Remember how we started the pandemic nearly three years ago with so much uncertainty? If I had to draw a cartoon of myself in the spring of 2020, I'd be sitting under a mountain of used Clorox wipes asking a series of never-ending ‘what if’ questions! And at the same time, those of us who wanted to be forward-thinking and strategic were determined to look ahead and make sense of the mess (no offense, past-self, I know you were doing your best!).
At some point I lifted my head up from the sewing machine where I was making cloth face masks and asked, “How do we want to emerge from this pandemic?”
It was a noble question. The years that followed have provided us with some answers, but many of us are still stitching it together.
So how do we want to emerge? I can throw around some buzz words like “resilient,” but to be honest I am jumping to a more practical thought: I’d like to hold onto the best “innovations” of the pandemic while learning from the others.
And speaking of buzz words, fast-forward to April 2021, Adam Grant’s NYT article made us all feel seen. He gave us the vocabulary that described what many of us had been feeling in the first year or so of COVID-19. It was not burnout, it was not depression, it was not grief—it was “languishing.”
The opposite of languishing? Flourishing. For many, the period of “languishing” was over a year ago, but how exactly do we get to flourishing?
I know it’s a controversial topic, but I think a big part of the solution, and the transition to the “flourishing” phase, is in continuing to work remotely.
I have been working remotely for the past decade, and it was not until the forced shut-downs in 2020 that many others began to do so. Many of my clients struggled with the transition, and many organizations were impatient to bring people back to the (physical) office as soon as they could do so safely. Why the rush? “We’re losing something,” many clients would say. When pressed, they’d express concerns about losing engagement and even an eroding organizational culture.
This episode of Freakonomics Radio on “The Unintended Consequences of Working from Home” spotlights the impact of hybrid/flexible work. Currently, about 15% of U.S. workers are fully remote, and 30% are hybrid. The research presented in the podcast shows that the flex or hybrid model seems to boost employee happiness and productivity. Yes, BOOST. Yet, many of our clients are still tweaking the policy and/or dealing with resistance as a result of the move back to the office.
No surprise – this discussion came up at our CliffsNotes Book Club meeting this month. Cate Rodman presented highlights from the book Human Kind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman. (For Cate’s notes, check out the Cliffs Notes Book Club portal.) As the title suggests, the book provides the history of humans from the standpoint of how we are social beings, how we have evolved to be collaborative, and how increasingly rely on technology to do so. While it is not focused on the present-day work-from-home era, the discussion certainly got me thinking about it.
Specifically, the challenges that surfaced are
To me, getting a handle on those challenges will get us closer to flourishing. I know a lot of people are grappling with this, and as such I will share some tips that work for me and some of my clients.
Tips for how to make the most of working remotely
What would you add to the list? What’s missing to help you get to a point where you are truly “flourishing,” pandemic or not?