Notes from the Home Office

March 20, 2020 by Jennifer Harmer

CIRHR PhD students discuss changes to their work-life experience

Since last week, we have experienced rapid change in our community and beyond. For many of us, this means changes to seminars, jobs, and social lives, and it can be stressful having to adjust our habits of visiting campus, attending events, hitting up the athletic centre, and socializing one-on-one with classmates.

But our mission carries on whether it is wrapping up coursework, a degree, or pushing on with our research projects.        

As we listen to experts and university administrators and follow their guidance, we settle into a new rhythm. The Centre’s shared PhD office has been relocated to our respective homes. Collectively (but at a distance) we build new habits. For some of us, this means study breaks with afternoon walks, online yoga, and skype hangouts. This also means carving out a little space at home dedicated to our studies.  They may be modest or glorious (or both!), and they are unique to each of us. A collection of home PhD workspaces is featured below along with some tips from the PhDs on what has been helpful in our work at home. 

As we pause our usual habits, there is opportunity to think about the significance of this moment in history. Time to think about the relationship between these events and our field of industrial relations and human resources. Reflecting on the role of telecommuting, frontline service delivery, and employee benefits - our interests in the various parts of the world of work are on display.

Already, we can see about the utility of the research undertaken by our Centre colleagues and how a targeted basic income relates to the pandemic response

Reflecting back on other difficult times marked by uncertainty, what stands out is not the disruption and anxiety but how the community supported each other and rallied.  

So while you may find yourself at home or on your own, remember that this is a shared experience. You are not alone; your colleagues are all working remotely. And as a community, we will stick together, even as we are working in different locations. 

You have the support of friends, family, your advisor, faculty, staff, and student health services. Be sure to reach out to stay connected. 

I look forward to connecting with you online and later back at the Centre!


Tips from the home office


...of Alycia Damp, CIRHR PhD candidate:

Alycia Damp’s workspace in Toronto.

"Even though I'm sitting at home with a fully stocked kitchen of real delicious food, I found that during the first few days of WFHL (work from home life) I exclusively gravitated towards Doritos and chocolate-covered peanuts for sustenance. On Tuesday, I decided that my solution was to do my usual Sunday-night meal prep so I'd have grab-and-go meals while working during the day. Success! Breakfast now consists of overnight oats w/ fruit, and lunch consists of quinoa salads with sweet potatoes/avocado/beans/tomatoes. I'm feeling so much better! Doritos and chocolate-covered peanuts make their way into late-night snacks" 

...of Kourtney Koebel, CIRHR PhD student:

Kourtney Koebel’s standing desk in Kingston.

“In the first few days of working from home (in a shared small space), my partner and I spent all hours of the day talking about politics and behavioural economics - incredibly fun but not very productive! We found it helpful to set designated quiet times to get work done...talking is reserved for meals!”

...of Shannon Potter, CIRHR PhD student:

Shannon Potter’s work nook (L) and a photo of the sunrise from her early morning jog on the waterfront in Toronto.
















“I spend a lot of time following the news and talking to family and friends (including a lovely social conference call with MIRHR colleagues!) I'm also really enjoying morning jogs!"

...of Qian Zhang, CIRHR PhD candidate:


Qian Zhang’s workspace and view from her home in Toronto.









“I work at home with a little help from Doraemon, the smurfs and their thoughtful encouragement [see photo]. In reality, I know my Doraemon and the smurfs are my parent, my mentors, and my cohort."  

...of Jen Harmer, CIRHR PhD student:

Jen Harmer’s home workstation in Toronto.

“I like to go for a long walk each day and give myself permission to shell out $9 for a tiny box of frozen vegan taquitos at my favourite organic grocery store on Dundas West... because blood-flow is good for the brain and taquitos are good for the soul”