COVID-19 continues its march across the globe. Every company that can conduct business from remote locations is doing so. People are having different reactions to the new work environment
Things Will Change
It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic, but this will be good in the long run. The 19th-20th century model of every worker being herded into 1 space so the boss can watch them is going to get destroyed.
When the pandemic is over, many companies will try to return to the old model. I suspect many workers will push back. At the minimum, they will demand the ability to maintain a partial WFH schedule. Why should they have to endure an awful commute, sitting in traffic, adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and getting high blood pressure trying to avoid idiots, when the same work can be done from home?
Control-freak managers have always dismissed working from home. They believe the people that describe this lifestyle as, in the words of my dear friend Regina Lewis, “grabbing their laptop and whisking away to some tropical place, producing client work all while sipping a Mai Tais by the beach.” Productivity will plummet, they believe. If I’m not watching them, they won’t do anything.
This shutdown should destroy that narrative. Yes, there are people that will take a mile if you give them an inch. There are people who want to do the bare minimum. Unfortunately, there are people who are always looking to “get over” on the employer. I believe that is a tiny percentage of the population. Most people find tremendous fulfillment in work. They want to be part of something great. Whatever part they have in producing the product and/or service their business is in, they want to succeed.
Being successful while working from home requires the proper mindset. Always avoid the extremes. One extreme is to believe no one will ever do anything outside of supervision. The other extreme is to believe no human interaction is ever necessary.
Working from home is a godsend for introverts. We dread going into the office at times. It’s not that we hate the job, but the exhaustion of becoming a “people person.” It’s worse if you have that extrovert nearby that doesn’t get you. (S)he constantly chatters, while you silently pray for quiet so you can concentrate. The extrovert labels you as unfriendly, so there is constant tension. Being able to work from home helps the introvert get a lot more done.
But working from home isn’t for everyone. When my sister graduated from college, the part-time job she had in the financial aid office became permanent. She’s been there ever since. Colleges have basically shut down in the pandemic, with only online learning going on. Financial aid work is one that converted fairly simply to online work, but my sister hates it. She’s much more of a people person than either of her two brothers. Every day feels like a week to her.
You can’t go without human interaction. Introverts gain energy from solitude, extroverts through being with people. Either way, when the batteries are charged, you need to use that energy.
I am severely introverted. But being holed up at home all the time isn’t the greatest situation. I only go out to go grocery shopping, donate plasma, and run errands (post office, pick up meds, etc.). I have certainly gained energy from the solitude but have very little outlet for the energy. I’m looking forward to being able to go to the gym and occasional networking events.
How Do You Cope?
For those that aren’t feeling the whole WFH thing, there are ways to keep yourself sane.
I have written a lot about how much I hate clichés and corporate buzzwords. Don’t speak in code to me, tell me what you want to tell me. I am already sick to death of “new normal” and “social distancing.” Add those to my list of phrases I will do anything to avoid saying.
I like to say things differently. One of my all-time favorites comes from M*A*S*H. When Hawkeye was (falsely) accused of stealing small items from everyone else on staff, Henry said, “If you’d just tell me what the joke is, we can all get back to abnormal around here!” I use that one regularly.
In this new virtual environment, with all meetings now taking place by audio or video conferencing, we’re exposed to a whole other sub-set of corporate-speak. There are a few versions of “conference call bingo” making the rounds on the interwebs. It’s fabulous. Whenever you hear one of the corporate buzzwords on the card, you mark it off. It doesn’t take long to get your full line (horizontal, vertical or diagonal).
You obviously don’t shout “BINGO!” in the middle of someone’s PowerPoint slide deck. But you can note to yourself how long it took you to get there. Have some fun with it. This is especially helpful to those that are uncomfortable in this environment.
What Lies Ahead?
There should be a dramatic increase in work from home availability. But there will still be some need for physically getting together. I hope there’s enough of a reduction in commuting and business travel that we will see major environmental improvements. Fewer vehicles mean less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would be wonderful.
Companies should embrace WFH to reduce expenses such as real estate and utilities. Hopefully, the reduction in expenses will result in higher wages for rank-and-file workers. (I’m not holding my breath, but I’m hoping.)
I can see a lot of split time – coming to the office 2-3 days a week, and the other days working from home. Those that prefer coming to the office will certainly be able to do so.
Do you like the work-from-home environment? Feel free to share in the comments. And be safe out there!