Art of ‘living’ in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Work From Home has majorly contributed to the boost in productivity of work. So, let’s understand why people are reluctant to trudge back to office with smiles under masks

I think I speak for all of us who got to enjoy work from home, nothing beats personal space.

Around two years ago, the world was jolted by the arrival of COVID-19 and hesitantly we shifted indoors waiting for the time when normalcy would knock on our doors.

Fast forward two years and normalcy has definitely knocked but it’s new. This normalcy entails optional use of masks, freedom to roam, allowance to continue work from home (in certain cases), more family time, less time lost on commute while battling pollution, leisure of being alone and stealing a quick nap after lunch, watching the sunset, not facing unfriendly co-workers and enjoying the rain on the balcony.

No wonder the pandemic made us self-dependent, but in ways, it also made us more sure of ourselves. In a way it could be termed a rebirth of kinds without the labels and expectations of a pre-pandemic world. The pandemic surely dealt a severe blow to the tradition of taking for granted anything – love, life and time. People have had a taste of valuing, enjoying and respecting time and for many, there’s no going back. Not to mention, just like that, COVID-19 helped overthrow or ignore generations of ingrained office social strata.

Faced with the transience of life and fickleness of time, people have learnt to prioritise themselves and their lives outside work. It is for the same reason that a Pew analysis (published in February this year) showed 61 per cent Americans, with a workplace outside home, choosing not to go back to their workplace. Before the pandemic struck, this percentage was around 36. The International Labour Organisation too upheld thought-provoking numbers when, in a report published in December 2021, they stated that the world’s output per hour worked surged by 4.9 per cent in 2020, more than double the long-term average annual rate of 2.4 per cent registered between 2005 and 2019. They also mentioned that this was the fastest global growth in hourly productivity observed since data have been available. A similar trend was noticed across all major country income groups.

Now that we have established that WFH has majorly contributed to the boost in productivity, let’s understand why people are reluctant to trudge back to office with smiles under masks.

Money: Money is everyone’s best friend whether people accept it or not. While it cannot exactly buy happiness, it sure goes a long way in orchestrating the emotion. The mention of money here is layered because with WFH people did end up saving on commute expenses, unnecessary habitual visits to eateries and more. But most importantly, people saved time and you know what they say…money is replaceable but time is not. Many people also shifted from business hubs to their hometowns and the cost of shifting back for work that was being well done from home seems unnecessary and mammoth. So much so that people are willing to leave their jobs to find something else that suits their needs and time.  So in the midst of skyrocketing fuel prices and rude inflation, most want to shift indoors forever.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image.

Rent and forced savings: WFH saved a lot many from splurging on rent in desirable locations in alien cities. The exodus back home meant forced savings. People could invest, sign up for life insurances, add a hefty chunk in their PPFs and save on income tax. Gone are the Sodexo days, eh? It also freed up some money to spend on things we want and don’t need. WFH also freed up time for travel – not necessarily back home anymore, but all over. One less chunk of vacation days spent on meeting family when you’re already living with them! Oh, I almost forgot, the benefits extend to your office too even though they might not be willing to admit it. The longer you work from home, the more your office saves on commercial rent, commute, COVID-19 tests and liability.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image. Pixabay

Happiness: As abstract as a concept this may be, few things can compensate for family time, ghar ka khana, familiar terrain, coming together of friends who would earlier be scattered across India and the world, power naps in the afternoon during work, lying on your belly and attending meetings, freedom to wear whatever, meeting someone while ‘working from home’ in a cafe, watching TV series during muted meetings and more. While these indulgences may not be okay by company policy because god forbid you do anything personal on company time, these little liberties make up for regular unpaid overtime and blurring work-life-balance.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image. Pixabay

