My New Normal: An Occasional Series on Working from Home in a Pandemic

Four photos depict different work from home
(Clockwise) Luca Sessa, 2, and Kepa Sessa, 5, sit in their dad's lap. Carin Panganiban is pictured in her home office. Randy Fields pushes Ian McGee, 11, and Justine McGee, 10. Jerrod Schwarz looks out from his office window. Top photos courtesy of Molly Moorhead and Carin Panganiban. Bottom photos by Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

The “new normal.” 

That’s how many of us have begun describing our existence during this pandemic — even though life right now is decidedly abnormal.

What hasn’t changed: our responsibilities. We still have to work, if we’re lucky enough to still have a job. And with offices closed, kitchen tables across the land have become makeshift desks.

The homefront has become the work-from-home front, and that isn’t necessarily a seamless shift. In fact, for many of us it looks like a laboratory experiment gone terribly wrong, broken glass and chemicals strewn at our feet. 

But we suit up each morning — even if the suit is pajamas — and set to work again, determined to get the experiment right this time.

To reflect this shared experience, we’ve launched a series on the new normal, told by people living it. We hope you’ll see a little of yourself here, and we hope that familiarity makes this all a little bit easier.

I Was Ready to Work Remotely, But Then My Family Came Home

A family pose for a portrait on their front porch.
Tiffany Connors, her husband, Chris Connors, their 11-year-old daughter, Gwen Connors, are learning to work from a home with no extra space to spare. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Tiffany Connors, a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder, has years of experience working from home. She was a freelance writer for a while and worked entirely at home. Now she usually works from home one day a week. 

But she always had the house to herself. When stay-at-home orders took effect in Florida in mid March, that meant her husband, an elementary school teacher, and their daughter, a fifth grader, also had to be home. All the time. And they had to work too. 

Oh, and home is a 900-square-foot-house.

We’re Naming Squirrels and Somehow That’s Keeping Us Sane

A young girls swings from a tree swing.
Megan Cassidy McGee and her family turned their front yard into a playground, where her daughter Justine McGee, 10, and son (not pictured) swing, make chalk drawings in the driveway and name squirrels. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Megan McGee is a single mom of two school-age kids who also works full-time. Whew. Like millions of parents, she was suddenly faced with the responsibilities of her job along with the new task of homeschooling her kids.

She quickly learned to get as much work done as possible on the days her kids were with their dad, so she could split her focus to help them with distance learning when they were with her. 

The idea they could all share a computer? That died a quick death

Excuse Me While My 2-Year-Old Joins Our Zoom Meeting

A mother works while her two sons play on her bed.
While her sons, Kepa Sessa, 5, and Luca Sessa, 2, flip through books, Molly Moorhead sits at her makeshift work station in her bedroom. Photo courtesy of Molly Moorhead

It’s hard working while homeschooling kids. What’s also hard? Working at home with kids who are still too young for school.

Wherefore art thou, daycare?

Molly Moorhead, an editor for The Penny Hoarder, wrote about the challenges of keeping her sons, 5 and 2, entertained all day at home, and the inevitable failures in trying.

Biggest lesson learned: When the kids want to give you a hug, even in the middle of a Zoom meeting, let them.

With My Students Scattered, Engaging Them Is a New Challenge

A college professor looks out from his office window.
Jerrod Schwarz, who teaches creative writing at the University of Tampa, adjusted his teaching curriculum to accommodate virtual classes. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Jerrod Schwarz teaches creative writing to college students. His classes are intimate, even uncomfortable — so that the students will develop empathy for each other and thus, plunge deep into their creative wells.

But with distance learning, that classroom experience was lost. So Schwarz turned to reading masters who themselves worked in isolation, and encouraged his students to use their newfound solitude to “find the art inside.”

Adjusting to Life in Quarantine Over the Long Haul

A woman smiles while sitting at her desk at home.
Carin Panganiban lives in Kirkland, Wash., and started working from home on March 2. Photo courtesy of Carin Panganiban

If you think you’re going stir crazy, say hello to this Kirkland, Washington, resident who has been sheltering-in-place since the beginning of March. That’s a few weeks ahead of most of the rest of the country.

Carin Panganiban, a designer for Microsoft, describes how adjusting to working from home happened in phases — and that it took a while to accept her new situation as normal and figure out how to make the best of it.