Remember three months ago when it all sounded like a dream?
No more grueling commute to and from work early in the morning and late at night. No more outside pollution, no more elevator traffic, no more “running late to work.” In fact, you have the benefit of waking up to the last minute of your grace period because all you have to do is get up and turn on your personal computer and you’re in. In a nutshell, it sounded too good to be true.
But fast forward to today, why are we starting to resent the setup now? Ironic, right? Wrong. Three months ago, the new setup seemed too good to be true because it was really too good to be true. The truth is, there are solid, logical reasons why you’re starting to hate the “new normal” office setup and why it’s not as “dreamy” as you thought it would be.
Yes, it may be too good to be true, but it’s not at all bad either. Sure it’s not comfortable and sometimes we’d wish we can just spend our days wallowing away because of everything that’s going on outside your windows, but what if we told you that in May, real jobless rate in one of the most powerful country in the world, the United States, is a shocking 23.9 percent (cumulative). Millions and millions of employees have been laid off around the world and here we are complaining about the temporary uncomfort of the new setup.
Here we rounded up 7 reasons why we’re all seeing it a challenge working from home and (yes, believe we’re saying this) missing our offices and some key pointers that can hopefully change your mindset.
Word on the street since 1960 was, it took only 21 days to create a habit. This was after Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed it only took that number of days for his clients to get used to their new faces. With that, most of us probably grew up thinking, Okay, that’s only three weeks of willpower and then everything will be automatic. Challenge accepted, and applied it on the routine shift. Well, we haven’t really been as successful as we thought, have we?
That’s probably because, according to the most recent study done by researchers of the University College of London, it actually takes 66 days on average to create a habit. That’s more than 2 months. And that’s with the assumption that you’re constantly doing the same routine over and over again.
With this revelation and prolonged push, it slowly felt as a chore and a burden to consciously make an effort to create this routine change, especially when we all think it’s temporary. It’s difficult to put yourself out there to shift entirely when at the back of your mind you’re worried what if you get used to this routine and things go back to normal. To undo is a whole new set of work to do.
But isn’t having to look for job and starting over in a new career, depending on what is available toy you, even more exhausting? You only have to shift your routine; some people have to shift their entire lifestyle to make ends meet. Think about it.
There was a time when your only problem on your workstation is the fact that you can’t hide yourself when you sleep or when the person on the next cubicle chews so loudly or because you’re on the aisle side and you hate people passing by all the time. But you got everything–a working computer, notepads, pens, etc. And because you didn’t plan to work from home all your life until this pandemic, chances are, you haven’t planned out how to put up your home office, let alone how to get all the tools ready and working.
Sadly, a lot of us have turned our own kitchen table as our new quasi-workstation, switching to a dinner table every meal and turning back again to a workstation afterwards. Some of us have taken the “get up and work” too literally by having no choice but to turn our own beds to our makeshift workstation as well. Some of us have found a real bond with the floor, our new work area.
According to science, your physical workplace environment plays a big role in your work well-being and productivity. If you’re having a difficult time at your floor workplace, it may not be your fault entirely.
But wouldn’t you consider yourself lucky you only have to look for that makeshift workspace? A lot of people are endlessly looking for anything to do to earn. The situation only asks for you to be inventive; others are forced to go out and risk their lives just to feed themselves. Think about it.
Bills, Bills, Bills.
For sure, there was a time later on your WFH stint when you stopped and wondered, Have I really saved money? Just when you think you can save money because you’re far from the fast food restaurants that tempt you every day or you don’t have pay fare or gas, your electricity, water bills, and internet bills just shoot up double, triple your usual budget.
Staying at home means having ventilation in play all day. And because you’re already home when dusk falls, the lights have to be turned on, and sometimes you want to turn all the lights on. Let’s say, you stay up until midnight, then the lights and ventilation have to stay with you. Plus, charging your gadgets every now and then, never mind how many chargeable gadgets you own. And especially that it’s summer in most places, it’s just made so much easier to bathe n times a day. That’s a huge jack up on your water bill; more so if you’re a plant parent and no rain can water your babies for free.
In reality, there is not much saving up done, just a change of budget allocation, along with extra expenses like convenience fees for delivery and more food stock. And sometimes, we just don’t know when to stop adding that to cart and checking out.