Lack of office politics: Work from home has been a blessing in disguise for introverts and arguably ambiverts, though I cannot speak for extroverts. The office’s social hierarchy has been encrypted for good behind phone calls, muted and video-less video conferences and plain old text messages. What a relief huh? Less face-to-face interaction has led to lesser conflicts that could snowball and impact the mental health of employees. Passive aggressive behaviour and belligerent words got diluted by the distance apart and once timid and disgruntled employees who could not argue their case or teach a lesson to the office bully, donned a new cloak of confidence. Their confidence lay in the fact that they could separate the personal and official finally, thanks to the extended familiarity with the concept of me-time.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image of an office setting. Pixabay

Broadening your horizons: I am guessing everyone has encountered some googly of a self-discovery in whatever form or shape. I realised I love appreciating nuances in a script of a movie and correlating them to real life. E.g “Without music, life would be a mistake” by Nietzsche found expression in a movie called “Here comes the Boom” in a situation where the job of a music teacher needed saving and a colleague got into MMA fights to earn the cost of retaining the music teacher. The point is, you get the time to appreciate a fantasy that you wished were true. Sue me, I’m only human. Anyway, I would like to believe everyone discovered some soft corner, hobby or space of comfort to reward themselves with for just surviving each day and being present for the next. Could be gardening, cooking, working out or just sleeping long enough that the dark circles are gone.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image of a hobby. Pixabay

Self-care: Okay let’s start off by not writing away holding jobs completely and escaping for good. I think the experience counts in building character and healthy hustle keeps the adrenaline flowing. However, slowing down is as much a necessity. The pandemic and work from home allowed us a little more free time to heal ourselves, mend our senses after each day. Delivering productivity while being in the throes of the unholy trinity of a pandemic, economic crisis and several wars is a multipronged task with abstract limbs which can be felt more than explained. An occasional face mask during a 30 minute lunch-break is all that’s needed to hold the fort till the time to log out arrives. Mind you, with the amount of blue light your eyes and facial skin is absorbing, you need this me-time.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image of self care. Pixabay

Sustenance: Ever since a virus-laced cog in the wheel brought the erstwhile normal to a halt, the need and wish for sustenance has increased manifold. Those having survived yourselves, having survived the loss of loved ones and even those who remain unscathed, don’t you think life taught you how to juggle the moods of fate? Don’t you think you matured just that bit more that you’d value those whom you love? I think that’s a proper homage to anyone’s existence. It surely taught us how to cook, those of us who did not bother with the skillset till COVID-19. It taught us how resilient we were and fragile at the same time and the realisation is humbling. Other than that, YouTube is our lord and saviour when it comes to hacks.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image of cooking. Pixabay

Privacy and Prioritisation: Privacy is very precious in a world that is rapidly hurtling towards a surveillance dystopia. Work from home provided us the privacy to be our best selves in our own skins without the need of putting up a show. It allowed us to ignore rude behaviour, not accept calls after work hours, not pay heed to nasty gestures and comments to throw you off your game. Effectively you could shut the world out and still be doing right by your responsibilities. Is that ultimately what anyone wants? It also gave us the power to feel the different weathers of our mood without having to explain it to anyone – it was just a case of omission which hurt no one. Prioritisation as a skill set found eager takers across the world. The right to choose made a bedazzling comeback and a conscience was born outside office walls.

Art of living in the work from home era is a habit changed hard

Representational image of surveillance. Pixabay

Denial: Everyone’s evergreen friend denial graced the arena to help us find meaning in slogging for output while battling a plethora of personal and demanding issues. It helped us embrace the new normal as our own as we figured out the glitches in the matrix of “Living at Work”. This surely entailed more time being poured in work but now that we’ve settled into a routine, there’s no denying that people are not exactly looking forward to an abrupt change. I think the way forward should be hybrid work mode to help reluctant yet willing individuals to test the waters before going back to office again. And for the sake of not falling prey to “The Great Resignation” companies need to prioritise the needs and wishes of employees going forward, which earlier used to be just a formality on paper.

All in all I think work from home was definitely a blessing for many of us as it tested our limits, allowed us a chance to reunite with ourselves and explore our identities outside the realm of central air conditioning and cold glass walls.

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