I dropped by my office last week – first time in a month. It was empty, save for one other coworker. I looked at my wall calendar, still on the March page, and realized that we are five months into this thing with telework as a New Normal.
I realize not everyone can telework. I know I’m extremely fortunate to even still have a job, let alone one that’s full-time and conducive to remote-based work. Most of what we do where I work can be done behind a computer or with a phone.
In the DC region, many employers for whom telework works are authorizing it for several more months, or longer. It’s wise to keep as many potential germ-spreaders as possible out of circulation. My telework has been extended through October, but we’re all thinking it may go to year-end if we still don’t quite understand by then how the coronavirus spreads asymptomatically/presymptomatically.
Telework wasn’t a huge change for me. For 10 years, before I started my current job, I was able to set my own schedule. I determined when I worked at my clients’ offices and when I worked from my home office. Because I had many years of working wherever, daily telework was an easy transition for me when it happened quite suddenly in mid-March.
There are silver linings here: Now, we can all sleep a little later – we aren’t a household of natural early-birds – which means I don’t have to wake up early to make sure my son makes it to school on time, then drive to work when everyone else is on the roads, too. My office is only 14 miles away, but in typical DMV rush-hour traffic it can take an hour to get there. With telework, I have reclaimed up to two hours of each weekday! And I’ve saved lots of money I would have spent on gasoline and lunches.
Here’s my big revelation: Finally, after 30 years of full-time employment, instead of me fitting my life around my work, my work fits into my life.
And if work doesn’t depend on your physical location, we should think about what else can we untether to gain more freedom. Let’s not accept the path of least resistance by default. For example: Why must home ownership be the one goal? What if it wasn’t the norm to live in the same house in the same town for years and years? Why couldn’t we live in different parts of the country or the world, changing venue several times a year? With so many schools starting instruction virtually this year, why does it have to matter which school district we live in?
My point: If the basic structure of how we live our lives is irrevocably changed, then it’s all up for grabs. We can have almost anything delivered to our home, we can conduct many transactions without being in the same room with another person, most of us can vote by mail, and we can work and learn from anywhere.
How can we view this as anything other than an opportunity?