Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How are you seeing "work from home" working in your field of chemistry?

A lot of chemists are being asked to "work from home" - for chemists, what does that mean? I asked this on Twitter yesterday, and was inundated with responses:
National lab: "Lab work allowed, but staggered efforts to keep numbers at any given time low. All office work to be done at home"

Small biotech: "On a rotating WFH schedule, with non-lab employees 100% remote. Keep things rolling while having less than 10 people in the building at once. May change in coming days."

Academia: "Working very limited hours and making sure we are social distancing ourselves. As a postdoc we are trying to help both grad and undergrad students during this very hard situation." 
Industry: "Technicians on a rotating schedule except for analytical who are still full time. Scientists are WFH and managers are in part time to provide leadership on site. Everyone is being selective about projects and work to maintain safety."
Unfortunately, I'm getting a lot of reports from both academia and industry of employers basically pretending that COVID-19 doesn't exist, and asking people to keep on keeping on. That doesn't seem very wise.

Readers, what are you seeing in your workplace? E-mail me: 


  1. Industry professional here: A lot of manufacturing needs bodies. Those directly involved with such activities need to carry on as usual since it is not a natural disaster level effect. All of those not directly involved with manufacturing are working from home and having Webex meetings and lots of skype or email discussions.

  2. Big pharma: lab employees reporting to work as normal, non-lab employees working from home

  3. R&D and QC was split into two teams, each working 3 day, 12 hours shifts that do not overlap. Both teams are required to spend ~30 minutes cleaning at the beginning and end of their three days. WFH is encouraged as much as practical. Teams were chosen to minimize the density of people in any lab and block of office cubes. Between the split and WFH, the density of people has dropped by ~2/3 and it's easy to stay far apart from one another. Only 2 of the 9 people in my office wing are in today.

  4. Industry R&D employee here: All non-R&D employees who can work from home were sent home at noon on Monday 3/16 (they could go in that morning to collect items, but then had to leave).

    R&D based employees broken into three categories:
    (1) Managers/non-lab based employees: Work from home only. Given morning of 3/16 to collect belongings and leave site.
    (2) Lab-based: work in lab if working on critical/time-sensitive activities. Stagger your times and go home immediately when done. All computer work/paperwork to be done at home. No heating anything overnight. Bring computer home as you may not be able to return next day with little or no warning.
    (3) Critical operations staff: Small number identified to keep building running (for example, one person has been identified to come in and keep NMRs from quenching if we are off for weeks at a time). If we move to "critical operations only", these individuals ONLY will be allowed access to the site.

    I've been in lab for a few hours a day, and the site is thankfully a ghost town. Most people taking this seriously. Creepy times we are living in.

  5. About to start shift work, staggered teams working 8 hour shifts with 15 minute changeover gap, in an enironmental analytical lab. We're a team of about two dozen. Working in a vacant building has been pleasant, if a little unsettling. It's nice to know that we're considered 'essential staff' (the business would cease to exist if it weren't for us).

    I'd thought that having a PhD they would have promoted me beyond bench work and into consulting by now... Tough times to have a doctorate down under. There are about 4-5 of us PhDs in this lab running soil samples who don't want to get jobs in academia, but it's not like there's any real chemical industry in Australia that will have us.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20