Before covid started my current and past employees were provided remote days as benefits. Usually, there is a weekly or monthly quota that an employee can work out of the office per week or per month. To be honest, these days were good, staying away from the disturbing effect of an open plane office to do some focus work. Or meet a colleague in a coworking space to work on a shared project.
Then the covid hit, all work shifted from offices to homes, working hours blended into resting hours, social interactions stopped, some were able to stay healthy some unfortunately caught covid. In the end, all our lives changed and I can not say all the change was good.
First, we lost the human touch, although I strongly believe that our job requires being in the flow and harmed by any disturbance (I love this Monkey User comic btw. to the point.), human beings are still “social creatures”. We can get highly motivated by some small talk, getting updates about a peer’s project, having a coffee chat over the new technology, drinks over a successful project etc. And these were all stayed back in the office, it is a quite low possibility that you bump into a colleague in your home.
Meetups and conferences were stopped. So not only the colleagues but also network touch was lost. Visiting a co-working space became an old memory, the only place to see other people was a supermarket for some time, which was kind of a post-apocalyptic movie scene and it still is.
Then arrived a series of meetings, all the companies I worked for had the same problem: there were never enough meeting rooms. During the pandemic setup, we finally acquired an unlimited number of meeting rooms. There were no limits, all you have to do is create a virtual space and share the link. Also, experts were suggesting to “overcommunicate” to be able to succeed in this new setup. So we created more meetings, we tried to simulate “bumping in the corridor”, we set meetings back-to-back as there was no walking distance from one Google Meet link to another Zoom link. And finally, that caused “Zoom Fatigue” for some of us.
Then the border became blurry between work and rest, I will be honest here some did a good job to keep the boundaries in place. They simulated commuting via some routines like walking around the block before and after work. I personally, tried to track my time and not work overtime also splitter my work environment from the rest of the home by moving my desk into the storage room. Still sometimes when an idea appeared, a notification chimed on mobile I went into “my office” to work some more, or some friends / colleagues did not realize the time and worked more than they anticipated.
Office ergonomics has been lost. Initial reaction to pandemic WFH was quick and mostly unplanned for. Employees were at home working on a dining table, working from the couch, having meetings from the closet as their partner was also in a meeting in the living room. And those places are bad for the health. Some of us got lucky, our companies spent enough resources to let us have a decent setup at home. And I will be honest again, my current company is one of them which provides a good selection of office equipment to us.
And burnout arrived for some, due to the accumulation of all topics above. Unfortunately, some arrived into a burnout state. Again I will talk personally, there had been days where I was not feeling productive and there were days where I was doing a good job. So although I am not a health professional, I suppose I didn’t hit the burnout levels luckily. I do not believe that people who burned out were the weak ones and others are stronger. We, all, have different circumstances and different environments so the effect and reaction differ from person to person of course. I only say I was lucky.
Next steps as far as I can see companies are starting to announce their post-pandemic work models. Some of them already called employees into the offices, some announced they are moving to a fully remote model, and some offer a hybrid work model. In my opinion hybrid model is the one to combine the best and the worst of the other two options. With some days spent in the office, colleagues can regain the human touch and collaboration opportunities, while doing focus work at home. There won’t be a need to redefine the borders between the work and the rest, and the home can be a home again.
What do you think about the future? Do you prefer a 100% remote work or a hybrid one? Share with us in the comments if you like.