Why I am working remotely still in 2023 and why it works so well.

remote work COVID
photo of Erika as seen through an office building window, wearing a mask, thumbs up
photo depicts Rachael (left) and Erika, smiling together, outside of a house

The main reason I’m working 100% remotely is my wife’s health.

This will get personal, so please skip this post if that makes you uncomfortable. Rachael and I both live fairly public lives, and this is all public knowledge that I’m merely compiling anew here for the purpose of clarifying and expanding on the question of why I cannot, for example, gather with a group in a shared indoor space these days. Because yes, I realize most people have moved on from COVID precautions.

Rachael has some allergies.

When I say “Rachael has allergies,” I mean that Rachael is allergic to: gluten (Celiac Disease), corn, rice, dairy, bananas (anaphylactic reaction), and even sunshine itself, which gives her a rash after a few minutes out in it uncovered. She has even had an anaphylactic reaction to a virus (who knew that was a thing?), and to a vaccine, athough she did not react to the Covid vaccine. Most of her medications need to be compounded if there is not a natural alternative to the drug, because she is allergic to most pill fillers. Her allergies make all of her healthcare complicated, because she cannot be given most meds. Can you imagine living without access to basic medication, while also living and working a professional life in the modern U.S.?

Rachael has dysautonomia.

Dysautonomia is a broad diagnosic category that includes many things, such as POTS. It has to do with one’s autonomic nervous system. In Rachael’s case, all the autonomic functions tend towards being too slow. For example, left to its own, her heart will only beat about 30 times per minute. That was easily addressed with a pacemaker, but there is no comparable device for most of the other “too slow” problems. For blood pressure “too slow” to keep her conscious, she wears a ridiculous amount of compression, up to her waist. Digestion “too slow” resulting in malnutrition? She takes more supplements than a body builder, in addition to consuming a very natural diet. Eyeballs “too slow” to work right? She had eyeball surgery at Mayo Clinic a few years ago, and she wears these $1000+ glasses that only a few labs in the country can even make due to all the prisms in the lenses. We do what we can. Her dysautonomia is kind of a big deal.

COVID would be really bad for Rachael.

For many more reasons than I’ve listed here, for brevity, such an infection could kill her. In addition to being unable to take most medications and to living with POTS/dysautonomia, here is the icing on the cake. Surely you have heard of so-called Long-COVID? Long-COVID is basically POTS (1, 2) which Rachael already has. Rachael has POTS with bradycardia, hence the pacemaker. According to her healthcare providers, a COVID infection, if it did not kill Rachael, would most likely permanently disable her due to the likelihood of worsening dysautonomia.

Neither of us has visited anyone indoors since March 2020

We are not paranoid or irrational. As of January 2023, all of this remains true for us and thus we need to remain as cautious as we have been. Over the summer of 2022, we shared an epic summer sabbatical in our converted shuttle bus, in which we did #VanLife and were able to go visit the places and the people (outdoors) we love and had missed so much. We also go indoors to larger, commercial settings for brief reasons – i.e. a doctor’s appointment, Rachael’s Sunday morning at church, shopping at Costco in and out swiftly. We do this wearing well-fitting N95 masks, not using public restrooms, and visiting outdoors when weather allows.

photo depicts a cartoonized version of our shuttle bus, a Chevy Express 3500 cutaway

Am I going to work remotely forever?

I hope not, because I miss people. but I have worked fully remote since March 2020, and plan to continue doing so for 2023. I am presenting at a conference in April 2023, and Rachael and I decided that I can get there if we make it a vacation, sort of, and drive the shuttle bus. I will go in and out of the convention center, masked, staying distant but still being present to share my work and communicate with folks in attendance.

My hope is that with more booster shots and, I don’t know, people making better choices (?), sharing indoor space with others can become safer again in the near future, and Rachael won’t be at so much risk, necessitating our present day choices.

If you’re interested in checking out that shuttle bus, we have a small social media channel where we shared about that project. It’s called The Morgan Express.

Why does remote work go so well for me?

Well, doing things well is exceedingly important to me. I love it that anyone who works with me can have confidence that what we will produce will be quality work. Also, I have been teaching online for almost 20 years, so I’ve learned through those thousands of relationships with students, and working through various crises together, how to effectively communicate with people from a remote work setting. That’s why I was able to write up those tutorials about teaching online, back in March 2020, such as this one for The Society Pages, some of which went low key viral and made me some new friends around the country, and why my higher ed consulting work quadrupled in 2020. Mostly, I’m really grateful that the stars align such that I can meet all of my obligations, and continue to do all of my own work, remotely to keep my family safe.

Everything is going well, and I chalk it up to the fact that when working from home, I can limit distrations and really focus on tasks. I’m infinitely more productive in my home office than when I was working while surrounded by the distractions of everyone else. But of course I miss seeing people in person, and having the chance to talk research, etc.

photo depicts Morgan the Dog in our backyard, climbing on the hammock, on Rachael, smiling. Speech text above him reads: I heart mommy.

I think I’ll conclude here for now.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments, questions, thoughts, or reactions, either in the comments below or by email. And I appreciate your understanding.

This post was updated on January 2, 2023. -Erika

About Erika Sanborne

Erika Sanborne has been producing digital media since 2010, specializing in portraiture for people who hate it but need it, digital graphics restoration of many kinds, accessible explainers and instructional technology (corporate explainers, classroom tech), data visualizations and animation.