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Remote Rut: 5 Reasons Working From Home Sucks

Sis, I feel your pain. Here's how I found relief and got my life back.

Workin' Girl

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 did continue 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

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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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