Many have raved about the benefits of remote work---the glorious luxury of not having to worry about a nosy coworker hovering over your desk, annoying smells from lunches, or a manager constantly clocking your every move. Before the madness that is COVID-19, I enjoyed life as a professional who could work from anywhere. Other than a few struggle jobs here and there, I've never looked back---until now.
Once everyone started working from home, I began to realize that what was once seen as wonderfully alternative and out-of-the-box turned into a stressful, soul-stealing pandemic-era necessity. We free-spirited, self-motivated, flex-loving professionals now had to share our space, time, and peace with neighbors, family, and friends who were forced to embrace a newness far from normal for them. And trust me, we've all suffered in one way or another.
Bye-bye advantages and hello disenchantment. The luster of working from home is gone. Here are 5 good reasons why, and how you can take back your joy, one boundary at a time:
Work From Home Con: Noise, distractions, noise, and distractions. Oh yeah, and more noise.
You'd think that working from home would mean you could create a peaceful and ideal environment---on your own terms---to get your work done. You'd be vibrating high, more productive, and able to conduct the day at your own pace. Yeah. Right. If it's not fighting and crying kids causing a ruckus while you're trying to lead a presentation, it's your husband forgetting that you are indeed at work, yelling at the TV while watching sports replays during his breaks. Don't have a spouse or kids? Well, you'll feel like you do with all the screaming, stomping, vacuuming, scraping, meowing, chirping, and barking you can hear through the walls and ceiling.
Don't live in an apartment building? Doesn't matter. Everybody and their mama works from home or seemingly has more free time to shop, walk their dogs, take a mid-day drive, or test the bass in their car sound systems at noon. You're now home to hear all the landscaping buzzing, firetruck sirens, and construction pounding that you would've missed while at the office.
Remedy: When noise-cancelling earphones and ear plugs become a bit too much to bear, try hanging noise-reducing curtains on your windows. (This is a life-saver! I mean, who knew a whole world of peace could be found in a swath of material made specifically for blocking sound?) Check for gaps around fixtures, door casings and switch boxes and try filling those with acoustic sealant. Add carpet or rugs on hardwood floors where there's lots of movement. Rearrange your office so that you're away from windows or relocate to a more quiet area of your home. Try setting quiet hours in your house, and if that's just impossible, ask your company about options for covering the cost of a well-sanitized coworking space.
Image via Giphy
Work From Home Con: Boundaries? What are those?
Even for us formerly free-wheeling flex professionals, there were boundaries. We could set a limit on how long per day we'd work on a project or goal. We'd have set places and times where work-related activities were off-limits and we could prioritize other aspects of our lives that had nothing to do with the hustle of making money to pay our bills. The average traditional worker also had boundaries in the form of office hours, and they could literally shut down their computer, get in their car, on a bus, or on a train, leave work behind, and go home.
Well now, home is work, and the lines have been blurred indefinitely. The boss who didn't know the meaning of offline or "out of office" has taken demanding to a whole other level and has gotten downright disrespectful and unreasonable with the heightened productivity expectations. Team members you'd have to remind not to expect responses to early-morning emails are now sending more emails for the most trivial things.
Remedy: Put your foot down, communicate your need for boundaries sternly yet respectfully, and take back your life. Focus in on solutions such as delegation, changes in communication protocols, hiring extra house help, or shifting workplace and household duties. Schedule breaks like you'd schedule appointments, and be deliberate about actually leaving the house, even if it's just to walk around your yard, step out on the patio, or stroll at a nearby park. Set a timer and stick to a schedule. Creating no-work zones in my apartment and saying no to anything that disrespects the whole premise of privacy and personal time has worked wonders!
Image via Giphy
Work From Home Con: Wifi woes, high energy bills, and technology glitches are now par for the course.
I could write a whole separate story about the atrocities of professionals challenged with having to rely on their own computers and home wireless connections to get work done. (Some companies ought to be outright ashamed of and maybe even fined for their lack of attention to proper tech protocols and apathy in providing remote-work amenities, but I digress.)
