It would be a severe understatement to say 2020 has changed our lives. From working from home to giving the access economy a major boost, and wearing medical masks in different social scenarios, the last seven months of our lives have been… mindset altering.
To say the least.
Most of these changes are not entirely new to most people out there. After all, we’ve all ordered pizza before COVID kicked into our lives, and a lot of companies had WFH policies long before all this happened too.
It’s just that never before have these things become our daily lives, on fast forward, at such a grand scale. Working from home, relying on deliveries of all kinds, subscribing to everything under the Sun just to keep our minds from going crazy with anxiety and doubt — they all happened en masse, literally overnight, all over the world.
Welcome to the access economy, ladies and gentlemen, we have just been propelled into the future!
Working From Home before It Was (Un)Cool
Over the course of my long, winded, 30-year old life, I have had the chance to work from home three times.
First, from 2012 to 2015. I was so rigorous about my work that I woke up every morning at the ungodly hour of 5 am, worked until 2 pm, took a break, and started work again from 7 pm. For the vast majority of these years, I constantly had to explain to people I don’t just sit around at home baking cookies and watching Mad Men on repeat. WFH was, you see, a pretty strange concept.
It went pretty much like this:
The second time, I worked remotely for a company that was entirely based halfway across the country. I was here, they were all there, and overall, it was not fun at all. I still somewhat had to explain I was not slacking off, but running through endless lists of To Do’s every day, from 9 to… whenever those tasks were done.
The third time, it was when pretty much everyone else working in an office did it. Starting with March 2020, our entire lives moved online, from work to entertainment and from ordering groceries to trying to convince people masks are useful to be worn during the worst pandemic of the last century. Ironically, people had the same discussion back in 1918 with the Spanish flu too, so not much else has changed…
Hello, Home-ness, My Old Friend
…Except, well, it has.
Because everything and everyone is now connected through this magical thing we call the internet. It’s an odd place to be sometimes, but most days it’s pretty cool. Millennials love it, Baby Boomers have flooded it, and Generation Z was born with it at their fingertips.
I strongly believe I won’t be the first to say the 2020 work from home experience had (and continues to have!) its nuances. It’s somewhat different than whatever WFH we all did before. Not only are we forced into it, but we’re forced into it under the threat of something pretty much invisible.
Even more, it seems to have no end-date. In March, we were sent away to work from home and help curb the spread of COVID-19. Which was a fair, decent, and very humane thing most companies did. Some were more reluctant, others are vowing they’re going to keep at it long into 2021.
For a short second, it felt like our dreams came true, in a very odd and skewed way because such are the ways of Karma, right?
All of a sudden, everyone’s homes became a weird melange of kids taking classes online, parents fighting for space and silence (also online), sleeping and entertaining (you guessed it, online), and trying to make sense of a world that changed literally overnight.
“I don’t work from home, I live at work” became the motto of a year.
Work from Home Statistics Are Still In the Making
Before the COVID crisis, most estimations said that it will take a few years (up to a decade) for most people to work at home.
Alas, they did not estimate there would be a pandemic on its way to our lives! And oh, my, how that has changed perspective on pretty much everything WFH-related!
During and after the COVID lockdown situation, stats showed that:
- More than 80% of managers and employers were concerned about low productivity among employees
- Yet, Twitter seems to have liked the idea of WFH for extended periods of time, because they announced their employees can work remotely…forever.
- Even more, Google will keep their employees working remotely until July 2021
- All that talk about productivity concerns might have made people more eager to work on weekends because Microsoft Team chats have spiked by 200% on Saturdays and Sundays
- This might also be related to the fact that 86% of employees feel that they need to prove their managers they work hard and deserve to keep their jobs. People also report they work 28 more hours now that they are all remote.
- Virtual meetings make people feel exhausted and stressed, but even so, Microsoft seems to have measured brain activity during video meetings and people are doing just fine:
- More than 50% of parents have not been very happy with this sudden transition, as they have found it kind of difficult to focus (understandably so)
- At the same time, though, other studies point out that 86% of parents now prefer remote work flexibility (whereas only 46% wanted it before)
- Biggest challenges employees felt while forcefully working from home in 2020? Unplugging after work was an issue for nearly a quarter of the respondents, followed by loneliness, and trouble collaborating and communicating
- But at the same time, other studies say 80% of workers felt healthier, happier, and more connected to their families after accommodating into their new WFH routines.
All in all, it looks that statistics are quite inconclusive when it comes to working from home and just how efficient it is (or how happy it makes people feel). But when you add in the fact that companies are likely to save $11,000 every year for every employee by allowing them to work remotely, you can pretty much guess where all this is probably going.
Again, it is something only the future itself will tell.
So, How’s Working from Home Going, Y’all?
For me, so far, so good.
I was used to it before. I also hated it before and that’s why I constantly returned to office work after all my intermezzos into pajama project deliveries and making way too many trips to the fridge.
The absolute truth about Working from Home (in the opinion of the great authority on WFH I am)?
Well, in my experience, remote work shows the following characteristics:
- It doesn’t stink that much. You get to sleep more and avoid traffic, which is great for the environment and your brain.
- Coffee at home will never taste like coffee at work. Convince me otherwise.
- Productivity has spikes and lows, but mostly it has not changed much for me
- I still listen to music with my headphones on, there’s no heavy metal party going on every day during my work hours
- The other week, I was mercilessly wakened up by the upstairs neighbor who decided 7 am is a good time to break windows and have them replaced. It went on for the entirety of the day, time in which I had to deliver 2,000 words, one social media plan for a week, and listen to a course on content marketing strategy.
- Wearing shoes for more than two hours now seems really weird and unnatural and I am seriously considering living in slippers for the rest of my life
- I miss office chatter so much I sometimes turn on this office noise generator
- I also miss little office trinkets, like bowls of fruit I will never get at home and just plain and simply seeing someone smile their Good Morning to you (OK, most people are not that smiley on mornings, but you get what I mean)
- We all miss office jokes and the presence of multiple humans that don’t ask for food, diapers, and Google Meet time in the living room
- Zoom calls are still awkward and I still cannot find the right way to position my laptop and avoid it from making me look like a pixelated pumpkin
I have not done one thing to make my home office space nicer. I have no plants, my office is virtually a dumpster, and I am pretty sure I have become glued to my chair now. I don’t know when my workdays end, nor do I know when I go to sleep anymore. Time has lost meaning, like in a hamster wheel that never. stops. spinning.
I’m pretty certain most people working from home right now feel me when I say all these things. Suddenly, my pain in 2012 became the pain of the whole world. We are connected not only in our anxiety regarding the future and this invisible monster taking away our freedom (and our lives) but also in our ways of living (online) now.
As the second wave of lockdowns peaks its lonely horns over the world’s horizon, we are left to see if this experience will strengthen us in our globalized remote work lifestyle — or if the novelty of it has already worn off.
Until then, though, we are perhaps more united in thought, spirit, and sentiment than we have ever been.
And, let’s face it, I’m pretty sure 50% of the WFH armada of 2020 has not worn proper pants since March, and that’s always a great way to connect with people all over the world.