Why I will Never Return to the Office 9-5

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

3 Important Lessons I've Learned During the "Work From Home" Life

I wanted nothing to do with this idea of self-quarantine. You want me to be stuck at home with my family all day and still be successful in my career? People can’t really be successful working from home. They only pretend to be… those were my thoughts in the first few weeks/months of the pandemic.

In March 2020, I had recently returned from a week long rendezvous in the sands of Mexico celebrating a girlfriend’s 40th birthday. Taking off the 5 days from work I needed was a hardship when it came to my overachiever mindset. Not because I didn’t have 5 days to spare (our company has an unlimited paid vacation policy- yes, I know… it’s incredible), but because taking off time seems to only add more work piled on later and begging for longer days in the office and feeling like I can never get caught up. Self-imposed feeling, but still a feeling.

You see, I work in Human Resources for a well known Tampa based sports and entertainment organization and this type of work literally never sleeps. We have normal office hours, in addition to games, concerts, events and anything and everything over long holiday weeks and weekends. Basically- when everyone else is on holiday- we’re working.

Since our industry - as many others, is driven by in-person experiences, our corporate offices were in NO way set up to work from home or any type of offsite situation. You see, we make live experiences happen and in our minds- pre COVID-19- LIVE experiences require LIVE people.

My days in the sports and entertainment industry were filled with long days and over commitments, but I loved it. As a mom to 4 little kids, I felt the pressure and guilt of being gone for 10+ hour a day, but it was routinely justified (in my head) with the idea that I was teaching my kids how to work hard, be resilient and I don’t know, have a good “work ethic” I guess?

Then in March, we all know what happened…The world shut down… and our entire industry took what we liked to call “a pause”. Hockey games were canceled, concerts dropped off one by one... everything just stopped. We were told to go home and work.

In my first few weeks, I hated every moment and was counting down the 2 weeks (yeah… ha… we were told we’d all be back in the office within 2 weeks) until we went back to normal and started playing hockey again and prepping for fun concerts. Zoom meetings and Zoom happy hours got old really fast and feeling the need to overcompensate my workload led me to extreme burn out and complete confusion of what my life and career was all about.

How were we supposed to work together amid my kids being in virtual school, my husband also working from home and the dog barking at every single Amazon delivery (they came multiple times a day- I was in crisis mode).

I couldn’t escape it all and I didn’t even know what was happening most days or even what day it was. Auto pilot was in full effect and I seriously thought I had arrived in a hellish kind of twilight zone.

Fast forward to us now - 6+ months later and I’m still mostly working from home, happily at full capacity workload, but now something has changed. It took many months, but I’m actually very content in this new world and I’ve learned some good, but hard lessons along this journey.

So here I am 6 months later and just now finally learning to not only EMBRACE the WFH life, but I’m not gonna lie… I kind of love it. Here are the 6 things I’ve learned from this “new normal” and why I’m not going to let this opportunity and new exposure to LIFE ever go backward to pre-Covid life.

1. The WFH stigma is gone!I can do anything from anywhere

Pre-COVID, there was a stigma that we cannot deny when it came to working from home. My kid’s sick or something has come up so I ask the boss if it’s okay to work from home. “Sure, no problem” says the boss. Ugh… but it was a problem. I feel like the boss thinks that I’m not going to be productive. That I’m slacking or just trying to get an early start on the weekend… I mean it is Fri-Yay, but I swear the kid is sick…. But hey… you know what? Maybe that’s all true? Or maybe the boss doesn’t think that? Or maybe you think the boss thinks it and now you’re manifesting it?? EEEKK. Now, I’m overthinking the thinking and the anxiety has crept in and I haven’t completed anything productive today and the work from home stigma has now been validated in my mind… Here’s the thing- it never really mattered what my boss thought- what mattered is what I thought and if I believe that people working from home are doing laundry and drinking mimosa’s all day and therefore slackers - that was my perception and my own stigma.

Sidenote: One can actually still be VERY productive working from home while doing laundry and drinking mimosas. I know this! In this new post COVID world, I’ve learned that damn, I can be extremely productive at home. It took a few months burning out from over compensating (strong need to prove my value and perfectionism- I’m working on this) and ZOOM fatigue, but now I’ve arrived and it only took 6 months!

