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We often measure our self-worth with our jobs and we feel productive even all we do for the day is going to the office and sitting at our desk.
We feel a sense of accomplishment if we work late or sit through several meetings even though nothing substantial may come out of it.
The pandemic, on the other hand, challenges the way things are, and more specifically, our perceptions about true productivity.
It’s human nature to not fix what’s not considered to be broken, but the pandemic proves us wrong. It shows us that most of our systems are broken, and we aren’t aware of it because we were born into this broken system from day one. Now we’re left to rethink and restructure the way we work.
During early pandemic, for those of us office employees who were lucky enough to keep our jobs, nothing seemed to be as challenging as working from home. Whether we enjoy going to the office or not, something about remote working made us all feel a little bit guilty and unsettled.
Gradually, though, we see the beauty of it. I personally used to think that 24 hours a day was not enough because I spent about 30 minutes preparing to go to the office, a total of 40 minutes or more for commuting back and forth, and when I got back from the office, an hour or so to recover from physical exhaustion, before doing the house chores and falling asleep. Technically, there was almost no actual break time. Turns out, during the pandemic, 24 hours a day is actually just the right amount of time.
Working from home, I started to find some time to take a break here and there without compromising the quality or quantity of my work. In some way, it makes me feel even more productive because look at all the time I saved by not having to take the bus or dress up/prepare for work! The amount of time I spend resting due to physical exhaustion from commuting back and forth is now gone. Even if I’m sick, I can still manage to do a little bit of work from my bed.
If we were to advocate remote working using these arguments before the pandemic, we would have been considered lazy. Now that remote working has become a part of our lives, we realized what we’ve mistaken about work and productivity, and what we have to unlearn.
Working from nine-to-five is not a necessity.
Before the pandemic hit, it never occurred to me to question the validity of standardizing the eight-hour office time. As a member of a society, I was born into this eight-hour work system, and so I never bothered to ask why. “It’s normal. Deal with it,” is what I would have responded if someone were to ask me that question.
However, since remote working, we don’t really spend eight hours of our time exclusively on office tasks, do we? Let’s face it. Even when we go to the office, do we truly spend eight hours just constantly working? No, we don’t. Why? Because we’re not robots, and it’s time to stop feeling guilty for it. We’re not working a full eight hours because as humans, we need to take a breath, eat, go to the toilet, smoke outside, or talk with our friends. Taking those little breaks is what makes work bearable and what makes us humans.
Productivity isn’t a linear process. Nobody can guarantee productivity just because we’re confined in the eight-hour work system.
Remote working can be as productive, if not more, as working in the office.
Remote working used to get a bad rap before the pandemic. We often equate it with freelance jobs, not with office jobs. We also often overlook the fact that freelancers, the majority of whom are remote workers, can be as productive if not more as office workers even though they may not follow a strict eight-hour work system or be in the office. They would sometimes even have more projects than office employees because not being restricted by a nine-to-five gives them the freedom to manage their productivity level.
Sure, you need some time to get used to it if you’re suddenly shifting from working at an office to home, but in the long run, as you gain more self-awareness and are able to balance work and rest on your own terms, remote working gives you space to manage yourself at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
A morning person may want to start working at 6 a.m. and call it a day by 2 p.m. A night owl may want to start working at 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. There may be exceptions here and there, but for the majority, it’s your choice—as long as you get the work done.
With all the time (and money) you save from not having to commute and/or recover from physical exhaustion, you’re actually more productive when you work from home, as you have the option to alternate between work and rest throughout the day.
Technology is no longer just an option.
The fact that my father, who basically avoids any technology, had to learn Zoom because of the pandemic, tells me a lot about the inevitable role of technology in our daily lives. Being comfortable with everyday technology is not just a “good-to-have” skill. It’s a “must-have” skill; dare I say, a survival skill for the 21st century.
You don’t need to know how to code or program, of course, but you should be comfortable enough to use social media and conferencing apps, Google drive features, emails, and so forth. The more tools you can use, the more capable you are.
As millennials, we’re often inclined to say, “Wait, aren’t most of us already comfortable with those things? What’s the big deal in addressing that?” Well…it is a big deal for our older generations who are still in the workforce. For younger people like us who were born and raised by modern technology, using or learning new social media and conferencing apps is as normal as breathing air and drinking water. For the rest, things aren’t that simple and easy.
Then, with a wide usage of technology and digitization, comes data security. It’s almost like a domino effect with technology, isn’t it?
It’s almost always in your advantage to know more because with more technological knowledge comes more flexibility and creativity that can boost your efficiency. Therefore, don’t assume that you can surpass technology when it comes to modern-day work life. You simply can’t. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Healthcare should be a priority in every work.
The whole reason behind the pandemic is our negligence of personal hygiene and healthcare. We take pride in coming to work even when we’re sick. If we take more than a week of sick leave, we feel guilty, even though we totally deserve the break.
This ties back to the wrong idea we used to have about work and productivity. Chances are you’re not going to be more productive just because you work while being sick. If you take that sick leave, and come back to work fully reenergized and feeling better, wouldn’t your productivity be higher?
Additionally, coming in sick to the office compromises the health of your colleagues. We often underestimated how problematic contagions can be until the pandemic. Like every social issue we have in our society, we realized the extent of the problem only when it was too late.
Now, wearing masks is compulsory in some countries, and in others, not doing so is at least socially frowned upon, if not illegal. If every organization and company in the world would have paid as much attention to providing basic healthcare to their employees as they do on preventing/curing COVID-19, the pandemic could have been avoided.
If there’s no societal pressure for a sick person to get back to work as soon as possible, contagions could have been mitigated. Prevention is always less costly than cure, but we have a common illusion that a short-term, spiked productivity is more important than long-term, consistent productivity.
This leads us to put prevention as a secondary measure because short-term, spiked productivity is often compromised if we put too much focus on prevention (e.g. a sick employee’s immediate productivity being considered as more important than preventing his/her health from getting worse).
However, assuming that humanity should survive in the long run, we should be focusing on consistent long-term productivity, which is feasible only when there’s accessible healthcare services and we, as a society, actually care about the lives of our fellow human beings.
In fact, there is no productivity at all if all of us are sick lying on hospital beds with oxygen tanks.