The COVID-19 Pandemic Exposed Our Toxic Relationship With Work
Since the early days of the pandemic, a colleague of mine has complained about working from home. They’ve been struggling with separating work from life. They’ve struggled with boundaries.
This colleague used his commute as a cue to connect and disconnect from work. In other words, he started thinking about work once he came into office, and stopped thinking once he got in a cab. Now he didn’t have that, and he suffered.
This is not a unique situation, as we learned in the pandemic. Conversations about mental health degradation became a lot more common. A lot of people found themselves working longer hours, sometimes late into the night. They became trapped in their own homes.
Last year, mental health problems arose by 20% or more in India (mileage varies by study). The cocktail of house arrest, fear, family problems, and work boundaries was potent.
But then, something amazing happened. Many companies found their groove and regained some of their productivity. Some even boosted their productivity by an estimated 5–8%.
Why? People did what people do — they adapted. They learned to be more intentional with the way they live their lives. They changed their homes so they actually enjoy living there. Male parents started reconnecting with their kids. People began enforcing work hours and rituals.
People discovered the power of boundaries.
They also realized how trapped they were in an office environment. In office, if someone needs to step out for a couple of hours, they would’ve thought twice. In WFH, they won’t.
If someone wants to take a break, now they can. Unless, of course, they work in dystopian companies that monitor their keystrokes or host 8-hour calls with cameras on.
And that’s the thing— those sort of companies, especially IT companies, will disappear. The longer this pandemic continues, the greater the chance. Employees who’ve experienced freedom from pointless work culture won’t go back. They will start demanding this freedom from future employers. Unmonitored remote work is not only feasible, but better. Companies must learn that quick, or die. Survival of the optimized.
Read more about remote work myths in this Forbes article.
This is a bite-sized essay. Read my previous one here: