sort of dark and outdated, but it is the quietest place in the house,” she said. “I have three young children, and with schools and daycare closed, anywhere on the main floor of the house would be subject to constant interruptions.”

Mulhall Adelman said there can still be interruptions when a child sneaks down, but her husband usually notices and “comes down to retrieve them.”

She said she has had to hold meetings in her older children’s bedroom. 

“Bunkbeds in the background is not exactly the ideal professional environment, but we are all doing the best we can,” she added.

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