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Getting by with a little help

April 9, 2020 By Käri Knutson

It can be hard to take comfort in much these days. Things we took for granted, like getting groceries, going out to eat, spending time with friends and family, going to work, have all changed suddenly. When can we go back to “normal”? Will there ever be a normal?

We’re all wondering. And if there is something to take comfort in, it’s that while we’re practicing social distancing — a phrase most of us hadn’t heard until weeks ago — we’re in this together.

What challenges have you risen to? Getting used to using new technology? Struggling to balance work and home? Feeling overwhelmed and anxious?

You are not alone. First, we’re all incredibly grateful for employees who are working on campus every day to maintain essential services. But there are also thousands of colleagues who are adjusting to brand new work settings.

Here are some of the things they’ve thought of to make their now multipurposed surroundings more bearable — even pleasant — and efficient. Add your own tips, tricks, brainstorms and workarounds to this list by emailing Include photos that put your ingenuity and originality on display.

No one is an expert at any of this but we’re all finding out what works. Why not share that? Even if it is virtually. Until we meet again. And we will.

Your new “office”

Desk with globe, plant, computer and books, with dog sitting in chair

Hannah Baker’s workspace with Dennis, a mini schnauzer.

“Consider your designated workspace both physically/mentally off-limits during the times you are not working. Reflect on what spaces and places make you feel most energized, centered, and recreate this vibe for your tele-enviro. Add a plant, warm light, deep focus music, photo of your champions? Inspire us moving forward together. #dailybowofgratitude

Hannah R. Baker (Lloyd), Coordinator of Clinical Fellowships and Global Ophthalmology Initiatives, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health

It doesn’t have to be pretty

A temporary games shelf reminds Sean McMullin that life is fun, when things get stressful.

MacGyver your space. We all scrambled to get a space thrown together a couple of weeks ago. But we can be much more efficient and happier if our space is set up with common needs in easy reach, and things that bring joy to look at. Sometimes this takes some creativity, and it doesn’t have to be pretty. Think about ways you can make your work run smoothly, and then make it happen.

Sean McMullin, Software Development Lead, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine and Public Health

Routine maintenance

Linda Zwicker sitting opposite her computer on a desk with picture of Bucky Badger on wall behind her

Linda Zwicker, always on-brand.

  • Keeping my regular schedule, I still put on makeup and perfume before coming upstairs to the office. It helps me with attitude and routine.
  • I have a huge photo of Bucky on the wall behind me, always on-brand for those video meetings!
  • I walk my big ole chocolate lab, Hoover, and if she’s too tired to go outside (she is 14) then I listen to an audio book and go for a very long walk. I tried a new place last week and got so distracted by music/books that I had to climb on a bench to see if I could find my car — where the heck did I park, anyway?

Linda Zwicker, Senior Assistant Dean–Advancement and Communications, School of Human Ecology

Lake and tree under cloudy sky

“Walking by Lake Mendota under COVID skies.” —Diana Allen, Enterprise Business Analyst, Division of Continuing Studies

A beginning and an end

  • Sitting near a window for the workday (as opposed to a room with none)
  • Setting a start and end time to the workday, and shutting down the work PC at the end
  • Taking a half-hour lunch break
  • MS Teams has been great for chats or quick video calls, and to be able to see what others are up to and organize and share documents
  • Getting outside at least once a day
  • Listening to the radio while working — a nice change of pace from working in the office
  • Watching movies — no commercials
  • Having a cocktail with friends over video chat
  • Not checking in on virus statistics over the weekend

April Cook, Gift Management Accountant, Division of Business Services

Dog sitting on rug next to doggie bed

Koby helps Sarah Perdue get up in the morning and get into her routine.

Everyone’s best friend

I took in a foster dog! Koby, an 8-month-old Catahoula cur mix, has been very useful at making sure I get up in the morning and get into my routine. Very importantly, he forces me to take breaks to get outside on walks throughout the day. And working is more enjoyable when you have a cute pup curled up on a dog bed and gently snoring in your new “office” (for me, the dining room).

—Sarah Perdue, Director of Communications, Department of Physics

Welcome back

What’s working for us at our multifamily farm during this time of physical distancing is that we placed ourselves in separate isolated “pods” because several family members were coming home from other countries last week.

Person placing plate of food on dining table

Luisa Gerasimo and residents of her multifamily farm practiced safe food preparation for a welcome-home dinner.

I had to cancel my plans for my vacation, so I organized a welcome back dinner by cooking a turkey and stuffing, and asked the other four “pods” to contribute a dish. We all practiced safe food prep and then wrapped servings of our offering for each family and placed them on our porches. A runner from each pod collected their portion. We all sat down to our different tables with a full dinner.

It took a bit of communication to make it happen, but was much more fun than another meal I cooked all by myself. My thought was this could also be done by neighbors in more urban areas and allows safe distance interaction, as long as all follow the rules and do not congregate.

Luisa Gerasimo, Dunn County 4-H Program Coordinator, Division of Extension

Find joy

You know what helps me? Salsa music! I found a list while cleaning that I had made 12 years ago, and it’s fun to listen to these songs again — I had forgotten all about some of them. I would start with “El Cuarto de Tula,” because that is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Other suggestions:

“Sin Poderte Hablar,” Willie Colon

“Plastico,” Ruben Blades

Anything by Buena Vista Social Club, but especially “El Cuarto de Tula”

“Azuquita pal Café,” El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

“A la hora que me llamen voy,” Jose “El Canario” Alberto

“Quimbara,” Celia Cruz

“Lloraras,” Oscar D’Leon

“Mi Vecina,” Mel Martinez

Rebecca Forbes Wank, Financial Specialist, Department of German, Nordic and Slavic

Or just chill

Dog sleeping on chewed-up doggie pillow

Update: Koby has been adopted into a loving home, Sarah Perdue reports. But she is hoping to take in another foster dog to keep her company.