Photo by Dan Barrett on Unsplash
So, you got that excellent new job that is pretty much everything you have ever wanted, outside of winning the lottery and never working again. Maybe you took a pay cut as I did. Like me, perhaps you moved and are desperately converting the smallest room in the house to an office presentable for Zoom meetings? How about the vast improvement to your productivity set to flow as soon as the two new 27-inch monitors arrive? And the grand plans for staying fit, becoming “Parent of the Year,” and completing every home project that’s been on the list growing dust in the drawer. How are those pandemic aspirations coming along when you begin mixing the ever-increasing task list placed in your inbox?
Did you shake your head in agreement with all or some of what I just said? Better still, do you have something else to add? I could have included a HUGE list of things that were supposed to happen and didn’t, but my colossal list probably differs from yours. I had tunnel vision focusing on the positives and nothing more. I was planning to conquer the working world and step over anyone who attempted to destroy my “mojo.” I quickly discovered that at least five million things bombard you during a workday while working in the smallest room of the house with those fantastic 27-inch monitors.
What’s not to love? I have my own private cafeteria, restroom, and I can pick the station on the satellite radio! I can get up whenever I want to take a walk around the block or go out for lunch and not suffer from the one co-worker that doesn’t like sushi. (Honestly, who doesn’t like sushi?!?!) Quickly, however, I discovered that the list of things that make working from home stink maintained a constant upward trend rather than remaining constant.
First, the excitement of sleeping in and starting your workday at 9 am is thwarted instantly with the weekly meeting scheduled to accommodate one person halfway across the globe. So, there you are, up at O-Dark-Thirty chugging coffee to prepare for what becomes a fifteen-minute meeting where the one person being accommodated for is late. Then there’s that nasty little Virtual Private Network (VPN) many companies use for security that decides to work only on days without a “y” in them. All of this sounds great, honestly, but how many times can you get away with “My VPN connection is shot” to get out of that early morning meeting?
And how about the workload, due dates, and those Outlook or Google calendars? Have you created new custom colors to keep track of those time zone meetings? I can say my calendar currently consists of the primary colors, but sadly, I did have to remove the clutter of family birthdays and one of the two built-in lists of national holidays. Now I have no clue when my next day off will be, but I am on top of the latest Brown Bag lunch meeting on changes to the onsite internet access ports in the meeting rooms. Yes, I’m one of the lucky ones. Still, horror stories of a task list longer than the sun shines in a day are becoming a reality for so many people leading me to wonder if burning out at home is potentially going to happen quicker than in a cubical?
But how could that happen? All of these home projects are clearly going to provide the same excellent balance, just like they always have. Not that I was ever the Martha Stewart of the block by any means. I have been known to clear out the clearance section of the local craft store with the intent of my creation, winning blue ribbons at every county fair in the state. The reality check here is that the whole dream lasts for approximately a day, realizing that I’m not Martha, I’m not Mrs. Cleaver or Mrs. Brady, and I never had a home balance! Chaos reigns supreme!
I don’t plan on becoming a statistic or, worse, the person everyone talks about on Microsoft Teams who forwarded a document with her grocery list in the appendix, so everyone knows I lie and buy Hamburger Helper (I don’t, honestly). After pushing both my limits and the ability to eat a hot meal with my family for the sake of a document, I learned one thing. No matter how essential or critical the turn-around time, dates don’t own me – I own them. I have the power to ask for assistance, and not just from my cat, who makes a lousy administrative assistant, by the way.
Is the idea of the home office that different from the pre-COVID office? Ultimately, I am in control, and I can schedule a quick huddle to set the record straight on document color codes (try R-231, G-231, and B-231 for the calendar color). I can get some much-needed assistance in finishing a draft or proofing a document. Isn’t this how you typically handle an issue in the office, asking for help? Admitting that your plate is full, whether in a business suit or your robe, means the same thing.
You couldn’t see what the writer sitting two cubicles over was doing, but you asked them anyway. Being at home shouldn’t be any different, except for the blessing of not drinking the horrible coffee purchased with the coffee funds by the office penny-pincher (every office has one). Remove the distraction of trying to remember the last time you washed your hair or your pajamas and do some maintenance on those office relationships.
Recently, Forbes and DreamHost put out helpful articles focusing at home to put those distractions at bay. DreamHost even tells us to stay off of social media. The struggle is real for most of us on that one, but if you can’t go cold turkey, how about removing one of them each day? If you can’t do that, start with small increments and move forward from there. I didn’t see tips on organizing the shows currently being binged on Hulu, which I could very much use, but those articles provide some excellent suggestions to maintain that focus. Good luck to all on this journey of adjustment, permanent or temporary. Now I must wake up my admin; she’s on her fourth nap of the day. It seems good help is hard to find.