The Truth Is Working From Home Is Hard – MINNEAPOLIS — As we speak, more than 5.2 million Americans have lost their jobs. While we want to be sensitive to those going through a difficult time, we also cannot ignore the fact that a lot of us have changed the way we work. No one told us it was going to be hard.
Like many of us right now, home is where the work is and it has been that way for more than a decade for Jeff Severns Guntzel. Severns Guntzel is a journalist and investigative researcher.
“Mostly I’ve been an at-home worker and a remote worker,” Severns Guntzels said. “So I’ve worked from my 400 sq ft apartment in the bedroom, hotel rooms in active war zones, coffee shops– I’ve done it all– right now I’m working from my home office.”
Severns Guntzel said about four weeks ago, he was feeling pretty good about his work-from-home routine.
“Right now, I’m struggling to focus for more than five minutes,” Severns Guntzel said.
That’s exactly the point he’s trying to make. Even for a seasoned at-home worker, things are hard because of this pandemic.
“This is what it’s like to work from home in a pandemic,” he said. “for which there is no road map. It took me years to be comfortable working from home to develop strategies about being productive. It took me years to develop that and they’re useless to me now.”
With so many of us working from home, Severns Guntzel said he thought it was weird that no one was talking about the struggles of doing so on their first try.
“I worry about those people,” he said. “I worry that they are telling themselves that they are inadequate, that they are failing and that everyone else is getting it right. ‘What about that cute picture where someone’s cat was by the computer and they seem to be loving this?’ I wanted to be like, if that’s you, you’re not alone.”
As difficult as things are, he said he’s learned a few tricks already to get back on track. First, he emphasized the importance of connecting with your feelings, and understanding that ‘unproductive’ or ‘productive’ is not a feeling. He said he noticed that after looking at a “Feelings Wheel” that his therapist wife had left on the coffee table.
“I think one thing that I had changed was, I was feeling a lot more things than I normally would, and I wasn’t teasing those out,” he said.
He also added that having a ritual of separating your work-self from your home-self was helpful. That can be done in the smallest of ways, like putting your coffee into a thermos that you might have taken to work instead of into a mug.
“I have to signal to myself that it’s work time,” he said. “For me, that’s a number of things, certain way of making my coffee, it’s being fully dressed, walking into my office and shutting my door.”
Severns Guntzel said it’s difficult trying to focus with so many things surrounding him that feels like deserve his attention. He said he combats that by asking, ‘will this thing be around in three hours?’ If the answer is yes, he said he likes to put it away, either mentally or physically.
Lastly, he talked of finding joy in the day-to-day. He said for him, it’s connecting via Zoom with friends he normally wouldn’t have connected with. Rediscovering and re-kindling old relationships through video chat.
He also said he hasn’t forgotten about gratitude for his employment, during this difficult time.
“The fact that I even have thoughts about how I can focus while I’m working from home in a pandemic is a sign that I have a job,” he said. “I am employed, at least for now, and have a steady source of income. That’s something that’s not lost on me at all.”