To MY esteemed colleague Donnie Johnston and others who suggest that those of us who work from home have become lazy, I don’t mean kiss my butt in our pajamas because that would be rude.
But I would like to offer a counterpoint to a recent column in which Donnie said it was time for “all those people who love working from home in their pajamas to get their asses back in the office.” He said we were pampered – a word I would never associate with the pandemic – and that we like to sleep late and don’t want to get up early and drive to work.
When Donnie expressed a similar opinion last year, I reminded him that he shouldn’t paint us all with the same brush. I bristled at the description because I know from personal experience — as well as that of my colleagues — that we’ve worked harder than ever since home office was established. This is partly because COVID-19 arrived when newsroom staff were already overstretched and understaffed.
I agree that there are probably people who have spent more time watching their children or television than working from home, just as there are people who spend more time gossiping than to tasks in the office. But many of us have found remote work to be a productive way to do business.
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A report released nearly a year ago by Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that two out of three employers worldwide recognize changing employee attitudes and locations and are redesigning workplaces to accommodate the hybrid mix of workers returning to the office and those wanting to stay home.
Obviously, this is not possible in all areas, but remote working has been one of the few positive fallouts of the pandemic. I never thought this would work for me, but I’m a convert.
Yeah, I like the convenience of my home office. Not being in traffic every day with erratic hookers, speeders and lane changers. To wear comfortable clothes – not necessarily pajamas, but definitely pants with belts instead of zippers and buttons.
I also like to cover meetings remotely, then turn off the laptop and “shuttle” from room to room, instead of driving nearly an hour home like I used to. These late night meetings often disrupted my schedule for days on end because after the long session and the long car ride, it took just as long to decompress and fall asleep.
At first, I skipped the in-person interviews because there’s nothing like seeing for yourself the individual or situation that’s the subject of a story. As vaccines and boosters hit the scene and cases dropped after each surge, I started meeting people in person again.
Two weeks ago, I got back into the routine and enjoyed seeing people face to face, or at least mask to mask. I will still be wearing mine in public for some time to come because, as many of you have repeatedly pointed out, it is a personal choice and I opt for extra protection.
I’ve written about too many deaths as well as far too many otherwise healthy people who ended up with long-term issues after COVID-19. They weren’t among the lucky ones who caught little more than a cold. For almost two years, I wondered if I would be the person with a few sniffles or the one with weakened heart and lungs?
Even if I show up again in person, I’m not breaking my neck to get back to the office. I can just as easily make phone calls, do research, and write stories without making the 42-mile round trip to Central Park. Not only does it save time and money and hopefully reduce carbon emissions and global warming, but it also keeps my mental health in check.
Last week, I spoke with two former colleagues whose jobs have been altered by the pandemic. One went to work for the military before COVID emerged and was initially surprised by her new schedule. At the end of his shift, it looked like someone had rung the school bell as workers exited the office and headed to the train station or suburban grounds for the drive south.
Since the pandemic kept her at home, she said she often works well past her shift, especially if she’s in the middle of a task and wants to finish. Then there’s all the time saved by not having conversations about what she did this weekend or what she watched on TV.
Another does IT and covers a large area, offering telephone support in case of problems. It doesn’t matter whether she’s in a cubicle in the office or on the sofa in her living room, she does the same job everywhere.
If she’s able to wear her pajamas while doing it or even put something in the slow cooker, in between assistive devices, what’s the problem? She is still doing all her work and she has a better quality of life in the process.
As long as people are doing what’s expected of them, whether they’re writing stories or government-related projects, does it really matter where they’re doing it? For me, this new way of working is exciting.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425