Stories of Duct Tape and Dragons

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

by Chris Halladay, Associate Vice President for Human Resources

As you can imagine, we have been hearing a lot of interesting “working from home” stories in HR. Nearly all of them have been tales of overcoming challenges, going above and beyond to assist colleagues. Across the Valley (and the world) employees are taking extra steps to continue to serve our students, our clients, and our families. And many of us are doing this and more from home, at the dining room table, while making lunch for the kids (and the dog).


Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” To me that wisdom points to taking care of ourselves so we can continue to take care of others. I want to give a special shout out to those essential staff and faculty who are required to come into campus each day, putting themselves at additional risk. For the rest of us, I would like to share a few tips and pointers that have been shared with me on taking care of ourselves while working remotely. 


  1. Pay attention to your aches! Many of us don’t have the best ergonomic situation at home, so do what you can to ease the physical stressors. Move around the house, change rooms and sitting positions. Roll a towel up tightly and duct tape it to create a lumbar pillow. Raise your laptop or screen to proper eye level by setting it on your hardcover copy of Game of Thrones. (At 700 pages, that may be too high, so pick the novel of your choice that does the job..)  Bring your legs to a comfortable position by resting your feet on that Jazzercise stair step laying in your garage sale pile.

  2. Take vacation! I know we have all been crossing off our vacation plans lately, because…where are we going to go? But the stress of answering emails and phone calls all day on top of the anxiety of a tragic pandemic can wear us down very quickly. We need to take breaks. With your supervisor and team members, schedule a day when you won’t be tethered to your email or meetings. If your excuse is that you can’t be away from your work right now, then what would happen if you actually get sick? This is the time to test your emergency backup plans.

  1. Keep a schedule! But make it yours. Veterans of working at home advise creating a consistent sleeping and working schedule. Some people find they like working early in the morning. Others do their best work in the evening with few distractions. Just stick to a schedule that works for you. If you get an email at 10:30pm, it may be because the sender just got the kids to bed and now they can work. It doesn’t mean you need to respond by 10:33. For more good info on this topic, see the article Don't Get Zoomed Out.

  2. That includes eating! I lose track of the hour, and sometimes even the day, working from home. Instead I find myself on Hobbit Time, “I need to end this breakfast Zoom, so I can make my 2nd breakfast Zoom, or I’ll be famished before elevenses.” Regularly scheduled meals usually lead to healthier meals and less unhealthy snacking. (No more Wendy’s for me, Mom!)

  3. And exercising, too! Did you see the COVID tips in our Be Well program? Even if you aren’t doing it for the points, try to make a physical routine and other healthy habits part of your day.

  4. Finally, enjoy your family! Yes, these are  strange, strange times, but you can still find some ways to create good memories with loved ones, even virtually if need be. Think of  this as a time when we are crafting our rocking chair stories. Imagine telling your grandkids about 2020 when they visit you someday. 


Two things I know are certain  with this crisis. First, we will conquer this dragon together and be a stronger campus community for it. And second, among the many memorable chapters of Lehigh’s 150+ year history, the one we are writing now will have some of the most fascinating stories.