What Was The Pandemic Really Trying To Tell Us About Our Relationship With Work?
By Laura May, Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine
Structure and routine are incredibly valuable
How much did you previously think about your daily structure? If you’re like most, then it didn’t often cross your mind. You took it for granted that your time would go towards set events and habits. If you had a morning commute, it may have been frustrating and tiring at times, but it also made you feel part of a greater working world. It was a reassuring fixture.
Since COVID-19 entered our lives, we’ve been reminded of how routines keep us moving in the right direction. Without them, we can make bad spur-of-the-moment decisions, then wallow in regretting those decisions. But we don’t need to just let our jobs shape our habits. We can do that ourselves: take responsibility for our schedules and create healthy routines.
Face-to-face interaction impacts creativity and mental health
There was a core camaraderie and stimulation to working alongside colleagues in a shared space, and it’s impossible to reproduce that feeling when you’re all in different places. Being near someone physically is simply different. Welcoming body language, sympathetic facial expressions, supportive hands resting on wearied shoulders. It all works to put the stresses of working life into perspective: issues tend to feel less worrying when you talk about them.
This doesn’t mean that online interactions are useless, of course. Zoom meetings are usually better than no meetings at all, no doubt, and casual online conversation can still make you feel a lot better (and spark invention). But it does mean that we should get back to face-to-face interactions as soon it can safely be achieved (particularly for students who’ve really struggled this year, being stuck interacting online and unable to gather as they normally would).
With flexible working on the rise, you need the right equipment
Before the pandemic struck, business managers were extremely reluctant to allow their employees to work remotely. They were afraid to relinquish direct oversight, expecting remote workers to take advantage of the situation and dial back their productivity. This year has shown that their fears were largely unfounded. Much of the time, people can get just as much done at home as they can in their offices (or even more due to a lack of workplace distractions).
A simple home office setup complete with the basics can be assembled fairly easily: a comfortable office chair, a multi-monitor laptop setup helping with eye strain, a light panel to boost alertness, and a pair of noise-canceling headphones to drown out the daily hum. And anyone with more niche needs can simply order what they need, whether it’s a hard drive docking station, a high-end microphone, or an ergonomic keyword to avoid RSI.
We spend our lives working, so it needs to be on our terms
One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is that our lives focus hugely on our jobs (sometimes too much so). For those who aren’t passionate about their work, the daily grind can be brutal. When you can schedule occasional social events and look forward to yearly holidays, you can look past it to some extent — but being stuck at home lets the frustration build up.
Why do people obsess over jobs they don’t really care about? It’s because they’re scared of failure, taking risks, and running out of money. They’re so fearful of the future that they obsess over self-preservation. This is bleak, but it’s far from the only way to live. If you’re in that place, then perhaps you need to take the risk of fighting for a career that matters to you.
In some ways there’s never been a better time to build a suitable career. The internet affords rich opportunities, and communities throughout the world make it possible to study whatever subjects you find intriguing. In 2021, the onus is on people who are dissatisfied with their professions to find roles that make lengthy working weeks fulfilling instead of draining.
Being busy is stressful, but we should still appreciate it
All the extra free time we’ve had since the start of the pandemic has driven many of us to get very introspective. When lives are being lost, people are being made redundant, and borders are essentially closing down, there’s so much reason to be uncertain about the future. What are we doing with our lives? Where are we going? Are we truly happy with our paths in life?
The truth is that it isn’t good for our mental health to have so much free time. Happy lives are built around setting and achieving goals. Sure, this can cause stress sometimes, but the grass is always greener on the other side — and having a hectic schedule suddenly seems very appealing when you’ve spent days getting nothing done.
If you don’t have a busy schedule right now, remember that you can do more to fill up your day. You can hone your skills, build new relationships, and find more passions. And if you’re working on a business, you can put all your energy into making it as good as it can possibly be. When you really care about something, there’s a beauty to giving it everything you have.