Preventing burnout during COVID-19

Learning from two weeks of remote working

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all happy and healthy this week - thoughts with anyone who isn’t.

This week’s email includes (1) links on transitioning to data science, and using data science in a pandemic, plus (2) an article on my experiences with COVID-related remote-working burnout.

Also, does anybody know any good data science and machine learning Meet-Ups which are taking place remotely? I’d love to hear about them.

Chris


THIS WEEK’S LINKS

Data science / career transition

  • I stumbled across this old blog this week which has some great advice and experiences about transitioning into data science. Still relevant even though from 2014. I’m currently transitioning into data science (looking for a full-time role) and will be looking to utilise the advice.

Machine learning in healthcare

  • The power of data in a pandemic by NHSX. I was really heartened to hear about the ways the NHS are going to use data for our current pandemic. There are some interesting partnerships including Microsoft, Google and Peter Theil’s Palantir.

  • Monthly Medical AI Review (February). I recorded this video this month, where I read the main medical AI papers from February. I concluded that I won’t make further videos in this format, but will look to explore individual topics in greater depth.


Lessons from remote-working during COVID-19

This week was my second working from home, and I learnt about one of the challenges of remote working.

I’m currently working full-time as a data scientist, on a 5-week project for The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the US. We’re building a model to improve non-destructive testing of metal structures.

Working remotely has been an interesting experience. I feel both connected yet strangely distant with my peers; we talk more frequently but haven’t seen each other physically for what feels like a long time.

As this week progressed, I felt increasingly burnt out. By Thursday, I’d developed a full-blown cold and even thought I may have The Virus.

This forced me to go into ‘rest-mode’, and after prioritising sleep and relaxation for a few days I feel much better - and my estimated probability of having Covid-19 dropped much lower.

Reflecting now on what was a tough week, I realised a potential pitfall while working from home.

When you come together at a workplace, there are a lot of natural pauses throughout the day – often when moving from one place to another (both to-from work and around the workplace). You also have numerous small social interactions with the people you bump into.

These breaks and interactions don’t take place when working remotely, unless you schedule them. There’s no time-delay when switching from one Zoom chatroom to another.

The increased freedom of working from home enabled me to be in “hustle-mode” most of the time – always working on my “job” with EPRI, or on a side project. The delineation between two became more blurry. While this has been really fun, as all of these projects are things I enjoy, the flip-side is I haven’t given myself much time to rest.

Before this week, I always thought of “transition time” as an annoyance; the 30 mins lost standing on the Tube or the 5 minutes lost waiting for the elevator to the ward on the eighth floor, when I’d rather be doing something else.

But breaks are essential for us, both to feel good as well as to remain productive. After a day of no work, and watching the first season of Money Heist on Netflix, I feel refreshed and full of energy to tackle new challenges.

Some people may find that the increased freedom reduces their productivity (which is the other side of the remote-working challenge), but for the workaholics like me, it makes it even more important to timebox work, schedule breaks and to socialise, however best we can.