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.
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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
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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