I have discovered my flow and I am embracing every single ZOOM-ey moment of it. Working from home will not be my every day post COVID life, but I will surely fight for it 1–2 days a week consistently.

I will no longer accept that it’s only okay for emergencies. I will not go back to a daily 9–5pm commute. Life is too great and the balance I now have is my most treasured part of daily life. I can be a mom and have a career and provide great experiences to myself and my family.

I am thriving.

2. Relationships that matter will stick around no matter what the world is going through

During the pandemic, I realized who’s truly important in my life and who I’m okay with letting go. Before all of this chaos, I had the idea that the more relationships, the better and growing my network was vital to success. I still do believe in the power of a network, but there’s balance required here. If growing your network is causing you to put your family and those most meaningful to you on the back burner, then you are not spending your time wisely. Investing time in others at the cost of your most important assets (friends and family) is not a wise choice. Before COVID, my evenings were spent working events or attending happy hours. I loved the social interactions and I thrived in setting where I could meet new people.

Then we shut down… happy hours shut down… and networks took a pause. Those first few weeks, I missed it all so much. I looked longingly at pictures of past nights out and fun times. Now, I look at those pictures and can only think of the number of family Monopoly nights I missed, pizza parties with my kids I could’ve enjoyed, luxurious baths and relaxing wine all in the name of self care I skipped! The people that matter the most to me are still around. We still show up for each other every single day and nothing can take that away from us (at least while we’re still living in this crazy world). These are the people I want to invest my time in.

These are the memories I want to make. And I’d rather have a little selfish self care that’s guaranteed to “move my career needle” than a bar of people that do not even see me and promise me nothing. I’ve learned that pandemic life is not about “social distancing”, but rather safely and strategically socializing with the people that matter- combined with a little technology and a lot of late night text chats as needed. And this leads us to a very important #3-

3. If your home life is falling apart from being "quarantined" together, your foundation was already broken long ago

This is a tough one to write about and I’m honestly not ready to share my entire story, but I’ve heard a lot of people agree that being “stuck” at home with our spouses and kids is making us lose our mind.

In those first few months, I would completely agree. I kept thinking that when everything goes back to normal- we’ll all be okay again. We just need to get away from “being together” 24/7. Now, I will say, that even the healthiest of relationships will be rightly tested when stuck together 24 hours a day like we were in those first few weeks, but in the last few months, we’ve been able to breathe and actually leave the house, so, if we’re still feeling miserable together, then there’s a problem that can’t be blamed on COVID and can’t be blamed on our kids or any other type of dynamic. In our situation- my work schedule allowed me to ignore the many issues in my marriage and to keep my head in the sand thinking they would all just magically go away. I’m grateful to this pandemic life because it’s forced me to take a step back and see the problems that needed to be worked on and to admit the areas where I needed to grow to become better mom and partner.

Our foundation was slowly crumbling- I just choose not to see it, and I believe it would’ve crashed for sure if we weren’t forced to take a good hard look at it. We’re still looking at it and doing our best to put pieces back together by communicating and reaching out for help with the right counselors. I’m also learning to face the things I refused to face before COVID and although I kind of hate it, I’m choosing to do the hard things and basically show up each day.

We still have a very long journey ahead, but my mindset is ready to show up even at the cost of failing again and again…

Theses are the most important things I’ve learned and continue to explore with this new routine and daily life we now have.

I’m back in the office 1-2 days a week, which adds a perfect balance to my schedule and I pray that other post COVID things continue to stick around like being okay with not wearing lots of make up and high heels to work and overall - embracing a much more simplistic lifestyle. I can only hope these lessons will not be a passing trend. I’m holding onto the things that matter and realizing that beautiful outcomes can come from complete chaos and I’m thankful for everything that happens- the good, the bad, the unexpected…

It’s life, and life is nothing but a beautiful experience.

Thank you for reading these ramblings.

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on September 8, 2020.


Jenn Newlin 

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