Working From Home: The Good, the Bad, and Everything in Between
For one of those decades, my husband and I ran a successful marketing consulting company. Our work was done solely from our home office, all while raising five children. We started our days early before the kids woke up, and when they left for school, we worked feverishly until their return. Our parenting strategy was to be “all in” when we were together during the afternoon and evening hours, and then attended to critical work needs during the evening hours when the kids were asleep.
We were good at, and we quickly learned that the phrase “work-life balance” is a myth. The reality is if you’re happy at work, you will usually be happy and fulfilled at home. And, if you are happy at home, you typically find fulfillment at work. The key words here are finding fulfillment. The lines become severely blurred when work and home are the same location.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that working from home is a viable option for most everyone working in a technology-related field. Obviously, many professions require in-person work such as healthcare professionals, delivery drivers, and grocery store owners.
In the past, businesses have had rigid policies against working from home, but that thinking is both outdated and ineffective given the myriad of technology we have at our fingertips. Major companies like Twitter and others have shared that working from home is now at the employee’s discretion. Performance has always been measured by output, so it shouldn’t require an employee to sit in the confines of a cubicle or office to deliver expected results. If you can’t trust your employees to work remotely, then why hire them in the first place?
Working from home requires discipline and elevated organizational skills. Each week I plan specific time to work on projects that require focus and set aside blocks of time on my calendar as a checklist to my daily activities. The quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” has been a guiding principle throughout my career and has led me to successfully navigate life’s challenges more effectively.
There are many perks to working from home: definite attraction for new hires, less burnout, healthier lifestyles, increase in loyalty, minimal sick days, and often an upswing in productivity. Employees want to feel trusted and do meaningful work and they should be allowed the flexibility to do that anywhere they are most productive.
There are countless reasons that limit productivity and effectiveness when working from home. A few of those include isolation, motivation, distractions, effective time management, and letting work take over your life. When work and home environments are distinct and separate it is easier to move from one to the next.
Today’s complex environment has unveiled an added layer of confusion, which can result in feelings of helplessness regarding your own mortality and those you care about. As humans we yearn for relationships and in-person contact. When that is taken away, we mourn the loss of connection.
Work requires work, and with every benefit comes a unique set of challenges. The bottom line is that without the added structure the workplace provides, it falls to each of us to create our own structure and routine to remain successful. We all need to remember that the freedom to work from anywhere means we need to be prepared for the additional responsibilities that come with that privilege.
Everything in Between
For me, the in-between spans everything outside the scope of our control. Friends of mine who are attempting to work, parent, homeschool, and do their very best throughout all of this uncertainty, have shared with me they have had to abandon their family daily schedules and resort to just being fluid and flexible as they embrace the here and now. The new strategy has evolved from “What needs to be done today?” to “How can we stay sane together?”
This past year, pre-coronavirus, was one of those difficult times in my life. My husband suffered two massive strokes due to the cancer he had been battling for three years progressing to his brain. The first stroke left him paralyzed on the right side of his body and was left wheelchair‑bound requiring round-the-clock care. The second stroke a few weeks later confirmed that he would only live for a few days or weeks as all of the tumors in his brain were bleeding. It was startling to consider life without him. This in-between time was bittersweet as we evaluated what was most important in life. His condition necessitated my working from home full-time. I was grateful that my employer allowed me the ability to manage my own time and to set the right expectations in regards to my work output. I took half days off as the situation demanded to ensure I was fair and equitable.
Living in the moment is the most important thing we can do in life. If you don’t seize those unexpected moments you will miss out on the only thing that brings true joy. This experience taught me to look outside myself, and my own grief, and focus on ways I could bring happiness to others. Death reinforced the concept that life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.
One of our era's most successful entrepreneurs, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, describes life as a full circle, with each of us at the center. It is not merely a railroad track that stops you at Point A in the morning and Point B in the evening, but rather contains everything you do and care about.
When you turn off your laptop at the end of the day, there comes immense satisfaction of a job well done, or at the very least, maintaining a good sense of humor that you survived. The bottom line is that our lives are a mixture of experiences. Some of our life is lived at home with our family and friends, and some of our life is lived at work and experiences with customers and colleagues. Ultimately life is just that, life … and it’s meant to be lived to the fullest. And it falls to each of us to maximize those experiences wherever we are, and whatever activity we are engaged in. The key is to embrace it all … the good, the bad, and everything in-between.