It feels like a long time since I was in my office at University. Here are some of the things I miss:
- Being able to draw things on a white board (even if it’s sometimes gibberish)
- Getting people together to discuss an idea, and not having latency issues, strange noises or echos.
- Being able to interrupt and be interrupted without it feeling clumsy
- Small social interactions during the day (“morning!”)
- Having conferences to look forward to
- Having a proper desk and chair
- Not hearing my neighbour’s radio all day…
But some things have been a lot better too:
- Fewer interruptions
- Fewer stressful interactions with stressed colleagues
- Remote collaboration with researchers across the world seems easier
- Fewer meetings for the sake of having meetings
- Greater efficiency, with less time wasted travelling to work and to meetings
- Better quality of breaks
So, all in all, I’m a bit conflicted. For now, our work in the micro/nano flows group seems to be thriving in the current conditions (we are not bound to physical labs). However, there’s a lot lost by not being able to interact in the same way: it’s harder to inspire and be inspired, to exercise shared imagination, and to debate ideas. I don’t believe that good research can be sustained, in the long term, without these components. Hopefully a `new normal’, whenever that arrives, will combine the best of both worlds.