I believe that everyone is having a variation of experiences with regards to the new norm of working at home. Our jobs and careers are all so different and require different elements of support, equipment, and the tools to continue staying efficient while no longer having a standard office set-up.
I know for myself since the pandemic hit I went from being excited about setting up a home office whereby I believed I would work diligently at my newly purchased white and gray marbled desk. Admittedly I created a beautiful and peaceful space to work in, however the aesthetic aspect of it wasn’t enough to keep me in my guest room slash/office. We were urged to bring home our work stations in order to emulate some sense of normalcy while at home working, but the concept quickly lost its magic. I hated working in a room that I had no attachment too and perpetuated a deeper sense of isolation. Thankfully by that time Spring was upon us and I moved my office onto my patio where I was able to feel more comfortable and productive. I flourished from the Vitamin D and ability to work at a much slower pace than I had in the 15 years I’ve spent working as a social worker in child welfare. I also knew that it was going to be vital to collect my strength, get my rest, and prepare for the storm ahead. What I didn’t expect was catching Covid-19 which would derail my plan to stay on top of the game, and ultimately put me on my ass for months. You can read about my experience HERE.
And as the months went on I would continue to try and remind myself there once was a time we’d get excited about our requested days to work from home in our pajamas. In the world of social work we call these “Paper Days” and in order to get a paper day you’d have to be extremely overdue on your paperwork and jump through multiple hoops to justify why you needed to be away from the office. These days were great and I just loved them! So you can imagine the internal conflict and confusion I’m feeling now that I live in a constant hiatus of paper day’s and somehow I’m miserable? But it looks like I’m not alone.
But like many things you never really realize what you have until its gone. I truly believe that in job roles within the human services sector and the health care system we are nothing without our team. When we are together there is shared sense of responsibility as we hardly ever work in isolation but rather engage in a consistent flow of dialogue that impacts how we practice. The influences we have on one another is invaluable learning that allows us to serve the public in positive and creative ways. Not only in regards to how we approach and proceed with the important work we do, but how our morale and personal emotional wellness can dictate better outcomes for the communities we serve. Just today we met via videoconference and were collectively brought to tears by the bravery and strength that has been demonstrated among us. Each person simultaneously dealing with their own personal anxiety, worries and challenges while serving the city’s most vulnerable youth and families who’s issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Yet continue to smile and encourage each other in small ways that validates we are in it together.
I feel like their bravery inspires me to pull up my socks and adapt to the new circumstances whereby I’m able to weave the silver linings into a broader concept of appreciation. I should feel so lucky that my ability to work from home is not complicated with daycare/school disruptions and closures. I don’t have the burden of home schooling children with my depressing remedial math skills, or worry about them interrupting my zoom calls. The worst I deal with is maybe my mothers oblivious decision to start vacuuming at the same moment I’m giving a presentation. Try coming back from that distraction unscathed.
So like I said, I often need to take a tally of the good things that exist because I’m working from home more than I could have ever imagined. And as a result there have been many unforseen blessings along the way.
For me its things like being able to spend my days with my new puppy who requires a lot of attention and training. If we were working in office she would be essentially crated all day, and that’s no life for a pup. In addition to this, I feel like I have my very own therapy dog available to me throughout the day to pet, hug and play with when I need a mental break. I love looking up from my computer to catch her clumsily playing about-it brings a genuine smile to my face every time.
Additionally, its given me time with my mother who is aging and has been isolated at home for the bulk of the last 8 months as a result of the pandemic. And if you catch me on a day she isn’t driving me bananas I’d gladly admit I appreciate this precious time with her.
I’m cooking more, which means I’m eating more, but nonetheless I’m cooking in a kitchen. Being at home allows me to spend the time to prepare meals and eat out less. I’m falling in love with creating great and delicious meals whereby cooking had lost its appeal for awhile.
Practicing self discipline is another element to working from home that I have benefited from. I imagine many business owners can attest to setting their own work schedules, and can comprehend what happens if they slack off. I for one have learned that everyday needs to be guided by a strict task list of to-do’s that I have laid out in my calendar as a reminder to abide by. straying from this can leave me feeling nervous or ill prepared in the case things become too out of control and I don’t have the familiar supports available to guide me through the snowball effect that occurs often in my field.
In Addition to this, I’ve been able to predict my days better whereby I can schedule breaks in my day to actually take a break. Prior to working from home I’d take my breaks at my desk, eating my lunch and still work at the same time. Now I’ll schedule it into my day and take my pup to the dog park, go for a bike ride along the river, go for a walk, attend the gym or take in a massage. These things would have been unheard of before.
Lastly my team has continued to engage in new habits to stay connected and supportive with one another. I’ve never been a fan of group chats but I make an exception with this group chat. It has been fun to bounce our sarcasm back and forth as a reminder that we are all in this together and all equally at the mercy of a pandemic that is effecting us in varying ways. What’s been unique has been the shift from solely professional relationships into an extended family we can count on.
The benefits of working from home obviously go beyond my personal accounts, and are inspiring companies to consider it for the long haul.
In an article I read titled “The Benefits of Working From Home: Why The Pandemic Isn’t the Only Reason to Work Remotely,” touch on a few other benefits. They mention Less Commute Stress, A Happier, Healthier Work Life, and Fiscal Savings.
According to FlexJobs’ 2019 Annual Survey, 78 per cent of people said having a flexible job would allow them to be healthier (eat better, exercise more, and so on) and 86 per cent said they’d be less stressed.
“You get benefits from increased physical activity, mental-health benefits from reduced stress, increased family time,” says Trevor Hancock, retired professor and senior scholar, school of public health and social policy, University of Victoria. “Once we stop running like hamsters on a wheel, [we can] look around and almost literally smell the roses.”
In addition, articles like the one in the New York Times, surveyed that the average office worker revealed they used to spend nearly an hour every single day commuting to and from their jobs — that’s five hours each week office workers could get back by working from home. And with less commuting there is less carbon footprint. According to Global Workplace Analytics, part-time remote work in the U.S. could slow carbon emissions by more than 51 million metric tonnes annually. Carbon footprints also diminish with reduced office energy, less business travel, and paper usage, it says. Meanwhile—with idling traffic accounting for three billion gallons of fuel and 26 million extra tons of emitted greenhouse gases—a one per cent reduction in vehicles on the roads could yield a three-fold decrease in congestion. Even roadway construction from wear and tear could be reduced by 112 billion miles a year, it says.
I enourage you to go forward and reflect on some of the benefits you had not anticipated on since working from home. Share them with me in the comment section below.
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