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Working from Home – 19 Months and Counting

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November 29, 2021

One of the reasons A Tale of Two Cities remains a favorite book of mine is because — in my humble opinion — the book has the best opening and ending paragraphs, particularly the opening paragraph. Whatever chapter of life I find myself in, I can see evidence of it being the best of times offset by evidence of it being the worst of times. The same could be said of wisdom and foolishness; belief and incredulity; light and darkness; and hope and despair. With its ebbs and flows, life has balance.

On March 23, 2021, “A Day in the Life of a Data Analyst” was posted to the Port of Seattle blog. In the post, I outlined my typical workday and compared how it differed pre- and post-COVID-19. Looking over the article, not much has changed. I continue my day-to-day work schedule, coupled with a stint in the office once a month. 

Working from home has its pros and cons. For me, the pros outweigh the cons. Being able to work from home is a privilege I don’t take lightly because not everyone has this option. My position and duties as an analyst lend themselves well for working from home. Due to the nature of my work, I work independently quite a bit. And, because my work involves reporting, website maintenance, producing monthly statistics and written material, etc., it’s easy to gauge whether I am being productive — or not, since productivity can be a concern for some managers.

Pros of working from home

I feel more productive because there are less distractions and interruptions. In general, it seems like people are working more hours because work is more accessible — or perhaps people are just working different hours. In the main, it seems like people have been able to produce more. I can remember early on tackling some lingering “wish” projects because I was able to focus on them.

Technology does a wonderful job of keeping us connected. It seems like some employers have been preparing for telecommuting — transitioning from desktops to laptops and using cloud-like drives — for some time. I can send print jobs from my laptop to printers across multiple office buildings. Speaking of printing, one of the biggest adjustments was learning to edit on screen, so I rely on printing less. Teams and Zoom allow us to meet with people all over the world, which could reduce the need for business travel — reducing the budget for airfare, hotels etc. But that is a different topic.

I feel more balanced and flexible. I have saved around ten hours a week by not having to commute, which has freed up time. In addition, I can run errands or do chores over my lunch time. I feel more engaged with my neighbors and neighborhood. During lunch, I tend to go for walks. Since working for home, I have talked to more neighbors than I had talked to in the 20+ years living here. Particular people I recognized from taking the same bus for years. 

Fit Bit Screen
I started using Fitbit to track my steps on June 21. Since I began tracking my steps, I have walked 10,000+ steps per day. I am averaging 14,000 steps per day this week.

Instead of taking the bus to doctor, dentist, and other appointments, I have been walking. I average 10,000+ steps most days, and the days of the appointments increase this step count. So, my Walk to Wellness goal has been further supported.

I feel less stressed. Commuting across town in the pouring rain can be stressful. The years prior to the pandemic, traffic had become a nightmare, and busses were so late at times that they were back-to-back. 

Cons of working from home

Have you tried attending a conference online? While technology allows us to have meetings with people around the world, it’s not conducive for conferences — or at least in my experience. It’s hard to stay focused and engaged — with the constant emails and phone calls — at my desk and computer. And good luck trying to find the time to go back and watch sessions that were recorded. 

Working from home is also not feasible for all jobs, and we have essential workers in numerous industries who have reported to work from the beginning. So, I am mindful that when I list the pros it has for me, it’s not an option for everyone. Even if it’s an option, it’s still not ideal for everyone. Not everyone who works from home enjoys it as much as I do. Some miss the routine of getting up and going to work. Others miss the community that works brings. While others who have children in the house find it difficult to work from home, especially last year when classes were online. 

Since March 2020, I drive to work when I go in. Seeing some of the photos showing the reduction of pollution when the world shut down was impressive. Riding the bus to work was part of my personal effort to reduce my carbon footprint.

The bottom line

March 2020 — when I began working from home — seems like a lifetime ago. There was an adjustment period around exercise and nutrition, but I got it sorted out. Overall, I feel healthier — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hearing conversations about a future “return to work” plan seems so alien. 

The last 19 months have given us a glimpse into a changing work/life model. I’m not sure what the future holds, or what returning to work looks like. It does seem like some companies are moving toward a hybrid model, which hopefully will bring balance and the best of both worlds. 

Top photo caption: I purchased a new desk to accommodate working from home. My desk and view.

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