A few weeks ago, I took my two boys and the family dog for a hike in Toronto’s Rouge Valley Park. Of course, the boys wanted to go off the trail and explore the valley and muck about. While we were trying to get out of the valley by climbing a steep cliff, it started to rain. The clay we were climbing on softened and we all seriously got stuck. After a 15 minute rescue mission, the family managed to make it to the top of the hill — boots and all.
The experience reminded me of a recent article from the New York Times about lethargy due to the pandemic. Understandably, people are tired of pandemic restrictions, being stuck at home, and living in this ‘new normal.’ I’ve seen this firsthand with both colleagues and coworkers as a general dullness has seemed to set in. The early fun of Zoom calls has disappeared, as I now stare at the black screens of people who can’t be bothered to turn on their cameras. There’s also been a loss of energy and enthusiasm as people are now just trudging along trying to get through the day. The article made me realize I too had become ‘stuck in mud’ thanks to the pandemic, and I clearly wasn’t the only one.
Over the past few months, I’ve developed a tunnel vision routine of work and my immediate family. Having schools closed in Toronto and my two boys learning from home didn’t help the situation. All of my mental energy is focused on my boys receiving a semblance of education while trying to balance my work and AdClub related responsibilities. I’ve even forgotten my own advice on how to stay connected during the pandemic. My early efforts to stay in contact with industry friends, mentors, and mentees have slowly slipped away as the lethargy set in. The New York Times article really was a wake-up call to how my focus had changed over the past 12 months.
What I find most surprising is the number of people who still want to work from home after the pandemic restrictions are eased. Looking at recent surveys, approximately 30% of people would work from home permanently if given the choice. This isn’t a huge surprise as working from home eliminates commute times and saves a considerable amount of money on gas/parking/transit costs, purchasing work clothes, and going out for lunches. However, there are the long-term effects of mental health, loneliness, and isolation. Humans are social animals, and we tend to work best when we interact, share ideas, and work together as a team. We lose a lot of these benefits when working through video calls or Slack channels, which I can’t see as feasible long-term solutions. As someone who was working from home full-time pre-pandemic, I’ve experienced the ill effects of isolation due to separation from the rest of my coworkers.
Luckily for all of us, vaccines are rolling out and a return to ‘normal’ is getting closer each day. Most companies appear to be creating a 3-days in the office, 2-days work from home model for their employees. Time will tell if work from home remains a part of our daily lives or if we all slowly fall back into the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office schedule. Regardless of our new work schedules, being able to see coworkers in person is going to be a huge boost to everyone’s mental health. Hopefully, it will also help to end this lethargy and bring on a renewed period of growth, creativity, and positivity. In other words, hopefully, it will get us all unstuck from the mud.