And I have never been happier.
With the whole Coronavirus pandemic, I have been working from home since March. While I occasionally worked from home before that, this was my first true foray into true remote working.
It wasn’t as easy as I had thought it might be.
Previously, when I worked from home, my oldest son would be in school all day. My younger son would usually play with my nephew, whom my wife babysits. It could get hectic, but was usually ok for the most part.
Now, I was thrust into chaos. I never knew what would happen on any given meeting. My manager has a Spiderman avatar on Slack. My younger son came up and started talking to Spiderman while I was on a call with him. It was unexpected. I remember not quite knowing what to do from there. My manager though, he killed it. He owned the role of Spiderman and talked to my son from that role. He has kids of his own. He gets it.
That made something click for me. I started to see coworkers as more than who they were when we shared an office. Look at a given Zoom call. Look at the environments we have all crafted for the camera. Why is that? We are all humans, with chaotic lives. That’s totally ok. Sure, try to set up somewhere that works for you. But roll with the punches. Embrace the absurdity that comes up.
With two boys running around the house, and a third running around part-time, it became rather hard to manage. I admit, I didn’t always handle it the best. I yelled. I got pissed off. And that didn’t matter. The kids responded to that as well as they always have. They didn’t.
So I drew on work. I started treating my family more like colleagues. I actually went so far as to give my kids “salaries”. They were paid for the work they did each week. The more they helped out, the more they could make. But I was also able to use it as an easy to understand punishment system. “If you keep doing that behavior, you will lose $5”. A simple if/then statement. It was amazingly effective. I am working on teaching them that time is valuable. I have told them at times, “I am not going to argue this anymore. I have things to do. You can do what I say, or you can lose part of your salary.”
This has made my life better in multiple ways. I no longer get pissed off (as much) when they misbehave. I have an easy to understand response. They understand the punishment. It also helped me remove some of the escalated emotions that would lead to fights. Because in the end, it was about numbers.
I have realized something through this pandemic. We so often force ourselves to conform to ideas just because we think we should. I tried to reimagine the boundaries between work and life and came up with some imaginative solutions that worked for me. I started to continue down this path too. I now don’t force myself into a 9–5 work day. I am lucky. In my role as a software engineer, I have this flexibility, and I appreciate that. I also have tried to keep an open dialogue with my manager and make sure that what I am doing is visible. I now let life flow into my workday, and work flow into my evenings. I work when I feel like I can be the most productive.
My work influences my writing; my writing influences my work. The more I am willing to blend work and life, the more balance I find.
I have also started writing recently. I have been trying to let the words flow when they can. Sometimes this is during my standard workday. But I don’t mind spending the time there. That is time that is also going to benefit my job, albeit indirectly. It is helping me get better at sharing my ideas, expressing my ideas. My work influences my writing; my writing influences my work. The more I am willing to blend work and life, the more balance I find. I am not trying to put boundaries in place where they do not need to be. I am letting myself flow with my needs. I work when I work, and I live when I live, and they are now in balance, because I stopped trying so hard to balance them.