March 11th. This was the approximate day the work-from-home workforce was sent into action. Employees across America sent scurrying on a backwards commute, carrying their monitors, keyboards, and mice under one arm – empty lunch box under the other. It was exciting! A whole new world! No more ironed shirts, travel mugs or lanyards showing which building they were kicked out of. And here we are, 19 days later. I have a message from the population of your colleagues who were already working from home.
You’ve got to reel it in. REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL it in. You need to focus less on flattening the Corona Curve and think more about flattening your Production Curve. I get it – you’re at home now, your laptop is right there, you can hop on at any time. You don’t have errands to run. Well, you do actually. We all do. Most of us would drive over our cat to get into a Target right now. But we can’t. We are sequestered. With no errands, there is no need to log out for a quick 45 to finally get to spend that Kohl’s cash burning a hole in your wallet. There are no fake doctor’s appointments enabling us to jaunt out and get our toes done before flip-flop season officially begins or a field trip to take a swing on the range with that new driver you got for Christmas.
“Just running lunch to my kid’s school….anyone need something from Starbucks? You know, just in case I happen to see one? Oh, I know, his school is basically sandwiched by fields…probably won’t but…just in case.” Those days are over. Starbucks is not calling. You are trapped. We are all trapped. I get it. But for the love of we don’t need another hero, slow it down.
As we sneak into week three, I have a feeling CEO’s across the world are salivating at the new pace of the workplace. Virtually everyone I have spoken to in the last week has reported ‘working harder that ever,’ and ‘slammed, constantly,’ and ‘I’m basically about to strangle every person who posts about learning a new skill, re-tiling the back splash, finally figuring out chopsticks or going on a bear hunt.’ I am not a monster – I truly do feel awful for the many who aren’t getting to keep their jobs through this. It sucks. It is scary. It is the surprise that never ends. For the rest of us (and, yes, I also understand how blessed we are to carry on), it is one ‘hop on for a minute’ or ‘work a little later’ or ‘just let me run back down to my laptop’ after another.
I hope your managers, like mine, are not encouraging this. Mine has been super understanding of the oddity of all of this, of having kids home likely in need of parental assistance (teaching and otherwise) and of having a spouse working from home as well and, well, a complete shift in ‘normal’ life. We’re encouraged to take breaks, get to know our families and not feel micro-managed – yet we are inundated by emails from other colleagues or customers telling us differently. The entirety of our very global company knows we’re home. Even on Saturday. Even on Sunday. Everyone knows we’re available – because, as with us, they cannot not be available. There is nothing but a list of procrastinated house projects to keep us away from their beck and call. And who doesn’t love an excuse to put a project off just a little longer? I mean, we need something for May, right?
So, the curve. The other curve – not the one chasing flying droplets from person to person. The curve managers across the globe don’t even know they are going to note yet.
At the current pace, in a few weeks, our companies are going to find out exactly what we’re capable of when all the distractions are taken away. Somewhere, high up your corporate ladder, a CEO is looking up to the sky while pondering ‘Hmm……productivity is sky-rocketing!’ Reel it in people. Now is not the time to discover your inner super star. I’ve told you before and I’m going to tell you again – do not ruin this for the rest of us, for the regular work-from-homers who are just trying to skate through this crowded ‘office’ until we get our special shopping hours back. Maybe you’re hiding from a kid going on about common math (just carry the one, buddy) or dreading cooking your 77th consecutive meal or just so tired of sanitizing counters and door knobs – leaving you planted in front of your keyboard, just waiting for the comfort of an email ding that will make all of the above totally acceptable.
Find something else.
Read a book. Plant a garden. Make finger designs in the yellow pollen. Buy a hammock. Buy two. Learn to spell your name in the carpet with the vacuum. Start watching HGTV and begin a list of redesigns you want to do on your house (your spouse will love it!). Make your kids watch cooking shows and start pitching in for dinner (subtitles on = reading = check!). Clean out your closet. And your sock drawer. Download Duolingo. Go for a walk. Watch Love is Blind. Sit behind your spouse’s desk and just sit there, quietly, quietly, quietly…until he/she can’t take it anymore and bursts around with a WHAAATTT?? Start calling overnight summer camps to find out the longest option is. Plan a vacation. Look up synonyms for ‘isolation’ and ‘quarantine’ and ‘sequestered.’ Debate whether or not shaving is even worth it. Count how many cars go by each hour. Build an elaborate hiding space in your closet and text your child to go grab something out of it (surprise!).
Find something else.
We really do all have to keep moving. I’ve been trying to convince my husband for days now that being glued to his 37 monitors and three keyboards is not healthy. In normal life, he travels – his schedule dictated by client meetings. No meeting – he’s on a break. In this very un-normal life, there are no clear boundaries. But really, we can’t keep up this pace or the next epidemic is going to be one of workplace burnout. This will be followed quickly by family burnout. So take a few steps back and recreate your trips to the water fountain or hang outs with the person sharing your cube wall. Close your laptop, ring them up and catch up again. Wander over to the germ free faucet. It’s all still there – these mini-breaks – you just have to find them.
We can flatten this curve, too, with a little less elbow grease, fewer straight eights and more mediocre expectations. We got this. Together. But also not.