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Remote Work in the Age of COVID-19
Under normal circumstances, we have reasonably clear views about how things in life should pan out, at least in the short term. When this view becomes distorted through unexpected changes, unpleasant thoughts and feelings tend to emerge. As such, the ongoing pandemic has understandably led to heightened feelings of anxiety and stress. In the midst of this crisis, one might feel as if there’s nothing to be gained.
Many of us lucky enough to be able to do so, have transitioned into working fully remotely. In spite of the pandemic, remote work has been growing in popularity over the years. According to Statistics Finland, only 9% of the working population were working remotely in 2008, in contrast to 2018, when this accounted for 28% of the same population.
A force of habit often compels us to pick the “tried-and-true” options over novel alternatives. This could offer a partial explanation for why some people undervalue remote work. Even if it were a perfectly viable option, not all employers feel the same.
Many of us may notice becoming more productive while working remotely. Such a sentiment may not have surfaced if we weren’t under similar constraints, as unfamiliarity seems typically interwoven with fear and anxiety. Instead of giving in to our immediate thoughts and feelings, could we accept them for what they are, and approach inevitable change with curiosity, instead?
Anxious thoughts aren’t inherently negative. Unexpected changes are inevitable, and being adequately prepared for every possible scenario just isn’t in the scope of reality. Being both tolerant of uncertainty and accepting of unpleasant, if painful, experiences conserves our mental resources, and may even enable us to pursue more meaningful endeavours as a result.
These ideas of approaching uncertainty with curiosity and not avoiding painful experiences that align with our values ties into the concept of psychological flexibility. In a nutshell, psychological flexibility means focusing on the present moment and doing “what’s right,” in spite of our immediate thoughts possibly retaliating against our principles. Unless your job literally deals with risk management, do you spend more time worrying about “what could go wrong” and less time thinking about “what could go right”? Are you giving enough thought to these upsides?
To use our headlining example, maybe remote work could wind up being a potential boon for you. Thinking ahead, when the dust has settled and many of us have gotten a taste for remote work under more favorable circumstances, we could gain fresh perspectives on working habits and maintaining work-life balance. To take it a step further, maybe there's something else you've previously shied away from that warrants re-examination?