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Remote work veterans are familiar with the benefits — and struggles — that come with this lifestyle, but for the rest of us, the transition this year was a unique one. If this past March was your working-from-home debut, maybe you’ll see your own experience reflected in this article.
For one, nobody knew how long this would last, evidenced by this Twitter thread, which asked “what did you leave in the office back in March?” Responses ranged from business cards, favorite mugs, perishable food items (yikes…), plants left to fare for themselves, and, perhaps the most relatable: a decent chair.
Back in 2019, Laurel Farrer, founder of the Remote Work Association and CEO of Distribute Consulting told Business Insider that “many business leaders think that ‘going remote’ is as simple as sending a worker away from the office, equipped with a laptop and a to-do list.” In fact, it’s not that simple, Farrer warned, adding that “when the correct policies and procedures are not created to support off-site employees, terrible consequences are likely to occur.”
Yet here we are, and productivity, at least, seems to be thriving despite the lack of planning behind this mass exodus from the office. It’s great to know that the dedicated efforts of teams across the world has allowed companies to prove resilient in the face of hardship. As the third quarter of this out-of-office experience comes to a close, however, it’s time to shift our focus to our wellbeing and that of our teammates. The question of whether working remotely will be long-term no longer applies: it has been and will continue to be the most viable option, not just because of the pandemic, but because most people now prefer it.
Virtually no one misses their rushed commute, groceries don’t go bad in the fridge as often, and we have more time to dedicate to personal matters. Though you’ve probably heard of the struggles associated with remote work under normal circumstances — networking, loneliness, unplugging after work, and staying motivated — we figured this new generation of telecommuters are facing challenges as unique as the year we’ve been dealt. A quick survey of our acquaintances — all people who unexpectedly found themselves working from home this year — revealed that we were right: a whopping eight out of ten responded that the biggest challenge they’ve faced is logging on from their makeshift, unsuitable workspaces.
The first few months of quarantine were marked by a sense of novelty (not to mention uncertainty), so maybe working from bed, the couch, or the dining room didn’t seem so bad. We were all trying to make the best of the situation, but as the feeling of routine set in, so did a longing — physical and emotional — for the professionally equipped workspaces of our past. Some were able to retrieve their chairs or monitors from their former offices at one point, others have been given stipends to cover expenses related to their home offices, and an unfortunate few have paid for them out of pocket. Certainly the worst off, however, are those who continue to trudge through in the same conditions they started off with. For anyone who is still on the fence, the time to face reality is here: Remote work isn’t going anywhere, pandemic or no pandemic. A great way to not only accept, but embrace this new era of work is to invest some time and thought into the home setups we’ll be working from for the foreseeable — and likely also long-term — future.
This isn’t a matter of comfort or aesthetics — we have to start thinking about how our collective physical health and wellbeing is on the line. The fact is, we’re living the new era of work, and if you haven’t figured out how to make the best space for it, the time for that conversation is now.