May 18, 2020 Cartoon Watanasirisuk

Nature’s Guide to Working From Home During the Pandemic

Photo: Arterra/Universal Images Group/ Getty Images.

Fireweed thrives in a forest among charred tree trunks after a wildfire in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada, in 2015. 

Cartoon Watanasirisuk is Verdical Group’s Sustainability & Business Development Intern. She is currently a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is pursuing a double major in economics and biology & society.

Our daily lives have changed substantially in the time span of a few months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Having a decent home environment to quarantine in is a privilege, but that doesn’t mean staying indoors for an extended period of time isn’t a challenge for many of us. 

As products of nature and evolution, staying contained and isolated within brick walls might make us feel down. Nature, however, often offers peace, solace, and even solutions to many human challenges—even from a distance.  

Biomimicry, the concept of emulating nature’s systems to solve human problems, is most often seen in the fields of biotechnology and architecture as inspiration for new innovations and designs, but we can also look to naturally-occurring systems for ways to stay resilient at home. Today, I thought I would share some of the miraculous ways that organisms adapt to disruptions in the natural world—they might just help us get through working from home during the pandemic a little easier.

  1. Nature is flexible after disturbances

Trees with strong roots, such as pine trees, are able to regrow even after the trunk itself has been burned down. The ability to reposition and maintain functionality after unpredictable changes is how nature has persisted throughout the changing climates and recent human activities. While it may not quite feel like your lifestyle has burned down (it may sure feel close!), to stay resilient working from home, it’s important to stay flexible, nimble, and willing to make the necessary changes required by our current situation—whether that’s adjusting your mindset, your work hours, or simply moving your desk space to a new and quieter area.

2. Nature tends to optimize rather than maximize 

In nature, energy and resources are scarce, so making sure they are used efficiently is essential. In our situation, it can be helpful to think of our energy and ability to focus as finite “resources.” For those who are working from home, maintaining regular work hours (or set hours) is likely to help you remain efficient without running into personal hours meant for unwinding. Similarly, setting an area dedicated for work can help you stay productive. Finally, compartmentalizing your cognitive load by dedicating specific times in the day to do specific work instead of switching between unrelated tasks can help maintain mental clarity.

3. Nature understands the importance of shutting down to restrengthen  

To conserve energy until their environment improves, perennial plants go dormant during the cold winter months, and many other plants will enter a stage of dormancy when facing adverse conditions like heat and drought. It’s important to remember that for many of us, this is a time of crisis and uncertainty. Taking regular breaks in your workday and prioritizing self-care and relaxation in your off-hours is crucial to coming back strong.

4. Nature is interconnected

Biophilia refers to the human tendency to want to stay connected with nature and other organisms. Staying home is essential in ensuring the safety of yourself and others, but social isolation isn’t. Maintaining communication with your coworkers and friends via phone calls and video chats, looking out your windows to the outside view, investing in a houseplant or two to improve air quality and proximity to nature, and stepping outdoors (with a mask!) when allowed, while maintaining social distancing, are some of the things you can do for yourself while also staying responsible.