Being a biologist, it is quite odd to think that one can actually work from home. Laboratory work is not easy to adapt to times in which danger to public health speaks for staying at home. However, there are plenty of aspects in being a biologist and most of them do not involve fancy machines or pipetting samples around.
Research is about knowing what has been done before you, identifying what needs to be explored further and the best way to do it. So, in lock down and without access to the laboratory, one can always review the literature, either for one’s own benefit, for a paper, or even for one’s (bachelor, master, PhD) thesis. Furthermore, even without deadlines, one can start writing research proposals that would be ready to edit and revise before the next call.
Another important part of research is data analysis and interpretation. For PhD students, this is often seen as a minor task. Being so busy collecting as much data as possible, one forgets to display and cleverly look into it. Sometimes, completely not seeing some important features of the data. Data analysis is extremely important in guiding experiment planning. And experiment planning means making sure all resources are available when needed. This means ordering reagents, preparing calculations, coordinating with collaborators…
There is also a lot of emails to read and reply. Often these emails have hidden time consuming tasks: re-designing experiments, or graphics, or presentations.
Finally, some of us must teach and, when the entire world seems to be being run from home-office, classes need to be made online compatible.
If I think back to a normal week in the lab, perhaps up to 60% of my time is not spent on hands-on experiments. So, home-office is not ideal, but it is far from being a major drop in productivity.