The widespread work-from-home experiment rides on as employers and managers keep one shaky hand on the emergency brake and one shaky foot on the gas. Working from home has benefits among its drawbacks. Most importantly, working from home brings change. Change can feel pretty unsettling, no matter how great it is, especially if we do not process it properly.
Below are some (obvious) observations on working from home, paired with prompts for self-reflection. This exercise is meant to help not only see the changes we are experiencing through this pandemic, but to also practice gratitude for what is, what has been, and what will be.
1. Reduced financial stress on employers
The ability for employers to decrease overhead expenses like mortgages, rent, and utilities as they lose the need for office space, frees up mental stress around how to make ends meet. Ideally, the decrease in stress at the top will trickle down to employees below and make the organization a more zen place to be, overall.
Ask yourself: How can I check in on the well-being of my employees today? How are they feeling?
2. Elimination of commuting distress
Getting to roll out of bed and power on our computers is saving Americans an average of 100 minutes a day in commute time and (probably) 1,000 traffic-related swear words per ride. Add in a 15-minute mindfulness/meditation session in the morning, now that you have a little more time on your hands, and start to lower your stress level even more.
Ask yourself: What am I grateful for today?
3. Changes to morning routines
This one is for those of us who wake up in the morning and feel the pressure to work out, shower, style our hair, slather on products and cosmetics, and pull on stiff, ironed work attire. Can I just say... Hallelujah! Call it vanity, call it societal brainwashing, but you could not pay me to go to the office looking like I just rolled out of bed, but you better believe I don't touch a single drop of concealer when I'm working from home (sans video calls). Not everyone has such a long list of ways they need to transform themselves in the morning, but for those of you out there who are nodding vigorously and clapping your hands in relief -- you get it, and you're saving around another 7 hours a week. This gives us some time to appreciate ourselves on a whole new level. Reading this while in a very... "organic"... state? Go look in the mirror and appreciate what you see.
Ask yourself: How much more do I love my true self today? How can I practice acceptance of my organic appearance and decrease feelings of shame, materialism, and self-consciousness? How can I view my morning grooming routine as a discretionary, fun way to build confidence and highlight my natural charms?
4. Breaks, background noise, nutrition, and exercise
This point partially reminds me of the proverbial Office Space scene where Milton explains being allowed to listen to his radio at work at a reasonable volume. Your manager and co-workers can't hear you anymore (as long as you are on mute... or not on a call). If you want to put on Dawson's Creek on Hulu in the background while you work on a project, you're pretty much free to do it as long as you're someone who can focus amidst a little noise. Still, the monotone sound of Katie Holmes using big, angry words is still, somehow, less distracting than your cube-mate clearing his throat loudly enough to trigger a small earthquake.
What's more? Being at home, you have access to your kitchen for lunch to make a nutritious meal without the freezer burn. You also have some flexibility to break into a couple of yoga poses or crack out a 15 minute online workout video. That's right you, CAN replace that regular, gossipy trip to the coffee pot at 2 p.m. with some jump squats and burpees, especially since you're probably not wearing anything with starch on it.
Ask yourself: How can I make the most of my new, flexible schedule while also increasing productivity? How can I view how much time I have to get things done now that I have more freedom to play around with my minutes?
5. Family time
You thought you loved your kids until they became your coworkers. Short of making them put a TPS Report cover sheet on their fractions homework, there really isn't much you can do to manage young balls of energy into becoming productive members of your organization. Still, you're missing them less, (that's for sure), and you find yourself finally being able to balance work and life a little more. You might even have more time to cook a fun dinner or get to that home project you never had time for by using that newly freed non-commute time at the end of the day. We can all say we appreciate a little time away from our siblings, spouses, parents, and kids, but if we don't have that anymore, how can we keep our relationships moving smoothly and avoid damaging stress? I believe even Kelly Clarkson blamed her impending divorce on quarantining with her husband in a recent interview.
Ask yourself: What have I learned about my family that I did not notice before? In what ways do they challenge me to become a better worker? What will I miss about seeing my family more often if I go back to the office? What can I teach my kids today? Have I told my partner a reason why I love him/her today?