If you've experienced slower speeds for downloads and video calls, and higher energy bills, then you know what I'm talking about. Some of us were already struggling with getting quality yet affordable Wifi with high speeds for streaming video and doing the usual things on the Web, but now that everyone's working from home, we're all sucking the proverbial "high-speed" networks dry. And I don't care what any telecom professional or tech expert says, I know I've been negatively impacted. No matter how many times I upgrade, buy storage, delete apps, save on "the cloud" or pay for add-ons, I still run into problems. If you've had it with technology-related problems and fluctuating bills to the point where you are literally two seconds from throwing that router, laptop, and TV out of your third-floor window, trust me sis, you're not alone.
Remedy: I've found it helpful to complete the bulk of my work during the early morning or late-night hours (or times when most people are either sleeping or not working.) Talk with your boss or company about adjusting your work hours or providing you with the tech you need to cut stress and add efficiency to your work-from-home processes. Look into tax breaks or subsidy programs and shop around for deals. Also, look into other areas where you can access Wifi during the day. (My building actually has outdoor and indoor lounge spaces where I can access Wifi, and after a recent visit I noticed that hardly anybody actually takes advantage of them.)
Work From Home Con: The walls are closing in on me, and loneliness is setting in---fast.
There's but so much redecorating, re-organizing, and switching things up a sis can do, and when you're used to being able to travel or at least having the option of changing scenery, that lonely feeling of being stuck can be debilitating. (I'm also in a long-distance relationship. Forced quarantine and border closings negatively impacted my mental health tremendously.) Not only was I missing my bae, but I even missed the annoying aspects of travel like long customs lines and tedious baggage checks. Zoom, Whats App, or whatever platform you choose can never replace real in-person connection, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who gets sick of going to the same parks, stores, or rooms of the house to do things. I'd had enough.
Remedy: Some folks might disagree with this, but I had to take a trip. (I mean, in my defense, I didcontinue to self-quarantine well after the world "opened" and people began going outside again, and I recently had to test for Covid-19 in order to finally visit my fiance.) I've taken small steps to feel more comfortable with going out again---masked up and armed with my hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for sure. I still limit attending social events or being in crowds larger than 20 people, and even when visiting restaurants I ask to be seated outdoors or in sections that are practically empty. If going out is not an option for you, join a new organization and attend virtual happy hours or mixers. Volunteer to help others---whether virtually or in person---and find creative ways to network. Get into a new prayer or meditation routine, or pick up a new hobby.
Image via Giphy
Work From Home Con: A love for fashion and style is replaced by a lazy affinity for bummy chic.
I used to get excited by the mere possibility of seeing someone I know at a restaurant, being invited out to an event, or having a special occasion to get dressed for. Once Covid-19 hit, everything changed, including my motivation to take care of my physical self. There was a point where I couldn't tell you the last time I actually put real thought into a coordinating a cute outfit or even wearing shoes that don't either lace up or slip on. I found myself becoming lazier and lazier about refining my look, and I'd even packed most of my favorite outfits away. I'd fallen off the fashion wagon to the point that I'd get anxiety when tasked with wearing anything other than underwear or sweats and a T-shirt. And let's not talk about hair. My poor curly 'fro had been tragically neglected---suffocated by a bonnet, scarf, or hat most of the time. I truly couldn't recognize the person in the mirror anymore.
Remedy: Find inspiration and get into chic loungewear. My love for fashion and shopping used to be part of my self-care, so I woke up one day, and inspired by YouTubers like Monroe Steele, decided to invest in some pieces---adding color, patterns, and different textures to the mix. I got into fun accessories like fedoras, vanity glasses, headbands, and belts. I unpacked my "fancy" pieces and hung them back in my closet. I also began making deep conditioning treatments, eyebrow shaping, and twist-outs part of my self-care routine. Give yourself permission to invest in your look---whatever that investment entails---and go the extra mile to treat yourself when you can.
We all deserve it after surviving one hell of a year.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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