The global pandemic has changed how people work, learn and socialize. While many organizations were slowly moving toward remote work, the pandemic accelerated the change at warp speed. The result has disrupted our society in ways that we do not fully understand. While the push to work from home was originally a response to controlling the spread of COVID-19, there are signs that it is here to stay. According to a Gartner survey, more than 80% of company leaders intend to allow remote work at least part of the time post-pandemic, while 47% said they intended to allow employees to work remotely on a full-time basis. The “new normal” is here.
For many of us, the transition is personal. The distinction between work and home has traditionally been clear. Over time this line has thinned, as the lure of technology had supervisors and peers emailing or texting at all hours. Today we can say this line has dissolved into an alchemy where work and personal time are blended into an elixir that offers benefits – reduced cost of commuting and lower greenhouse gas emissions – while also offering novel stressors our parents could not have imagined. Zooms are now frequently interrupted by screaming children or spouses in the background drinking directly from the milk carton.
There is no lack of “experts.”
Advice abounds on ways to separate “work” and “not-work.” Strategies to help avoid working from bed in your pajamas on one end, and never shutting your laptop on the other. For example, you may have heard that you should set up an office apart from your personal space in order to give your mind and body visual cues to unplug. This compartmentalization of work and not-work works well for many people!
The best routine is the one that works for you.
My remote work strategy is different. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, I’ve found a much more relaxed approach to my environment which leads to a much lower stress response. Sometimes it makes sense to work at the kitchen table! If the work to be done requires reflective thought, early mornings when I’m up ahead of everyone else work best. If the work is repetitive, afternoons when the household has more noise and activity is ok. For me, the key seems to be creating an environment that is tailored to both the professional and personal. If something very important is happening in the world, I may turn on the news for a few minutes without feeling guilty. If a neighbor comes by, we may chat for a few minutes. The stress response to remote work is what I make it, and I choose to keep it low!
Learning what works for you is a process.
When establishing a long-term routine that works for you and your family, it is important to use a growth mindset. Remember, failure is a natural part of the learning process. We have all grown and developed grit, fortitude, and resilience as we have faced the challenges of a new work environment. From my perspective, striking a balance between the personal and professional is a challenge to relish.
As a high school and online adjunct professor, I’ve experienced remote work as mostly beneficial. While these strategies have worked for me, I am fortunate in that I have a home to create a more flexible situation. I’ve had students who study in crowded studio apartments, homeless shelters, or even in a car. Remember that everyone is struggling to find their normal. If you are fortunate enough to have a place to work remotely, try taking some pressure off and see if the stressors fall away.
Martin Culberson has been a technology graduate assistant with the Walden Career Services Center for the last four years. He earned a Master’s in Education from Walden in 2015, a Masters in IT in 2019, and expects to complete the Doctorate in IT in 2021. He has worked as an adjunct IT professor for one year, and as a high school classroom teacher for five years.
Dweck, C. (n.d.). Carol Dweck, Psychologist. Ted Speaker. Retrieved January 15, 2021, from https://www.ted.com/speakers/carol_dweck
Golden, R. (2020, July 16). Gartner: Over 80% of company leaders plan to permit remote work after pandemic. https://www.hrdive.com/news/gartner-over-80-of-company-leaders-plan-to-permit-remote-work-after-pande/581744/