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The Fudge Factor: Dispatches from the New Home Office

5 minute read

In late December, I flaunted the family rule precluding March break travel and booked a Disney cruise for March 15. Well, that did not quite work out as planned but I was determined to try to take a work break nonetheless to spend a lot of time with my family.1

Unfortunately, with the end of March break came the realization that it was time for me to stop “staycationing”, follow the lead of the masses on #lawtwitter (and the 300 or so lawyers and staff at our firm) and set up my home work space. I toyed with the idea of setting up shop in the basement office on our home computer but feared the wrath of my 9 year old who sees it as a Fortnite delivery device at which he routinely yells “what the fudge?”2 Plus, I want to maintain the illusion that he will use it for online learning while I answer emails and participate in Zoom meetings.

After examining my other options3, I decided to set up shop at the antique desk and chair already in an alcove in our bedroom. Though the desk is tiny, I primarily use a laptop and working remotely is going to force me into a paper-less (or paper-lite) environment. How much room do I need, right?4

After spending a few hours getting organized and test-driving the space, I learned the following lessons from setting up a “work-from-home” environment:

  1. You can work on a tiny antique desk but you cannot sit for hours on an antique Queen Mary chair. Honestly, the benches at Osgoode Hall are more comfortable (and, how much do I already want to be back in court…) Fortunately, in the early morning hours, gloves on5, hand sanitizer at the ready, my office chair was wheeled safely out of my eerily-vacant office to a waiting vehicle. I have achieved critical ergonomic success.
  2. A third floor bedroom office has the right proximity to the first floor kitchen. Two flights of stairs appears to be a fairly effective munchie deterrent. And I will need to be deterred.
  3. A third floor bedroom office also has the right proximity to my children. Far enough away that I do not risk being unnecessarily disturbed; close enough that I will hear any murderous screams. Truthfully, I am very cognizant that I am one of the lucky parent lawyers; I have a teenage son who has proven capable of being a conscientious caregiver to his younger sibling so that I can work.6 At least after he rolls out of bed, optimistically by 11 am. And I have a 9 year old who has already made a “task list” of things that he and his brother need to accomplish each day while I am working, including math, music, reading, chin ups and educational podcasts.
  4. A potted plant on the desk is essential. While under my care, it likely won’t survive for as long as we need to be socially distant, the combination of natural light and greenery really does brighten the space. And, right now, we all need a little something to brighten our spaces.
  5. The gentle snoring of a dozing goldendoodle crashed out on my bed is a much more enjoyable sound than the daily hum of the downtown core. Plus, as #lawtwitter proves every day, everyone loves a good pet picture.

Two screens, a few law texts, (yes, I admit) a handful of paper files, a giant bottle of hand lotion and my oddly-appropriate “Carpe the F*#k Out of this Diem” pencil case round out my space.

So, yes, I’ll be able to service my clients on Monday and I will probably be even more efficient. But I am not afraid to admit that social distance is hard. Ours is a service profession; we listen, engage, support and advocate for people everyday. Human connections matter in what we do and everyday interactions are personally sustaining. I know that I will miss the office drop ins with my colleagues; the unscheduled end of day drinks; the morning greetings and office chatter with the support staff near my desk; the check-ins about running with my legal assistant; and talking basketball with our facilities manager. I suspect you will too. While this pandemic will hopefully teach us many things about working electronically and modernizing the courts, I hope when we get back to our desks in our towers, the importance of relationships are among the lessons that stick with us for a very long time.

That, and we need an office dog.

1 As it turned out, so much time…

2 To be clear, I never say “What the fudge?" in front of my 9 year old. It is important to always use proper profanity.

3 Okay, there were really no other options now that I have purchased enough gym equipment to fulfill the New Year’s resolutions of half a city block and my only spare room.

4 Right?

5 Mittens, actually. As amazing as they are for winter running, the evidence does not support everyday mittens and gloves as effective barriers to the coronavirus. But, they make me feel better when out in public, at least until I can scrub my hands while singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, twice.

6 Maybe he’s the one who taught him “what the fudge”?

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Cynthia B. Kuehl

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