Remember the days when “working from home” nearly always inspired the cheeky use of air quotes? Such innocent times. Those air quotes are gone now. They disappeared around April when according to Euronews, more than 3.9 billion people, or half of the world's population, were asked or ordered to stay at home by their governments to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Now formalized and normalized, working from home en masse has revealed its pros and its cons. In the big scheme of things, the forced transition to remote work will have positive effects. Even before the pandemic, around 80% of employees said they wanted to work from home more often. With that wish granted, Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics anticipates, “Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”
Yet there is a psychological toll that can’t be ignored. “People who work remotely often end up putting in more hours than when they go into the office. With the boundary between job and home life blurred, there’s no obvious signal that it’s OK to stop working, which can make it hard to relax,” reports Noah Smith for Bloomberg News. “As any graduate student or entrepreneur can attest, the nagging anxiety of whether you should be working more can easily lead to burnout.”
For singletons, living and working in solitude, the need to change up one’s routine, get out of the house and see people – even from a safe distance – can be essential to bolstering mental health.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of local covid-safe work spaces, such as WorkMode in Toronto. John Trougakos, Associate Professor, Organizational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Toronto, told the BBC that these types of places “offer alternatives to large crowded office buildings, while providing employees a simple way to deal with their work-from-home boundary dilemmas.”
Certainly, these types of spaces can be helpful for people sharing space with family members or roommates. Who among us has not witnessed a kid crashing a Zoom call? Just ask Kim Kardashian or Chris Hemsworth.
Crowded housemates can benefit from tips provided by Entrepreneur.com. First off, a well-posted house schedule can help keep projects and conference calls organized without overlap or interruption. A daily morning meeting or nightly recap can help everyone get mentally prepared for compromises that need to be made.
Perhaps most importantly – whether living alone or among a brood – is to build a moment into the day for pausing and calming one’s mind from fear, stress, and chaos. Booking time to remember the advantages we still have and reflecting on goodness where we can find it – whether it's our health and safety, the food in our fridges or the roofs over our heads – is the key to staying balanced through these unprecedented times.