It’s been six months to the day since we were told to go into full-time telework status. We were given two days to figure out the logistics, grab all our necessary stuff from the office, and make sure that we had a functioning workspace set up at home. Not a small feat for everybody, as I for one didn’t have a spare bedroom to convert into an office.
I was still excited about it. I always liked the idea of working from home, but only had a handful of opportunities to do so, e.g. when we had a short stint of mandatory telework two years ago when the wildfires in California were out of control and the air quality was so bad that we were asked to not leave the house for a week (sounds like it would have been a repeat this year if we hadn’t been already teleworking).
While my employer has a very generous flexible work policy (you might know that I’ve been working a 4-10 work schedule for most of my career) and I knew that teleworking was generally an option for every employee, I never felt like the option was available to me. Asking to work from home felt like asking for something that I wasn’t entitled to, for whatever stupid reason.
Well, the stupid reason being that I was a contractor for 9 years and was repeatedly told that certain things just didn’t apply to me. Feeling like a second class employee is something I struggled with for a long time in my career (and sometimes still struggle with); even after 14 years working at the same office, I sometimes still don’t feel equal with my co-workers. But that’s a story for another time.
So, here we were in March, all of a sudden being forced to work from home while all other aspects of our normal lives mostly came to a screeching halt simultaneously.
I was relieved and excited at the same time. Relieved because I felt that our management took the Covid-19 situation seriously and took proper precautions, and excited because part of me was looking forward to working from home. I realize that we were also exceptionally fortunate to be able to move into telework status almost seamlessly. Of course, there were some issues that needed to be worked out, as not all of our work can be easily done remotely (think: field/lab work) but overall, it was a fairly smooth transition.
I was able to take home two (big) monitors and a docking station from my office to create a semi-permanent, efficient workspace in the corner of our living room, and after riding it out on a rigid kitchen chair for a few weeks, I invested into an actual office chair, which has made all the difference. Granted, my space feels a little cramped, but at least I have a dedicated workspace and don’t work from my kitchen table. So there’s that.
Separating work from home life hasn’t really been a problem. I am not allowed to work overtime without supervisor approval and while I am dedicated to my work, there’s no benefit for me in working more hours than approved. I thrive on routine, so I mostly stick to my pre-pandemic work schedule, but I also enjoy having the flexibility to work late if I need to meet a deadline or to attend a meeting on my day off if need be, and shift my work hours around accordingly.
We had just recently switched to a new mail and online meeting platform (Microsoft Teams) and transitioning to virtual meetings was easy-peasy (for the most part). Group calls, screen sharing, and shared file servers all made it possible. Could you imagine if the pandemic happened 10 or 15 years ago?
I must say though, I’ve never had so many (virtual) meetings and teleconferences IN MY LIFE (like, way more than in-person meetings at the office), or maybe it just feels so intense, because everything is virtual these days.
Still, I’m very grateful for the ability to work remotely (although I wish the circumstances weren’t because of a global pandemic) and for the opportunity to figure out if that is something I’d like to continue once this mandatory order is lifted. I know other people have already inquired about increased telework flexibility in the future.
So, to cut a long story short, I am loving the work from home life (minus all the surrounding circumstances). It has slowed down my days, it has allowed for a no-rush morning routine (including daily exercise!) and it has added extra flexibility into my life.
I feel this is probably also a good time to acknowledge that I am not only aware but lucky that I don’t have the added responsibility of dealing with homeschooling and childcare during these trying times. I don’t envy working parents one bit right now (kudos to all of you who have been on double-duty for months now. It can’t be easy!).
Being able to work from home makes me feel safer during the pandemic, and I very much appreciate that I am not forced to go to the office to mingle with other people unnecessarily.
While I do miss interacting with my co-workers in person, I think I would be perfectly happy with a part time-telework schedule when things go back to normal (and hopefully would have enough ground to stand on to advocate for it).
If you’re (still) working work from home, how do you feel about it?
Oh, and show me your workspace!