There are a lot of things that COVID-19 has taught us. Homeschooling is hard. We miss restaurants, sports, and movie theaters. Our pets aren’t quite sure what we’re doing at home all the time, but most of them (maybe not our cats) really love it.
Yet, if there’s one thing that seems to have stuck, it’s the fact that work from home (WFH) isn’t anyone’s new favorite model. Unless you were a remote worker before the pandemic, you didn’t ask for this. You didn’t want this. And you’re not quite sure what you did to deserve working at home with your kids, spouse, pets, AND all the pandemic-related anxieties.
Yes, WFH in this context is a lot to handle. But let’s be realistic. Working remotely as a whole has gotten a poor (and undeserved) reputation during these last few chaotic months. Attempting to equate WFH and working remotely based on what you know from COVID-19 just isn’t fair. In fact, working remotely is the future of work post-COVID-19, and you shouldn’t fear it. Here’s why.
WFH is specific to COVID-19
Back in March when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, the whole world came to a grinding halt. Offices shut down, and you were expected to conduct your workday from home without skipping a beat. Zoom calls replaced meetings, Wi-Fi networks crashed, and employees struggled to find a work-life balance even more drastically than they did before.
If you had never worked from home before, your taste of all of this has been exclusively through the lens of an incredibly hectic last few months. If you hate it, it’s more than understandable. The situation you’re currently finding yourself in is probably less than ideal, so if your company is talking about closing the office permanently, then you’re probably ready to bang on the windows for them to let you back in.
Don’t despair. WFH sells the realities of remote work short. It doesn’t communicate how great it can be outside of a COVID-19 restricted world. When you’re not constrained to a home environment, taking care of kids, and lacking outlets outside of work, then working from home becomes working remotely. It’s been beloved by a small portion of the workforce for years, and it’s been growing. Don’t cast it off as something you can’t do forever because (let’s be honest here) you haven’t truly experienced it. The small taste of what you’ve experienced has been lumped together with every other obstacle 2020 has thrown your way.
Working remotely provides you massive flexibility
WFH is only one option you have when you work remotely. When you WFH, you have a home office, and you wake up every single day to work in that same location. Yet, that doesn’t have to be your reality if you don’t want it to be.
When you work remotely, you have location choice. You may have a home office, but you can also go to a coffee shop and work. Or you may choose to travel and work remotely from an Airbnb or a WeWork location for a change of scenery. You’re not limited to one location because you don’t have to go into an office (unless you want to).
Instead of thinking about your work options as “office job” or “work from home,” think about working remotely like this…
On any given day, I have the choice to go to…
- Traditional office: Today, I feel that the traditional office setting will give me the best chance of success, I need to see a colleague, I need to attend a meeting, I need to pick something up at the office, etc.
- Home office: Today, I don’t want to venture far, I need to go to the doctor/dentist/etc., I need to be flexible for my spouse/child/pet, etc.
- Location of your choosing: Today (or this week/month!), I’d like to travel, see something new, be somewhere different, have a different work-life balance, etc.
And the best part? You may be able to do all of those in the same day, week or month!
The flexibility that working remotely provides is enormous. It puts you at the helm and empowers you to take hold of your work environment. You may feel that WFH doesn’t empower you but that may be because of COVID-19-related reasons more so than WFH-related reasons. Once those restrictions lift, you’ll have the freedom and dynamism that your schedule and life truly deserve. You’ll be able to work remotely and work from anywhere.
What if working remotely just isn’t for me?
Not everyone wants to work from home. Some people genuinely like the office environment for productivity reasons while others enjoy it because it’s social and allows them to break up their work lives and home lives. They would opt to go into the office every single day given the choice. Guess what? That’s okay.
Working from home isn’t for everyone. You can find productivity in a lot of different environments. For some people, it’s a home office. For others, it’s a coffee shop. And some employees really need that office cubicle to force their brains into that “zone.” Wherever you find that you maximize productivity, you should seek out that environment. However, you should avoid believing that you can only find productivity in one location. Embrace the opportunity to see work as a free flow because that’s what it will be in a post-COVID-19 world. There will be times when we may have to work from home to reduce exposure, or perhaps your company will seize the opportunity to reduce office costs.
During this time of unknowns, your takeaway should be your flexibility and dynamism as a worker. You have the ability to work remotely from anywhere. Your frustration with your current situation likely extends beyond the confines of WFH. Employees around the world are dealing with similar sentiments and the world of work is shifting as a result.
What will work look like in the future? It’s hard to say, but remote work is likely to stick around. In fact, companies like Twitter have already announced that their staff can continue working remotely indefinitely. Regardless of your personal experience with WFH during the past few months, don’t judge working remotely solely on your pandemic-related experience. When COVID-19 restrictions lift, working from anywhere will provide fruitful options for employees worldwide.