An open letter to employers in 2021: we want the option to work from home more often in the post-covid world

The 2020 and 2021 pandemic hasn’t been easy. And it’s not even over yet. Many of us haven’t been able to see family or friends as much as we usually do. Many of us have lost someone we knew or someone we loved. And that’s a difficult thing to experience.

In the professional space, many of us have lost our jobs or had to close our businesses. For all of us, the way we work has changed. Working from home is now a thing most of us have dealt with at some point in 2020. And although every person’s circumstances are different, we all seem to want the ability to choose when we go into the office and when we work from home.

I’m sure you’ve recently seen posts like this all over social media, especially on LinkedIn:

Image showing LinkedIn poll where each possible reaction equals an answer. Answers range from “Remote full time” to “Office full time”.
LinkedIn poll where each possible reaction equals an answer. Answers range from “Remote full time” to “Office full time”.

In that particular post, over 80k people reacted. Here’s what they said:

And this is just one post. Working from home has meant so much over the last year for so many people that we’re struggling to see ourselves never working from home again.

For me personally, working from home has improved my life and mental health in many ways. One of those ways is the amount of valuable time I have gained back for myself and for those that matter to me.

Stay with me while I explain this further. But first, here’s why I wouldn’t want to work from home every day of the week.

Being in the office is cool

I do like being in the office. I like spending time with my brilliant, friendly colleagues, I like eating different things from the takeaways in town. I like the banter, my line manager randomly singing very cheesy songs when he’s trying to focus. I love the hunt for sugary treats at around 3pm, when everyone in the office seems to need a little boost.

I miss doing certain work tasks in the office too. For example, the real-life interactions and reactions that happen during big project updates and retrospectives add a layer of information that is sometimes missed when done remotely.

I’ve missed these things a lot during each lockdown. So I do want to be in the office for a part of the week.

But working from home opens up my world

I’m lucky that I can do my job with just a laptop and some software installed in it. I’m also lucky to have a reliable internet connection and plenty of suitable space to focus at home.

So from a practical point of view, working from home is perfectly fine. In fact, I’ve produced some of my best work while working from home. I guess I have more time, I feel more comfortable and I can think things through better.

Beyond that, working from home has allowed me to do some pretty amazing things. The most basic thing is that I’ve saved a ton of money on transport passes and petrol. Something even better is that I’ve not polluted my city as much as when I commuted every day. And both of those things feel great.

On top of that, I save about 2.5 hours per day just by not commuting to the office. And I’ve been using that extra time for things that have made me very happy and a lot less stressed.

Most days I’ve gone out for a short walk around my neighbourhood or the forest paths next to home. It’s fascinating to see squirrels, magpies, blackbirds or starlings early in the morning, before pedestrians and traffic have pushed them to hide. Recently, it’s been fun to step on the crackling, frosted leaves while I start planning my work day.

Some other days, instead of going for a morning walk, I’ve just slept for a little longer. Yes, I have. And I still started work early. This might not mean a lot for you, but let me explain. I have 2 housemates: an adult man and a toddler. They happen to also be my partner and daughter. Sometimes, the toddler decides she wants to wake me up every couple of hours at night. When we have nights like that, I’m grateful for any extra sleep I can get. Any.

And on top of that, when my partner is also working from home, we get to have lunch together. We watch the news, comment on the latest events, catch-up on our day so far… Basically, we disconnect from our duties together. This year, we have realised we didn’t communicate as much as we thought we did, and working from home together allows us more time to work on that.

Desk with 2 laptops, 2 plants, 2 water bottles and the words “supply planners tech writers” written on it.
Working from home with my partner

The very best side of it

And here is probably the most wonderful thing that working from home has allowed me to do. Remember my other housemate? The toddler. I’ve been able to offer her more of my time and a better version of me.

And that is a big victory for me and my family.

This year I have found the space in my head and in my week to just be. To just exist and think things through. I know myself a lot better than I did last year. I’ve been able to write more, to explore and understand important topics that I’ve never had the time to reflect on. Topics like being a mum or the racism I’ve experienced. I am better at understanding who I am and, because of that, I am better at understanding my role in my daughter’s life.

So she gets more of my time because, 30 seconds after I switch off my laptop, I’m already in the living room helping her build a den out of blankets and cushions. Or whatever the game is each day.

What’s even better is that, in the extra time I spend with her, I’m not stressed out or tired after a long commute. This means I can give her my full attention and do things that feed her brain with new and useful information, new experiences and positive emotions. I can offer her a more calm and joyful space to grow up in.

I’d struggle to give her any other kind of space once the world starts moving fast again.

This is just my story, my circumstances. What everyone is asking for, really, is flexibility. Flexibility to choose a combination of days at home and at the office that works for each person. Flexibility from our employers to allow that combination, whatever it is.

For me, once the restrictions are lifted and we can all move freely again, I’ll be looking forward to being in the office. I’ll also be looking forward to working from home regularly. Both will mean a lot to me.

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Katerine Santo

Katerine Santo

Linguist, tech nerd, hiker, swimmer, mum