Quarantine has made me better at my job. I feel like the pressure I put on myself is gone. The usual working rules are out the window. The anxious Sunday night thoughts about my to-do list are replaced by more clear thinking about how my working week is going to pan out. I am an introvert/ extrovert (split straight down the middle) so the super flexible new way to work has done nothing but good for me.
Before quarantine I would worry about normal (boring) things like the commute; my mood and how it would be perceived; what and where I would go for lunch, et cetera. This new wave of business practice has helped me realise that the things I worried about were wasted energy. Turning worried energy into productive creative energy has been the outcome and I don’t want that to change. My productivity levels have been condensed and refocused and I feel really good about what I’m doing.
I’ll never forget the panic of that Thursday afternoon when Leo made the announcement on Radio 1. My colleagues and I were all huddled around our office radio telling each other to ‘shh!’. It was like a scene from a war movie. The anthropologist that’s buried deep in me has been thinking about how everyone is managing since then; how everyone has adapted. So I spoke to a selection of people with standout and interesting experiences in their places of work.
'Fired Then Hired'
For the sake of anonymity, someone I have named 'Fired Then Hired' got... you guessed it - fired and hired. Having started a role in a tech-sales firm in January she was swiftly let go on a mass firing Zoom call just three months in. All due to CV-19. She sensed it coming so mentally prepared herself and because she was only there a few months, it didn’t feel like a massive blow. She was not let go due to incompetence - just a killer virus, there was a relief in that. Her motto is ‘everything happens for a reason’.
“I was lucky in the sense that I'm still young. Although it means starting all over again in terms of the job hunt and career progression, it has made me realise that at the end of the day, at 26, it isn't the end of the world to be unemployed. I'll probably be working until I'm 70 at this rate and I don't need to have had everything go smoothly and figured out before then”. And as the name might suggest, there is a positive ending for 'Fired Then Hired'. “I'm very lucky to have found a role I wanted and start the end of June and am more motivated than ever to get back working”.
'The Freelancer' has adapted lightning fast to lockdown due to the nature of her work. She has been working from home for years so the initial transition was easy peasy. It also helps that her lockdown cell situation is her beautiful apartment that she calls “my zen”. It’s obvious that brands have taken a step back with freelancer outreach, I can even see that in my job. But this wonder woman has taken this change and flipped the script.
She is putting more effort into pitching out for work as the networking/social element of her job is completely gone. “Maintaining my normal routine and making other types of unsponsored posts, has kept me somewhat productive and still contributes to the growth of my social presence, which has a different type of value”. She talks about how quarantining has given her a lot of confidence to create on her own and although she is working at 20% capacity at this stage, the future is bright. She says “times like this really set the tone for the future. The industry would be fairly boring if it always stayed the same, it's good to shake things up and for brands to be forced to re-evaluate their direction from the ground up”.
Up next is a focused young marketing executive who told me she can now get her job done between 9am and 12.30pm. We'll call her 'Me Time'.
“As much as I love being in an office and being surrounded by people, working from home has made it so much easier for me to be more efficient with my work. I've found that I can just put my head down and really plough through my to-do list in half the time it would take me while I was in the office”.
Before lockdown, the commute was a thorn in her side. “Sitting in 20 - 30mins of traffic every morning is something I definitely don't miss”. Her day now starts with a brisk walk for a coffee, quick catch ups before starting her work. The pressure to not have to get up in the mornings to do a full face of makeup, blow dry her hair and wear 'business attire' has been another beautiful silver lining to working from home as well as the realisation that for her mental health, working from home is beneficial.
She explains “I've had more 'me-time' during the weekdays, more time to exercise, more time to spend with my friends I'm living with, more time to focus on self care overall than I would have had being in an office 40 hours per week. It's definitely a new normal that I think a lot of people have embraced as a positive. Remote working, even if it's just 2-3 days a week, is likely to become the new structure to my work week as we come out of lockdown and offices reopen in the coming months”.
'The New Yorker'
Finally, 'The New Yorker'. This global marketing agency account manager decided to move home to Ireland on the 18th of March this year; packing her life up from her apartment in Williamsburg in only two days. She travelled home for fear a family member would contract Covid-19 and she would be unable to help. “I was afraid the borders in Ireland would close and I wouldn’t be able to be there for my family if something happened”. This seems to be the reaction for a lot of people that were living abroad.
Interestingly, for 'The New Yorker', working from home in Ireland, while on American, EST hours, has been mostly seamless. She argues that without the distracting office chats we all get lost in at various times of the day, she has been more productive than if she were in New York. And it has been enjoyable too. She has been waking up a little later, and has been able to enjoy the weather as her working day, technically doesn’t start until 2pm in the afternoon here.
Working from home is not without its issues though. 'The New Yorker' was brought back to reality recently when her brother walked into her room when she was on a client video call at 4pm Irish time (11am in NY) asking would he make the coffee for her espresso martini now or in a while.
Hoping if you're reading this you, too, feel some more confidence about your work capabilities now that we've been forced into this new way of working. Let yourself figure out how to make your job work for you and your life. Life - it's the most important thing after all.
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