12 Things I've Learned About Myself While Working from Home
Updated: Jun 23
In early March, my organization began one of the largest experiments it has ever done: enterprise-wide remote work. Four months later, and the results are in. It's working. So why change it? I’ve learned a lot about myself, how I operate, and how to maintain a sense of belonging in a virtual workplace. I've learned what I need to continue giving my best to my job, and most importantly, to myself.
12. I am brilliant and alive!
Shortly after social distancing began, and my job's business continuity experiment became an indefinitely permanent feature of our business, I noticed a change in my energy. Like a flower that needed more light and frequent watering, I blossomed. Vibrant nightly dreams returned. My creativity peaked. I started to feel alive because I was no longer racing to go through the cycle of work-rest-repeat. Work projects that once intimidated me, became more manageable, and turned into nothing-but-net wins for me, for my team, and for my organization.
11. I do my best work outside of a 9-5 schedule.
Only fifteen feet separate my workspace from my living space. And given that my laptop can go anywhere, I often find myself willing to eke out a couple of extra hours of work to meet a deadline, or pull extra effort for my team. The boundaries of my workday ebb and flow with my energy. I don't feel beholden to wake up at a given hour. I also don't mind working later into the night to get things done.
10. I am a committed employee, despite an often frustrating workplace culture.
Large swaths of corporate America have resisted robust work from home policies (probably related to the generation of stagnant leaders at the helms) due to a lack of trust in their workforce (they won't say this publicly). To the contrary, my commitment to work has increased in the last four months. I'm willing to do much more, and I get to focus more intently because I control my day, and the space that I occupy for the eight hours that I am required to work. I don't have to enter a space that doesn't feel inclusive, or where I feel the need to avoid certain individuals or cliques. I am now in control over who I let into my virtual workspace, and how and with whom I engage.
9. I am most engaged in my work when I am trusted.
Although COVID-19 and the ensuing public health crisis forced the hand of my organization, I get the sense from my direct managers that I am trusted more than ever before. And this trust has enabled me to take risks on big projects—the outcome being my ability to deliver consistent results. Technology has made my entire team available to me in less than three clicks. Previously, I had to hunt teammates and my manager down. Having more face time, albeit virtually, has created a work environment where I feel compelled to be more engaged.
8. I am able to lead teams and get things done because I value relationships.
The week before my company went 100% remote, my manager pulled me off a work trip so that I could be in the office to set the groundwork for a huge assignment. It also meant that I had to cancel a trip to Cuba that I'd planned to take after my work trip ended. Being in the office those few days gave me the opportunity to go into my colleagues' offices to get them up to speed on the project, get their buy-in, and ask them to commit to providing the resources I'd need to get it done. This, and other tactics like pre-meetings, weekly check-ins, and engaging in IM banter all helps me maintain strong relationships with my teammates. Leveraging the strength of these relationships to get stuff done has been one of the greatest outcomes of my working from home experience.
7. I am in control of how I show up.
The burden of respectability politics is out the door—it has never been important to me. I've never worn suits and ties to work. I've translated this into my work from home style. I wear t-shirts and tank tops on video calls—and there's nothing wrong with it. How I dress doesn't impact the quality of my work. I also get to determine how much of my personal home space I want to show during video calls—if I feel up to turning my camera on at all. The weeks after several high-profile murders of Black citizens by police and white supremacists made me feel so enraged and detached that I conducted most meetings voice-only. For Black people having been subjected to white supremacy and made to feel less human for our natural beauty, it is essential that we have this level of control; to show up in ways that feel safe, if we even want to be seen in a virtual workplace. I now feel in control.
6. Good lighting is essential for video meetings.
5. I enjoy my home space more than I enjoy my private office.
I am able to do my best work in the place where I feel most comfortable. Although I have a private office with a door that closes (it is glass and offers zero privacy), I'd rather be in my private home where I get to determine how to engage others, and how much of myself I allow them to see. My home is a space where I curate a love for art, collections of beautiful things gathered from around the world, and photos of my favorite people. No other physical space inspires me more.
4. I don't need a physical office space to feel part of a community.
I keep hearing co-workers and management say how great it will be getting back into the office. I roll my eyes each time. The increased physical distance to my co-workers doesn't keep me from engaging in building workplace community in meaningful ways. My team has implemented virtual happy hours and trivia nights, weekly team round-robins, and friendly group chats that we pop in and out of during the day—complete with memes and emojis. We have community. There is no need to venture out of my home to be a part of it.
3. I should be making more money.
I consistently delivered. My engagement and commitment to work has never been higher. I've been leading geographically disperse teams, creating tools that bring value across the organization, and building inclusive spaces for colleagues to contribute in meaningful ways.
I deserve, and will be asking for a raise in the future.
2. The reality of work pre-COVID-19 did not work for me.
The daily grind was not friendly to me. I awoke each day feeling sluggish, trudged to an office that looked great, but didn't offer the kind of culture that felt authentically inclusive nor incentivized innovation. For eight hours I'd be in and out of meetings as my attention span waned. I would get off, hit the gym, grab groceries, and head home. By the time I arrived home, I was exhausted and could barely piece together a meal before the weight of my eyes enticed me to bed. That was not working for me. Working from home has given me time, freedom, decreased my expenses, and increased my sense of self. I won't trade this for my former life.
1. Access to WFH home is a quality of life issue.
Late last year I wrote a list of things that I wanted for my life. One of them high on the list: a location-independent job. I'm not claiming that my visioning brought about a global pandemic, but right now I have the very thing that I wanted. It has given me the chance to build a daily life that is full of rituals that restore me, rather than drain me. It has increased my power to save, invest, and build wealth. I've literally quantified in real numbers the value it's provided me. It has given me time to curate food that nourishes me. It's given me time to talk to my family and show up for my community. I want corporate leaders to re-frame their idea of what remote work is. It is not an employee benefit. It is a feature work job that increases my quality of life.
I cannot envision my professional future without access to robust remote-work options. This period has inextricably linked my engagement at work to the level of remote work access I am given.
Anyone who thinks that we should go back to the way we existed before, has missed the Universe’s blaring message: The old normal wasn't working! Working from home allows me to put myself first; which is essential for me to be able to show up fully for the job that pays me.