Working from home during the pandemic

Working from home during the pandemic

Dreams come true, and thoughts materialise. Many times I imagined myself working from home happily, and here we go. 

The self-isolation mode started almost exactly when I got my new job after five endless months of search. So, when I began working again, everything was new to me – the company, the industry, and the home environment instead of the office.

The last point seemed to be the easiest to get used to, and it was full of advantages. The most longed for was sleep. If your working day starts at 10 AM, instead of bucking along in the metro, you can stay in a warm bed till 9:50 and always be on time.

Second, you are now weather-independent. What is the temperature outside? What do people wear? What should I wear? The new permanent answer is pajama. Because you don’t go anywhere and your colleagues can’t see and judge you. They probably work in pants too, which is absolutely fine as long as we all feel comfortable and keep our cozy looks private. 

The technology made it all possible. You can recreate any office interaction through software. You can hear and see your colleagues whenever you want for free, share screens, and edit documents together. The only thing you can’t do now because of the quarantine is to touch them, but that’s not what we should do to our teammates. So I don’t see any problem or any difference between our collaboration capabilities now and then. If my job can be done on an average consumer market computer, I don’t understand why my location matters anymore with the highspeed unlimited internet available. 

Speaking of location, by the trial and error method, I discovered that not every corner of my apartment is equally right for my productivity and peace of mind. My first weeks of home office coincided with the stressfulness of hastily educating myself about the new industry. I worked in the living room at that time. The conditions seemed to be adequately planned – a well-lit room, enough space on the table, a comfortable chair. But even when the urgent tasks were done, and the external pressure eased, I still couldn’t focus sitting there and couldn’t understand why. Then one day, I went to the kitchen to take a break and make espresso in my infallible Italian Moka. I took my laptop and spontaneously decided to stay and work from there till the end of the day. Something in the kitchen environment, apart from the fridge, makes me feel easier and complete things faster. 

During one of those typically long internal group calls where you mostly just have to listen to your leader’s vision and wisdom, I managed to cook lunch, eat it, and wash the dishes unnoticed, only by switching off the mic. 

That made me realize how technology empowers us to define the scope of our involvement. It frees time to do things our way and achieve the same and higher results than at the office. Even though the digital tools come with the cost of privacy, I don’t see how we can do without them, especially now in quarantine. As the situation gets better and the restrictions get lifted, most likely, my company will return to the office soon. But will we return the same? Will we switch back as if nothing happened? I’m asking myself what I would prefer now working from home or in the office, and I’m afraid the first one sounds best to me. Having just found the inner balance after the 180-degree turn of the working conditions, I honestly don’t want to go back to the office anymore. Literally or not, Coronavirus has changed my DNA. The world will never be the same, they say. My inner world will not for sure.

Raised as an obedient 9-to-5 office worker, I became curious about remote work around 5 years ago. Then it seemed like something hipster, uncommon but appealing. I never made an effort, or dared to try it, but 2020 gave me a free demo that I liked a lot and I now want to get the unlimited version. Happily, the choice of remote-first companies is broad and diverse nowadays – from software development to e-commerce, design, and marketing. Many of them were founded 8-10 years ago. Currently, each one has hundreds of international employees who can work from anywhere in the world. They can also enjoy a full range of benefits such as unlimited vacation, healthcare, a retirement plan, profit sharing, computer and software setup, and annual company retreats. In my opinion, the pandemic’s negative social and economic impact is milder, thanks to the fully-remote companies. They have been ahead of their time and managed to stay stable or even unaffected by the virus. The definition of a reliable business does not include an office anymore. That is a shift the world did not expect to happen so soon.

As the boundary between work and home disappeared, and jobs invaded the living spaces of unprepared people like me, we started working much more. I rarely finish at 7 as I should, and my global colleagues say the same. Quarantine tested us for discipline and showed employers that most of their workers do not need to gather in one room every day to deliver and reach goals. I suppose for some company owners and managers, Coronavirus has been a proof of trust to their teams and for others, rather a power crisis. At one Berlin company, the employees have to report all their actions and interactions daily. The management probably feels insecure without seeing their workforce around and having immediate access to it. That story made me think that not only have we got a great chance to test ourselves, but also see clearly who we work for and with. 

But working hard is not the problem. I realized that I don’t want to spend my whole life  making someone else’s dreams come true. We have all seen the wise quotes repeating, “life is a journey. You need to enjoy the process and fill it with the meaning”. But these phrases don’t strike you when you are totally comfortable, covered by the thick “blanket” of routine. Situations like Coronavirus are necessary for many of us. To take a leap forward, we sometimes need to be first thrown off our stride. That was precisely what happened to me during the quarantine.

It has pushed me to the edge psychologically and has woken me up. Most importantly, it made me finally start doing something for myself. A month ago, I decided to exercise at home, which I never wanted to do before because the gym seemed much more effective and fun. The surprising result that I got from this new habit is not only an improved shape but an overall discipline. I became more organized at work, more mentally stable to face stress, and, most importantly, determined to work on my personal project, my YouTube blog. Today I have 19 followers and a huge passion for doing what I love. 

I was supposed to write a text about working from home for the first time, so I intended to do it when I first sat down with my laptop. But my remote work experience turned out to be much more profound than I had thought at the beginning of March when it all started. Therefore I couldn’t help but share my transformation story with you. Sometimes the only way to wake up and start living consciously is by overcoming challenges, the good-old “going out of your comfort zone,” even without having to go out of your home. 

My main revelation from the Coronavirus time is that the best things and greatest personal achievements may come from the unrelated changes and the smallest steps you take. 

This article about working from home was written by Nina Reed, as part of our 2020 Coronavirus magazine, which you can read in full here:

Coronavirus magazine front cover

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