Is working from home forever the best idea or the worst?

A writer who loves working from home and a writer who hates it make their cases.

Is working from home forever the best idea or the worst?

A writer who loves working from home and a writer who hates it make their cases.

Oct. 30, 2020

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Covid has forced millions to WFH. Let's embrace this new, better normal

Working from home means the impersonal office becomes a personal sanctuary.

By Patricia Grisafi

It happened two years ago. The insomnia stopped. At first, I thought it was the new pillows. But as the weeks went on, it became clear what had been thwarting my restful nights: my prior job and all the stressors that accompanied working in an office environment. Now that I was working from home, I was sleeping like a baby. 

I'm ecstatic that my days of waking up at 6 a.m. to shower in a daze, snag a too-hot coffee and a cold prepackaged muffin (no, I don't have time for you to warm it, I used to tell the barista) and race to the train are over. I love getting up at a reasonable hour, spending time with my child in the morning and at lunch (we employ a nanny who provides child care) and meeting the day on my terms. 

I can do a load of laundry, work for a few hours on the Sylvia Plath book I'm writing, take the dogs for a walk with my husband, work a little more on my everyday freelance work, play with my son, watch some TV and then, if 9:30 p.m. rolls around and I feel like starting a new project, I can get right on that. I don't even mind if my work and my home life sometimes bleed into each other, because that's a choice I can make. As a night person, I sometimes do my best work when the sun goes down.  

The more I talk to people about working from home because of Covid-19, the more I'm convinced that working remotely must be offered more widely. I'm glad more people have access to the benefits of working from home, and I hope that when the plague is over, companies will continue to offer employees this valuable option. 

Some of my love of working from home is due to my specific health needs and personal preferences. But a lot of it has to do with the universal dehumanizing nature of office life. Even in a looser corporate environment, there are often still rules that feel arbitrary. And there are always toxic co-workers: mansplainers galore and people you prayed wouldn't pass you in the hall. 

So no, I don't miss the "camaraderie" of an office. As an introvert, people exhaust me. Talking exhausts me, and I often find myself needing to retreat after extensive interaction with others. I loathe water-cooler conversations, being dragged into inane office politics, the depersonalization that happens when confined to a cubicle. I don't feel a particular need to be part of a manufactured community forced to gather every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

When Covid-19 hit, I watched my husband and friends scramble to adjust to working from home, to get everything done online in a timely fashion. They worked extra hours without extra pay. They ripped their hair out. They cried.

And then? Corporate America realized that working from home was possible because it was necessary. If companies and employers had been listening to disability advocates, they would have already known. How many people have struggled and failed at work because they were forced to fit into environments that couldn't accommodate their needs? Now that we see how easily many jobs translate to being done virtually, people whose disabilities weren't accommodated are having the last, bitter laugh.

Obviously, some jobs can't be done remotely. There is also a gap between income levels in the ability to work from home. And when people are given a choice, working remotely isn't for everyone. But it helps many people manage chronic illnesses and lets them work in a way that makes them happier. 

I have an anxiety disorder and chronic fatigue, and having the option to work remotely has significantly improved my life. I don't have to hide in the bathroom if I'm having a panic attack. If I'm exhausted, I can lie down without being called lazy.

Not all personalities are suited to working in an office; mine definitely wasn't. Now I don't have to stupidly grin at people I despise. I no longer have to waste money on ugly Ann Taylor Loft separates. I don't need to wear headphones if I feel like listening to Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" on repeat. I can even dance around my apartment like Stevie Nicks while waiting for my next assignment from an editor. 

If I meet my deadlines, no one cares how I looked or what I did while getting there. People are diverse, the world is changing and our work environments need to reflect and respect that. For me, working from home, my laptop and papers strewn across the bed, is a dream come true.

Patricia Grisafi, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and editor. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, Salon, Vice, LARB, Catapult, SELF, Narratively, The Rumpus, Business Insider and elsewhere. She lives in New York City with her husband, son and two rescue pit bulls.

