REFLECTIONS AFTER A YEAR OF WORKING FROM HOME
Almost one year ago, in early March 2020, First Quadrant began to strongly encourage employees to shift toward remote work. Though California had not yet imposed any sort of lockdown, we were increasingly concerned about the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic and the need for employee safety and business continuity. While the future loomed unclear, we were certain that wisdom and adaptability were paramount.
Working From Home (WFH) during a pandemic this past year has been surreal. This blog addresses working from home, and is a stream of consciousness for what I have learned over the past year more than a how-to manual, so I hope you can connect with a thought or two.
As a Human Resources Professional, I’ve researched and read how to WFH from executives, psychologists and neighbors next door. Like you, I’ve listened to podcasts, sat on webinars and expanded my network to hear countless voices and opinions on how to thrive while WFH. The advice ranges from topics on how to live and help children SFH (my acronym - Schooling From Home), to how to give loved ones space while cramped in small spaces, to how to balance time and mental health despite the reality of enmeshed personal and professional lives.1
The statistics illustrate the toll that WFH has on a person’s mental health and productivity, emphasizing the importance of mental, emotional and physical adaptability. The American Psychological Association recently discussed the impact, stating, “Despite several months of acclimating to a new reality and societal upheaval spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are struggling to cope with the disruptions it has caused. Nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant sources of stress in their life. And, 2 in 3 adults (67%) say they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.”2
Both advice and statistics show that it helps to remember and respect that WFH affects everyone differently. As we come upon a year of WFH, the mental, emotional and physical undercurrent is real, overwhelming, sometimes surprisingly encouraging, and not to be underestimated. I’ve recently focused on 3 points:
- Get comfortable in the unknown,
- Get comfortable in my abilities and
- Get comfortable reaching out to others.
For mental agility, I’m learning to figure out more than seemed possible. I’m learning to respect experts in areas I cannot conquer. I’m learning to make a phone call or answer the phone, as we need one another. I’m learning to appreciate the smaller things in life that suddenly became huge - like a stocked grocery item or a smile from a familiar stranger during an afternoon walk to break WFH. Experts offer similar advice: “Keep things in perspective and focus on the things that are going well. Remember, everyone is going through something right now as a result of the pandemic.”3
To handle the physical toll, I’m finishing more books and puzzles, taking time to watch nature, becoming more comfortable sitting quietly by myself, listening to someone without thinking of my response, and appreciating arias again.
For emotional endurance, I’ve loved and lost time, my first dog and more painfully people. I’ve cried over strangers and fear of the unknown. I’ve had in-depth conversations while waiting in lines, and I’ve reconnected with friends and family. I’ve paid for meals for first responders who never knew it, knowing they’ve paid for us in ways we could never imagine.
In closing, if you’ve ever wondered if you could work from home, or do something previously unimaginable for a sustainable period of time, this past year shows you can.
Here’s to working from home...together.
1. Agovino, Theresa. “Create Boundaries Between Home and Work – Even When you Work From Home.” SHRM – Society Human Resources Management. June 10, 2020.
2. Smith-Bynum, Mia, & Turner, Earl. “Stress in America TM 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis.” American Psychological Association. October 2020.
3. Alvord, Mary, McClure, Bryon, & Smith-Byum, Mia. “Stress in America TM 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis.” American Psychological Association. October 2020.
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