It’s been more than 2 months now since we had to adjust to the new ways of living and working because of the pandemic.
After the initial shock of accepting that a tiny organism can put the whole Planet on hold and that we are so fragile in the face of nature irrespective of status, religion, ethnicity or beliefs – which hopefully helped us come to our senses and make space for more humility in our thinking of being the centre of the Universe as bipeds with consciousness – we moved on to the next phase and adapted our lifestyle to the new conditions.
The dynamics of the workspace changed overnight and the active workforce was all of a sudden split into 3 major buckets:
· people whose jobs were put on hold
· essential workers who had to continue their activity despite the risks of being exposed to the virus
· the privileged ones being able to perform their work from home
I’m part of the last category and I felt grateful for this flexibility which brought little to no disruption to my activity.
In my (too) long experience working in corporations I’ve been doing it even before it became a trend and always enjoyed this approach. I associate it with freedom of choice on how you plan your energy during the day to get the most productivity out of your work and still be able to have time for your personal life. And it works.
When it comes to working from home during this period, the perspective shifts and the results may not necessarily be an increased productivity and better balance between professional and personal life. Rather exactly the opposite.
First of all, this is imposed, not necessarily chosen. We don’t like not having options and being constrained to do something.
Secondly, it’s no longer seen as flexibility, but confinement. We’re forced to perform all our activities, regardless of their nature, between the walls of our house.
Thirdly, we’re a gregarious species. We’re fond of bonding and socialising. As much as we love our families, they cannot substitute all the interactions we used to have with other people: from friends, colleagues to our favourite barista from the local coffee shop or a random stranger smiling to us on the street.
On top of all this, we are living a collective trauma. There may have been other pandemics throughout the humankind history, but this is the first time it happens to the ones living today. This is adding to the stress and anxiety that was already there (the burnout syndrome is no mystery in the corporate world).
So, how does this reflect in the everyday working from home schedule?
Productivity and efficiency are impacted. Not in a way that the work is not done, but it is more difficult to keep the same levels of concentration and focus with all this range of feelings, emotions and thoughts that the pandemic brought or intensified.
The effort and the duration to complete the work have increased without necessarily bringing better outcomes.
Parkinson’s law related to work performance says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and nowadays when companies are more cautious in starting new initiatives, it feels like there is an indefinite time available to do the current activities.
The simplest actions have become over-complicated and people have a tendency to create more work to keep themselves busy. Is it because we feel some relief in controlling at least this part of our life in these uncertain times? Is it because we want to keep our mind busy and not allow it to process the implications this new situation brings?
The need for teamwork and collaboration are now exclusively supported by technology. This means increased contact via phone or video calls leaving even less time than before to do the actual work. The meme circulating on social media with the message “that meeting could have been an email” says it all.
Working hours have extended to cover the hours we’re awake. Being at home all the time seems to mean being available all the time. After all, no one is going anywhere, so what else could you do? This is no longer having flexibility but being in a continuous symbiosis with your laptop/phone/headset. I don’t know how parents are doing it. And single working parents who get out of this alive and sane-ish deserve a medal!
In the end, these are general observations and everyone will have to draw the boundaries for themselves.
In the previous normality, being efficient meant spending the least amount of time to deliver the best possible results with the means at hand.
In the new normality will being available all the time and busy mean being a valuable employee?
In the future, when more and more activities will be able to be done remotely, will this working from home flexibility be understood as non-stop availability?
Take care of yourself,