Covid is blurring the line between work and home in the worst way possible

Working remotely is a euphamism for the near-torture of being cooped up all day at home.

By Amy Klein

The other night my husband and I were on a “Zoom date” with another couple we hadn’t seen since the beginning of Covid-19 in March. “How’s it been going for you guys?”  

“Actually,” the husband said, looking fondly at his wife. “It’s been really good for us. We’ve both been fortunate enough to keep our jobs and it’s been really nice to be able to work from home and see each other.”

Really nice? NICE?

You keep saying that word but I do not think it means what you think it means, I thought, paraphrasing “The Princess Bride.” I guess one man's meat is another man’s poison.

After we logged off my husband said to me, “That was a bit much, wasn’t it?”

I knew what he meant. I’m glad our friends aren’t suffering, but I am a little tired of the “silver-lining” people who’ve woken up to discover they love working from home (and spending more time with their family, baking sourdough bread and reorganizing their closets). They don’t miss going to daily meetings or making water cooler chit-chat or attending after-work events.

In other words, the introverts. These days it feels like they’ve inherited the earth. And extroverts like me are suffering. Turning our homes into our workplaces might be temporarily necessary to combat a pandemic, but it would only prolong the distress if this becomes our new work normal.  

Even though I’m a writer, I love to work among other people. As a journalist, I constantly meet with people, hear their ideas and come up with stories about them. In safer times, I was the first to volunteer to attend events like rallies and parades to write what they used to call “man on the street” articles.

When I started writing a book two years ago, I joined a co-working space so that I wasn’t confined to my bedroom desk or random coffee shops. I loved getting out of the house, having a place to go to and even seeing the same “co-workers”: my friend who meticulously packed an instagrammable lunch I watched her lovingly put together each day; a woman with a nonprofit who would brainstorm PR events with me; even her friend, a guy who had a booming voice that overshadowed any call I was on. 

Although Hemingway (or someone) said, “Never confuse movement with action,” seeing others moving about, working, eavesdropping on their (loud) conversations always inspired me to work harder. Strategy meetings with my editors? Wonderful. After-work drinks? Sure! 

All the hustle and bustle — the weirdos I saw on the crowded subways on my commute, the jostling in line for the hottest Ramen joint — it all made me feel alive.

And then there’s the exhilaration I experienced from business travel for the occasional story: packing, heading to the airport, whooshing away with unending snacks toward a new, foreign adventure.

Now? Nada. For me, working from home isn’t “really nice.” It’s almost torture.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my family as much as the next mom. But while  my 5-year-old was thrilled to have both her parents at home full time in the spring (she’s since returned to in-person school), I can’t say I felt the same. 

Two parents trying to work from home with a preschooler is like trying to juggle watermelons while someone is throwing knives at you. (Her “zoom-bombs” — climbing on me while I was hosting a book talk lecture — were just part of a regular “day at the office” for me.) 

Although marriage vows might include, “In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,” but they never meant EVERY. SECOND. OF. THE. DAY. Or as my aunt, a therapist, said when her husband kept trying to retire, “In sickness and in health but NOT FOR LUNCH.”

It’s not that I’m unloving or ungrateful. It’s that as an extrovert, “I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I'm excited when I'm around people and I like to energize other people,” as described by  the Myers-Briggs personality types. “I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.”

No one is just one thing, of course. As a writer, I need alone time to think, to create, to put my ideas to paper. But alone time is not the same as family time. And family time is not the same as out-in-the-world time.

A recent study found that extroverts were less likely to shelter in place in March and April, but I did follow the rules. I wore a mask, I socially distanced, I did not have people over to my house or go to others’ homes outside my pod. It wasn’t easy, though. 

While I’m grateful we have our health, a home that we can work from and enough to get by, I want to get back out there in the world. Because that’s where my energy — and my true home and office — is.

Amy Klein is the author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind.

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