Like many companies today, our firm made the decision to have employees work from home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We made this decision back in March and it’s hard to believe I’ve been working out of our spare bedroom for almost 5 months, using a dusty laptop from college.
When the announcement was made, I was really excited about it to be honest. Rather than feeling rushed to get out of the door and fight traffic each morning, I now had time to cook a real breakfast and sip my coffee, before walking to my new in-home office. Rather than waking up at 5am for my morning workout, I started attending the noon class a few times a week. My girlfriend, Mackenzie, was even more excited than me – she has always wanted a puppy and I have always resisted – using our work schedules as the excuse. It only took 1 week of working from home before I was convinced that now was the perfect time to get a puppy, so we welcomed a sweet little chocolate lab, Jordy to our family. Needless to say, Jordy has made the past 5 months even more interesting.
There are obvious pros and cons that I think we all have learned when it comes to WFH. The flexibility it offers is unparalleled, but I do find it harder to separate work and personal life. Normally when I drive home from work, that’s the end of the work day and I am no longer looking through emails until the next morning. But now, I catch myself reading emails in the evening or as they come in after dinner, sometimes even talking to clients on my cell phone well after normal business hours. Video web conferences come with a whole other set of challenges, especially when my 3 -month old puppy is beginning to learn: garbage trucks are really loud, random people with lawn mowers show up every Monday, and that unfortunately her dad’s main job isn’t playing fetch 24/7.
I find myself needing to apologize on almost every call for some sporadic barking in the background and have come to actually enjoy it. Not the barking, but the personal touches we now receive through video conferences. I get to see my clients’ homes, their children, pets, art on the wall, sports memorabilia, etc. When we meet in the office face-to-face, we can fall into the trap of formality — we put on the suit and act a certain way, and even though we are meeting in person we aren’t able to see (or hear) some of things that are “personal” to us. Video can never replace face-to-face interaction, but I do feel it has helped bring some of us closer because of what we are all experiencing during this time.
I have truly enjoyed seeing a different side of my clients’ lives. I’ve heard newborns cry in the background and seen some attend the meeting. I’ve gotten to see the “dream home” that a couple recently purchased as well as the “forever home” that was just paid off. I’ve learned so much more about my clients on a personal level throughout this time and I believe they learned more about me. For example, right behind me, and very visible on my web cam, is a Cheesehead from Lambeau Field, I got on my first ever trip to Green Bay when I was 12. Sometimes Mackenzie accidentally walks into the room to get to our (her) second closet, or Jordy will break out of her kennel and interrupt a meeting. At the end of the day, our job is to help our clients achieve their goals, however that looks to them. For the first time, I now get a glimpse of those real-life goals and passions, each time I turn on my web cam.