But wouldn’t you call yourself the lucky ones when all you have to think about is the new budget allocation and not where to actually find the budget for the allocation? Yes, maybe you’re forced to slow down on all the online shopping therapy, but you’re not forced to sell your stuff just to pay your bills. Think about it.
Bye-Bye, Chat Breaks
There is nothing like the bathroom stories about what happened at the bar during the weekend or the two-minute water dispenser conversations that spread office gossip. While a lot of people appreciate how they can’t see that annoying coworker for a little while, it does take a toll when you can’t see your closest work buddies as well.
What used to be a slide back on your swivel chair to tell Jenny from Accounts about the burger you ate down the street is your new favorite, now does take a call on Skype, a chat on messenger, or just a little ice breaker on a Zoom meeting. It’s exactly what you consider “same same, but different.”
Work is always stressful, but most of us can agree that it does feel a little lighter when you can huddle for a minute and vent out on a chat break. But with that now becoming a lot like a task than a breather, it does impact our new day-to-day work routine, and not so much in a good way.
But isn’t it comforting that it’s just a break? Meaning, when it gets better, you’ll go back to the way things were—bathroom stories and water-dispenser gossip altogether–because you still got a job to come back to and is currently paying you. Others won’t even know who they’ll deal with in the future, let alone if any more companies are still hiring new employees. Think about it.
You’re Extra Busy It Gets Suspicious.
“Do I really do that many things in one day?” you catch yourself asking. As mentioned in item 4, companies are going up and about just to keep operating in critical times like this, which results in you having more things to do. If you lived your whole life questioning your own productivity skill, now’s the time to validate yourself. If you need some extra help, check out our tips on how to stay productive during work from home.
Most of us also prefer not to bring work at home to get a sense of break from the stress, but how do we actually do that when work is now at home? One of the reasons why you feel extra busy too is because you can’t dissociate from it. Think about this: if it was hard to be reminded of work about eight to nine hours a day, imagine being face to face with it 24/7.
But honestly, isn’t it so much more comforting to realize we’re faced with work most of our week than none at all? While unemployment rate in the entire world are rising and the statistics of running companies are dropping, isn’t it comforting that you, of all the people, have the opportunity to earn? Think about it.
Mental Health Struggle.
A wise man once said, when the whole world is done dealing with the pandemic, the next thing it’ll deal with is the significant fall of mental health. He is not wrong. In fact, he is partly true. But what he missed out on was that the world didn’t have to wait for one show to end for another to begin.
The main factors of the growing mental health curve is despair from mass unemployment, social isolation, anxiety, and depression. The Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine by the University of Colorado Boulder compared the statistics from 2018 (pre-COVID-19) with the very recent May 2020 survey and found out that US adults are now eight times more prone to meet the criteria for serious mental health. According to the Census Bureau, May 2020 data show that one-third of the Americans report clinically significant symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety.
Our mental state impacts our work well-being and productivity, thus the struggle to retain our mental health in top shape is becoming more and more challenging. While the virus imposes death to our bodies, the new setup may impose a threat to our mental health as well.
But what really triggers your mental state? If it’s something serious, a lot of psychologists are ready to offer their services online. But wouldn’t it be unfair to carry out your mental struggles to the new setup? After all, this was imposed to ensure your safety and to keep you comforted that in times of looting and hunger, you’re well-kept by the company that provided for you. In fact, this truth should help ease your mind somehow. Think about it.
So yes, the new work-from-home setup is far from the dreamland we all thought it would be, and this can be the perfect timing to say the cliché “the struggle is real.” It does hit extra hard when your work alone is stressful or when you’re just not getting the whack of it. But with the global economy crumbling down and businesses barely holding on, aren’t you so fortunate to be able to sleep at night knowing you don’t have to worry the money for the food on your table?
So again yes, maybe the new setup isn’t as “dreamy” or as close to a vacation. And yes, it may sometimes entail extra hours or extra work, but job security in the face of a pandemic is a luxury. Don’t take it for granted. No matter how challenging sometimes, work from home is still a job, and it still supports your everyday needs. Think about it.
We can’t tell you what to do and what not to do, but we hope that laying out the facts and stress triggers outside the actual work can help you plan out your strategy. The work-from-home routine was a mandate from good companies to ensure that their employees are secured in the comforts in their homes, safe in the knowledge that they are well-taken care of by until this pandemic ends.
Cover photo: Charles Deluvio