Full-Time Remote Working Will Destroy Us.
I’ll preface this by saying I’ve worked from home for roughly 7 years now. Through this time, I’ve had multiple jobs and all supported some form of remote working. Many times I commuted to client sites a day or two a week. Sometimes I’d go to the office for team or company wide meetings. Overall, my days in the office were typically 2–3 days a week.
As a mother I’ve enjoyed the benefits of working from home. I’ve felt less stress in being able to manage my workload as well as motherhood. I’ve been able to block my calendar to pick up my children from school. I’ve been able to take a call while walking to the bus stop to get my son. I’ve had so much flexibility over the years that I am thankful for the opportunity.
But, things change.
Working from home is great when it’s peaceful.
Prior to covid, I truly enjoyed working from home. I woke up at a reasonable hour, dropped off the kids, made a second coffee, and began my work day. I’d take breaks to walk the dogs, or warm up lunch. It was relatively low stress dependent on my workload. Some days I’d sit at my desk all day without getting up due to a production deployment, or other deliverable but most days, work was stress free and enjoyable.
I always tried to get the majority of my work done earlier to have flexibility later in the afternoon when I picked up my kids. I blocked time to make them a snack and ask them about their day.
I had achieved a proper work life balance.
All that noise, noise, noise, noise.
Enter Covid. Working from home is entirely different now. I have a husband, two children and two dogs at home. There’s breakfast, lunch and dinner to be made. The days consist of virtual schooling setup, organizing the kids materials, helping them when they need it and my regular day job.
The dogs are needier too. They have grown accustomed to more walks and play time.
My relaxed morning doesn’t exist anymore. It’s wonderful to spend so much time with my family but I’m losing my sanity. My once peaceful mornings are now chaotic.
Last night, I woke up at midnight to a crying puppy. Her crying sounds like a whistle. I jolted out of bed mad at my husband for conveniently sleeping while I turned off the alarm to let the dog out. When she came back in, I noticed the smell downstairs. Poo all over my Moroccan rug.
Thirty minutes later when all was cleaned up, I went back to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I thought about the disarray my house was in for deciding Covid was the perfect time for home improvement projects. I thought about sleeping and working in the guest room. I even thought about what I would wear when I met a friend the next day.
What seemed like hours later, I fell asleep only to be woken up by crying from my senior dog. It was 4am. I closed the door and told myself I’d just clean his mess later. At 5am, I couldn’t take it any longer. I woke up, brushed my teeth, let the dogs out and put some coffee on. Fuck sleep, right?
While that isn’t a normal occurrence in my house, it’s further evidence of the stress of working and living at home. I enjoyed the flexibility of deciding when I’d go to the office. I enjoyed meeting my coworkers. I enjoyed sometimes getting a drink after work. I enjoyed conversation.
Now I’m stuck dialing into zoom meetings with the smell of dog poop on my rug.
Social Interaction is key to fulfillment at work.
Generally speaking, I’m an introvert. I prefer small groups of people. Too many social functions overwhelm me.
People seem to think introverts have fared better during the pandmic. We finally have an excuse to stay home. Sure, it’s been convenient to say no without feeling guilty but it’s affected my mental well being as well.
I miss seeing friends. I miss seeing extended family. I miss events.
I even, gasp, miss my coworkers.
I started a new job during the pandemic and haven’t had the chance to connect with my coworkers. We have several other newbies who feel the same. There’s a clear division between the old and new crowd. While everyone gets along, we have no way of developing a relationship.
We’ve had Microsoft Teams happy hours and company events. It’s not the same. Virtual bonding is difficult. My children have the same thoughts about hybrid schooling. They crave their weeks in person. The virtual weeks affect their motivation and attention.
Fears of the remote working model.
Every time I read about increased remote working and office closures, I get concerned.
When you’re in the office, you take more breaks. There’s water cooler conversations. There’s always a real coffee run to avoid drinking the crap in the office. There are jokes. There are laughs. There are complaints. There are more laughs.
With the good, there’s the bad. There’s the commute and having to wear real pants.
For years, I thought the bad outweighed the good. And while I still don’t want to be in an office 5 days a week, I want to go 3 of them. If the office was within 15–30 minutes, I bet I’d want to go more than that, especially now.
I’m itching for social interaction and worried about the future. You can’t go out to dinner without seeing a couple, or group of friends all on their phones.
Social interaction is dying. We’re reliant on devices to interact. If companies slowly change to a purely work form home model, we’re going to further kill social interaction.
We’ll become incapable of having conversations in person.
Post Pandemic Plans
My current office is an hour away. Living in New Jersey doesn’t help. The drive can easily take 90 minutes in traffic. Since I’ve started, I’ve gone to the office once for a socially distanced team meeting.
Post Covid, I’m up for a difficult commute. I’m ready for interaction. I’m ready to get to know the people I work with. I’m ready to bond with them and make memories.
Not only do I crave the interaction, I find myself looking forward to working less when things are back to normal. I am constantly checking email now. I’ve made it a point to avoid looking at my phone first thing in the morning. I typically last an hour. I check emails at 7am instead of 6am. I’m doing the same at 8pm.
Somehow commuting instills a break in the day. You have no choice but to listen to music, a podcast, or audio book on your way to and from work. You can’t answer emails and drive.
All things considered, when the kids are back in school full time, I may quickly adjust to my pre-Covid hybrid schedule. Flexibility is certainly valued. But right now, all I can think about is being in the office full time. It sounds like a dream.