My company has mandated a work from home policy for the next two weeks. I do genuinely appreciate their thinking of our safety, which is why I was quite relieved when they noticed the spike in imported cases of coronavirus in Singapore and decided to make all of us work from home for two weeks.
The first time I did work from home, which was about a month ago, I was quite happy with it. I got my alone time, was able to be productive, get more sleep and cut down on commute time. Infact I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a blog post about it.
However, this time, it feels different - firstly, I am beginning to feel like I need much more physical activity other than an hour of exercise a day. Sitting around all day isn't so nice.
Secondly, I find that my requirements for social interaction do indeed go up quite a bit while I am working from home. I feel the need to interact with a set of friend(s) every day after I end work. It's not that I need to go talk to people for the sake of not getting lonely. After all, I talk to people all day in my sales job! But rather, I start to feel a bit dull as a person if I don't go out and get new perspective from talking to other people. It feels like I am inside my head all the time!
This isn't a stark difference that I noticed right away as I started my work from home, but after my second day, I started noticing that I was becoming less creative and was focussing my mind on fewer topics that were already top of mind for me. When I meet friends or colleagues, I get out of my own head quite easily and am happy to talk about things they are thinking of. This brings in a rather fresh perspective that I quite enjoy!
Not having the regular interaction with friends or colleagues makes me wonder how life would be if I were to work for myself, or do freelance work for a bit. Being in the same space and not interacting with people as a part of my routine can really make me feel less interesting and creative, which isn't an issue short term, but can be one long term.
In the past, the effectiveness of remote work has been questioned by technological and productivity aspects - such as inability to communicate effectively or productivity lapses if workers are not in an office space. And I think humans have done an excellent job getting over those.
So in the first world, productivity and technological barriers are less of a challenge. But to me, the bigger challenges personally come with being in a physically constrained space (such as your house), and not having non-work related conversations with colleagues/friends, that could bring fresh perspective.
I personally haven't got to a point where I can have non work conversations over a video call or phone call. Meetings are generally set up with an intentionality, a fixed agenda (+1 for productivity), so to me, deviating from the agenda feels rather uncomfortable. I trust that some day I will get to a point where I can have the friendly banter I need over a video call.
Regardless, it is clear to me that these are conversations I certainly NEED, whether I speak to colleagues at work or friends after work. In times of coronavirus where I work from home, I wonder - do I need to see friends everyday after a day of work to get outside my own head? It seems unusual to be organising every day weekday evening activities or dinners, so it's not something I have gotten to. But as the work from home goes on, I think, that maybe, I need more friends.