When Working from Home is the Same, but Different
Maybe it’s a case of like attracting like, but a lot of my friends and close acquaintances are also in some kind of creative and/or self-employed vocation, so working from home isn’t an unknown quantity. But, current circumstances being wildly what they are, it’s also a case of something being very much the same, but different. In some respects, my days aren’t altogether distinguishable from pre-pandemic. My dining table and sofa are still my primary work spaces. I still juggle various clients and think about the best ways to optimize need. Through it all, however, is a noticeable tinge.
I’m among the fortunate ones to still have some work. I’m not at full capacity, but that’s probably ok. Even as a person who has always managed their time and workflow well, and loves the accountability of deadlines, this is a challenge. There are days when my brain doesn’t seem to dial in as well. My thinking is foggy, and my focus flits from task to task. One of the realities of self-employment and solopreneurship is that you’re never really off the clock. I’ve worked longer and stranger hours in the last several years than I ever did when I was in a traditional office job. There’s no idle chitchat in the break room. Vacation is a fluid concept. My time is too literally tied to my income to be frittered. Now, though, I find I need to offer myself a greater grace, and embrace the shifting meanings of what can qualify as productive time.
I consider working from home to be an asset. I suspect many professionals who pursue similar paths appreciate, as I do, the greater control over personal mobility. Because, for all the intensely long days I clock, I am equally free to set my schedule, to travel and bring work with me without filling out a time sheet, and to manage personal errands when I need to as opposed to when an employer dictates is permitted.
A potential upside to this crisis is that mindsets are shifting, by dint of necessity, about how work can be successfully executed. Whatever questions remain (big ones) about how well our society takes care of its workforce, maybe we can collectively move in the direction of more proactively embracing quality of life over, at all costs, productivity.
I like working. I enjoy learning, and am most deeply engaged and motivated when I feel like my work has real connection and meaning at its core. I get great satisfaction from a busy day, filled with meetings and brainstorms and ideas and words.
On the other hand, I also really like living my life. Scandalous as it may be, I don’t believe technology entitles the world to immediate, 24/7 access to me. I want to work and be busy and productive and fulfilled, and feel those same objectives are just as applicable in my personal life. Working from home right now is not the easiest. As much as our days have, in many ways, slowed, we need to acknowledge the percent of our daily thinking that is currently consumed, consciously or otherwise, by worry. Stress, trauma, and grief take a toll on our mental faculties. Now is arguably not the best time to expect peak performance from anyone.
I’m glad and fortunate to be able to work from home, but I’m also trying to be mindful that for all that’s the same, so very much feels different. I don’t know where my business will be in a few months, as economic realities evolve. I hope businesses and organizations will find that now is actually a strategically good time to assess their communications, but I’m respectful that budgets are an open question for many.
For now, I’ll continue working, endeavoring to produce the quality that my clients trust and pay me for. And I’ll also try to be better about refraining from self-criticism on days when maybe I needed to go for a walk or a bike ride to clear my mind, and left those lingering emails and to-dos to tend to later. I will absolutely set calendar reminders for weekly Zoom calls with friends and virtual happy hours. I will let it be ok when I’m not as ok. The work will be there. The time to focus on living is now.