A year into the pandemic, I know for a fact that I prefer and love working from home. The flexibility that this has afforded me to have a more integrated life is something I wish to see continuing. I am not naive to the extent of presenting WFH as all rosy. In my case the benefits far outweigh the cons, so hear me out.
1. Working from home has eliminated a two hour commute to work. In order to avoid the traffic, I needed to leave home by 6:15am in order to be in the office by 7:00am. Some days there were issues on the highway and the 45 minute commute could end up being a 2 hour journey just to get to work. I am glad this wasn’t a frequent occurrence but the few times it happened, it interfered with the rest of my work day. On the way back, in order to avoid the end of day traffic, I also needed to leave the office by 3:30pm. If for any reason I couldn’t do this, the best option was to wait until the traffic had cleared and live the office after 5:30pm. The latter happened more often. I did miss several dinners with the family and other things that are important to me like helping my children with their homework.
2. Working from home means I am doing my own small part in reducing the overall carbon emissions that are caused by having so many cars on the road.
3. I am now able to take my children to school every morning and pick them after school, something I wasn’t able to do when I had to go to the office. The drive to school is less than ten minutes from home but affords me more opportunities to further bond with my children and hear about their school days. I just feel like I am more involved in their lives when I work from home. Children grow up so fast (it’s feels like yesterday when we brought them home from the hospital) and being part of this journey is super important for me as I am sure it is for most parents.
4. Besides participating in the school run, I am now able to plan my work days in order to participate in some of the school activities that are sometimes planned during the working day. Before the pandemic, unless a school activity was planned for the weekend, there was close to hundred percent chance that I was going to miss it. I am that mother who was always missing in action. How could I, when my office was an hour away? Now with WFH, I am less than ten minutes away from the school and I can plan my schedule to attend most activities.
5. WFH has afforded me the flexibility to encorporate other activities in my life that I was really only able to do during weekends. A good example is physcical exercise. When you leave home at 6:15am every weekday and only get home by 7:00pm, there is very little time left for exercise. With WFH, I have my daily exercise most days after work. I am even able to squeeze a brisk walk in between virtual meetings in order to just refresh my mind.
So is there any downside in my case to WFH? Of course there is. I don’t see my work colleagues as often. I don’t see this as a big deal. Besides the business virtual meetings, in person social meetings as well as the virtual coffee chats (tea in my case) can easily be arranged.
Another downside is that there is always an important dynamic that is missing when team meetings are virtual. I find that even things that one could walk to a colleague’s desk to chat about in five minutes now require a fifteen minute virtual meeting that seems to always run over. The workday is now filled with continuous virtual meetings, leaving no room for focused work and proper thinking time. I have found a solution to this. I block chunks of time for focused work with no meetings daily. I also intentionally make use of my mobile phone instead of scheduling a virtual meeting for every discussion.
Another downside I have heard friends complain about blurred boundaries between working time and family time. Unlike in the office where you shut your laptop and drive back home, for some, WFH has turned into fifteen hour work days. I also have days when work overspills into family time. It’s not a daily occurrence but there are definitely days and seasons when I have to put in more time at work. I am okay with this because it’s not a daily occurrence. To help me transition from work mode into home mode, I have my scheduled exercise time at the the end of the day that I try as much as possible to stick to.
Yes there are downsides to WFH. Based on my context and reality, I still prefer it versus going to the office.