One thing I noticed during the pandemic is that everything slowed down. On a larger scale, global closures made it hard to get anything done, but I noticed it on a smaller scale too. People now take longer to respond to emails, to complete work tasks, and more. Even though some parts of our lives are starting to return to normal, I continue to notice that things have slowed down.
As a graduate student, we are required to collaborate with many people, and sensitive deadlines can be very stressful if your collaborators are not working as quickly as you may want them too. I am here to remind you (and myself) that everyone has different priorities that may not align with yours. They may have family to care for, student assignments to grade, or a super important grant application with an impending deadline. Here are some things to keep in mind when collaborating during the pandemic, and in general.
Not everyone can maintain their productivity in our new reality. Working from home can be very challenging for some people, especially when you share your “office” with your family. The number of productive work hours may be permanently reduced for some.
Be mindful of the work hours of others. Your collaborators may live in different time zones than you, so remember to keep this in mind when contacting them or planning a meeting. Additionally, some people maintain work-life balance by ‘unplugging’ outside of normal work hours. This means that they will likely not respond to an email on the weekend or after 5pm. If something is time-sensitive, be sure to contact them at the beginning of a weekday. If your collaborator receives a lot of emails, it may be strategic to contact them Monday morning so that your email is at the top of their inbox. Keep in mind that “normal” work hours may differ depending on the person. For example, people with young children may be the most productive later at night after their children have gone to bed.
Your project may not be your collaborators’ top priority. Most people in academia have a lot of projects going on at once that demand their attention, and they may not address your project right away if they do not think it is urgent. If you have a deadline approaching, be sure to communicate with your collaborators so that they can schedule their work accordingly. Do not be afraid to follow up with them to ensure that they will meet your deadline.
If you are not getting anywhere, you may have caught them at a busy time. There are times in the semester when people are busier, such as during midterms and exams (marking is a lot of work). Communicate with your collaborators so that you are aware of these busy times and plan your work around them. If this is not possible, communicate with your collaborators so that you can work something out. Unforeseen circumstances often get in the way and may prevent your collaborators from responding in a timely manner or meeting your deadlines. If this happens, you may be able to change the role of your collaborator so that they can contribute in a way that best fits their schedule but does not impact your project.
Overall, it is very important to maintain communication, be understanding of the schedules of others, and continue to advocate for yourself and the needs and deadlines of your project. I wish you all a lovely summer!