When the shelter-in-place order was issued by Gov. Pritzker on March 21st, it was encouraged by the state, federal, and public health officials to allow nonessential employees to work from home if possible. Web cameras and office chairs were suddenly sold out on every website. Zoom became a household name. Internet companies lifted their speed restrictions. In the blink of an eye, nearly 50% of the America’s wealthiest workforce started working from home while others were not so lucky.
I have been working from home since 2019, prior to the Pandemic of 2020. As a part of my company’s policies, I had the flexibility to go into our office or to work from home. I’ve always enjoyed working from home. I get some of my best work done in the quiet sanctuary of my personal workspace with my Maine Coon cat, Bison, by my side. After the shelter-in-place order was implemented, I was originally thrilled to know that I would be working from home 100% of the time. But it turns out that being forced to work remotely during the outbreak of an infectious disease is a whole new experience entirely.
From March 21st up until Memorial Day in May, I found myself to be extremely unmotivated and disengaged at work. After having to lay off the majority of my contractors and the massive increase of hiring freezes, my level of uncertainty of what was next increased. I lost a percentage of my base salary 2 weeks after having just received an increase. And my extra income from commissions decreased to nearly nothing as more and more contractors were let go. It put me deeper and deeper into depression, my anxiety increased dramatically. To escape from this reality, I played over 500 hours of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. While I was not working at my normal capacity, I still remained positive and hopeful because at the end of the day I was still working from home.
After months of inescapable time of reflection, I discovered some major positives of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic which changed my perspective of the entire situation. In my previous article, The Pandemic Through The Eyes of a Recruiter, I recommended seeking out mental health support. Navigating through the pandemic, recession and protests due to systemic racism is tough to handle mentally. Being a woman of color and suffering with my own mental demons, I followed my own advice and decided to return to therapy and my outlook on life has improved. I also realized I was saving around $1000 if not more a month. Taking two hours out of my commute to work increased my cash on hand and kept my gas tank full. Even better, I had more time to work on other creative projects like this blog for instance. Communication between my family and friends happens more often. We sometimes meet on virtual meeting platforms in order to see each other. Many positives surfaced during the shelter-in-place order. And now I’m in love with the idea of doing this 100% of the time. It took some time to get accustomed to but now I know it was ultimately a blessing in disguise.
One area I do not have a ton of insight on is how families are dealing with the COVID-19 shelter- in-place order. I live alone with my cat, Bison, so I do not have the distractions families are facing on top of everything else. From what I know so far the divorce rate has increased considerably, couples learned they do not like each other as much as they thought, and parents have to deal with their children not being in school. Of course, I’m sure their kids are not enthused either but again I do not have any experience in this area.
When you’re working from home, efficiency is important. I listed a few recommendations below to help keep you engaged and remain optimistic about the future of the new normal. My suggestions are:
waking up early and meditating however you feel comfortable. I sing as loud as I can and dance like no one is watching because it’s therapeutic.
taking a shower and eating breakfast. As easy as this sounds, it’s actually harder than you think especially when you are not mentally capable of doing so.
creating a short list of tasks you need to accomplish for the day. I would stay away from long lists so as not to overwhelm yourself and then end up not getting anything done.
avoiding criticism of yourself and others. If someone is having a bad day or if you can feel that person is fighting the urge to blow up at work or wherever, go out of my way to comfort them and lead them off the ledge. It’s not worth it to fuel the flame. Figure out how you can help because you could be saving someone else's life. You have no idea what’s going on in someone's world. Don’t make it worse. And be careful with your words, verbally and written, because communication can get misinterpreted or lost in translation in emails, chats and texts. Try to understand as well.
finding ways to make your remote home office functional and comfortable. I have a standing desk, with two monitors and my work laptop. I also have an extended table for work documents, as well as a comfortable office chair with the option to stand. However, I worked from home pre-COVID-19 and had this set up already but not everyone was prepared for this or can even afford it. Just do what makes you feel comfortable.
stepping away from your desk during your breaks to go on a walk. I find that being outdoors with nature helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. You start to appreciate life more.
logging off at your scheduled time. Just because you have access to your work at all times doesn’t mean you need to be cuffed to your computer. Use the 2 hours you’d usually be traveling to and from work to focus on your creative projects, talk to friends or family members, cook, literally anything else.
As we close out the month of June, I can truly say that my spirit has been uplifted. The job market has abruptly bounced back, and Illinois is soon to be in phase 4 starting Friday, June 26th. And now that I am accustomed to working remotely from home, I’m not looking forward to going back to the office. Luckily my company is encouraging that we remain remote and I am okay with that. The risk and cost of returning to work is greater than it’s worth. However, if the benefit of having us in the office is worth that much, pay us.
How has working from home affected your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below. And, thank you for taking the time to read. I truly appreciate it.