One Perspective on Working in a Virtual World
Like many of you, I grew up in a professional environment where work was done at the office. I define “at the office” generally as your place of business. In my personal experience that meant at the swimming pool when I was a lifeguard during summer breaks in my youth, at the donut shop when I was in high school, cooking burgers at McDonald’s or cleaning the floors at a local bar when I was in college, and actually in an office when I was working in law, broadcasting, or marketing. The bottom line is that I worked where the business that employed me was located. That’s just how it was done.
After many years in the workforce with a routine that I took for granted as “just the way it is,” COVID-19 changed everything. It completely transformed the workplace paradigm. While many are still going back to their place of employment, they are now wearing masks, and disinfecting their hands regularly, while remaining at least six feet apart from their colleagues. For others like me, my kitchen has become my office. When I’m not on the road visiting our stores or running other work related errands, I’m sitting at my laptop with the dog at my feet and the hum of the refrigerator trying to put me to sleep. My breaks don’t consist of a walk down the hall to chat briefly with a co-worker, they consist of a walk outside so my dog can do his business.
My son is back in school (one of the few actually in a classroom), and my wife is back in the office fulltime because of her essential work responsibilities. That leaves me and Alfie (the dog) to hold down the fort.
At first, working from home took some getting used to because of the change in routine, the lack of the necessary technology, access to files, and easy access to my colleagues and team members. But I eventually grew used to it. Then I grew to love it. The freedom, the flexibility, the autonomy! And now…I’m actually starting to grow a bit tired of it. Why? Because I don’t enjoy working alone. I like the group dynamic and bouncing ideas off of my team and coworkers. I miss the “water cooler banter”. I enjoyed the physical surroundings of my office. The upside is that I find myself getting out to our stores with greater frequency, which I sometimes struggled with before COVID because it could be so time consuming when I had a long list of things to handle. Now it offers a sense of relief to an occasionally monotonous day of sitting at a make shift desk in my kitchen from sunrise to sunset. Why my kitchen you ask? Because the office space in our home is still filled with Christmas decorations from 2019. Yes, you don’t have to remind me that it’s now October 2020. But the way I look at it is that I’ll be better prepared for Christmas this year because our decorations are already out of the attic!
I actually miss going into the office. I know some of you may not share that sentiment. Who would miss that, right?! But I do. I miss the people, the accessibility, and I miss the workplace buzz. I still try to get into the office at least once or twice a week. But even when I do its not the same because it’s basically a ghost town since almost everyone else is working remotely as well. However, the new virtual environment does allow me to work more efficiently because there are so few distractions. That and not having to fight rush hour traffic anymore are huge pluses to working remotely. The commute is something I will never miss…NEVER.
As I type this blog post at the desk in my kitchen, it’s so quiet I can hear the dehumidifier all the way down in the basement. I can hear the dog breathing, and I can more clearly hear the thoughts in my head, which are telling me its time to stop writing because I have so many other things I still need to work on today.
Working from home has its ups and downs.
The question I keep asking myself is, “After COVID, do I want to go back to the office fulltime or continue to work from home?” Oddly, it’s not an easy question to answer. There are many factors that would impact my decision –
- What will the commute be like?
- How many others will be returning to the office?
- How will my wife and I be able to manage picking up our son from school if there is still no extended day care? etc. etc.
However, my gut, some research, and a little common sense, tells me that as a result of COVID-19 traditional “office-centric” work has become antiquated. Most office based environments will probably adopt some hybrid model because professionals have now proven that they are fully capable of working effectively and efficiently from home. I think I prefer that approach. I value the work/life balance that virtual working provides. I don’t want to lose that benefit but I also want to be able to return to the office and meet with my colleagues and business partners face-to-face, rather than over a computer screen. Whatever the future work environment looks like, I’m sure I’ll adapt just fine, as will others.
All that being said, I also recognize that I am one of the lucky ones. I’m grateful to be employed. When I look around and see the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, I can’t help but feel for those who lost their livelihoods and others who still may. But I also feel a tremendous sense of relief and appreciation because I am able to do what I love while continuing to support myself and my family.
Goodwill is here to help those who are not as fortunate as I am. We offer people who are looking for work the opportunity to learn a new trade in growing industries. For those who struggle finding work because they dropped out of school, we can help you earn your high school diploma. Our mission is to transform lives and communities through the power of education and employment. Because consumers continue to donate to Goodwill and shop in our stores, we are able to provide those in need with the tools required to find sustainable employment and a future filled with hope.
Spread the word! While the world may be different for everyone because of COVID-19, the desire to help is not. Come to Goodwill for a job or job training. We offer both. You are only a phone call away from a path to independence.