has Covid killed work-life balance?

When Covid sent much of the country into lockdown last March, most workers whose jobs became remote overnight figured they were in for a few months of working from the kitchen table; few of them expected they’d still be doing it a year later. Yet here we are, with kitchen tales across the nation still crammed with laptops and work files.

It turns out that having their jobs invade their homes has significant ramifications for people’s ability to disconnect from work and have real downtime. Work-life balance has been elusive for many of us since long before Covid arrived on the scene, but pandemic-driven changes in how we work have made it exponentially harder for people to draw a clear line between work life and home life. At Slate today, I wrote about how to get your life back.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. The Tin Man*

    I am so proud of my wife who got a new job in January. It is fully remote and some of her coworkers are sending e-mails all around the weekend and at 10PM on Fridays. Wife is adamant that, absent a true emergency, she will not work on weekends. If you work from home AND do some work on the weekend – what even is a weekend?

    Even if something needs doing better to start an hour earlier on Monday than take an hour out of Sunday to do it.

    1. The Tin Man*

      I should say that at least she’s been told explicitly that this late night and weekend work, especially from one senior colleague, is a function of just that colleague’s preference and not expected of my wife. And that my wife is strong-willed and straightforward enough that she can shrug off any implied pressure.

      1. Marny*

        I started a new job in November that is mostly remote. I was so happy when, during the interview, my boss flat out said, “If you get an email from me in the evening or on the weekend, that’s just means I had some free time to get work done at that moment. I do not expect you to respond outside of regular hours.” It was really comforting.

        1. Clisby*

          Exactly. I worked 17-18 years remotely, first part-time and then full-time. If I sent an email at midnight, all that means is that I happened to be working at midnight. If it was an emergency, I would have called in to the main office and had them dial in the other person. That didn’t happen often.

          1. Adopted Yall*

            Have you considered just saving the draft and sending it in the morning? I find that even when I know I’m not expected to respond, getting an email from my boss at 11pm puts my brain back in work mode. (And I should be more disciplined about checking email outside of work hours.)

            I know for my boss, it’s performative: “Look how much I have to do. I am doing it even at 11 at night. Woe, woe is me.”

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I had a phone interview on Friday and sent a note that invited follow up, but it was after her work day ended (different time zone). I was SO GLAD not to get a response until this morning. It sent such a positive signal about their work culture, which is something I had concerns about.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      My work computer gets turned off when I’ve worked my hours for the day. I could check my work email on my phone but I don’t, unless I have reason to think there might be after-hours communication (extreme weather event, for example).

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        Same here.

        If I don’t respect my own time and boundaries, no one else will have any incentive to, either.

      2. Liz*

        Same. My job pre-COVID never really had any after hours requirements. Maybe once in a blue moon, but i generally was able to work my normal day, shut down, and go home. It’s pretty much the same now; although there have been a few times recently, although not every day, where i’d work an hour or so longer than my normal “end time” And if I had something i needed to take a couple of hours for, I’ll log back in when I get back to make sure nothing needs to be done, or to make it easier for me the next day. But that too is because we had a couple of times wehre everything happened at once, and added responsiblities with a promotion I got about 6 months before the pandemic.

      3. FiveWheels*

        Exactly. Turn it off, you don’t need to keep working just because you’re in the same building as your work laptop.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      Personally, an hour on Sunday is way better for me than an early start on Monday would be.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Me too. But, like Marny above, I’d never want that to indicate I expect others to be on my schedule. Love the flexibility.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          Absolutely! My team all knows that if I contact them after their hours it’s because something was on my mind at that moment, not that they are needed at that moment.

    4. Quickbeam*

      WFH has completely improved my work life balance. Now the computer is turned off at the end of my work day and my work cell is turned to silent. Previously I had to get to work 2 hours ahead of my start time to get work done in my cube farm before the relentless noise commenced. Also I never got out on time because as I would start to pack up to leave people would crowd my cube for one more thing, even following me to my car.

      I have not had to work a single hour over 40/week in a year. It’s delightful.

    5. Foxgloves*

      About 6 months ago, the powers that be at my work told everyone to put the following line into their email signatures “My working day may not be the same as yours. Please don’t feel obliged to reply to this email outside your normal working hours.”

      It’s actually worked an absolute treat- it means you don’t panic when you see emails have been coming in at all hours, and you genuinely don’t feel obligated to work at times that don’t work for you!

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Well, as a freelancer I’ve been WFH for years now and honestly, if I’m sent a job on Friday that will take six hours, and I need to deliver by 6pm Monday, I’ll do a couple of hours every day rather than work all day Monday. Those hours are often done before my partner even gets up, or while he’s out doing something that I’m not interested in. I find it better to work a little bit every day rather than do lots of hours on one day.
      Your wife has decided not to work weekends and that’s fine, I’m just saying for some of us, it’s not a problem to work on the weekend.

    7. DataSci*

      Even if something needs doing better to start an hour earlier on Monday than take an hour out of Sunday to do it.

      If that’s your preference or your wife’s, then absolutely any decent workplace should honor it! But for some people childcare or other responsibilities might make it easier to carve out an hour on the weekend than get an earlier start on Monday, and that’s OK too, as long as they don’t expect it of everyone.

  2. NotAnotherManager!*

    My job didn’t have boundaries before (and includes hazard pay for this inconvenience), so WFH has been a real win for me. Now, when someone has an emergency after hours, I can waltz back into my dining room, knock it out, and return to the couch. And, even if I’m stuck at work late, I can still have dinner with my family. This isn’t to say that it’s not hard, especially with the kids distance learning, but I do not miss my 2+ hours/day of commuting and see far more of my kids and spouse than I have my entire professional career.

    It has been more difficult to handle this for our non-exempt team, who is supposed to log off at a scheduled time, absent a project they’ve been approved to do OT for. We’ve had to deal with cranky exempt people who don’t understand why the non-exempts aren’t always online like them, but management deals with that directly as no one should be griping at the staff for following policy.

    1. many bells down*

      Oh being hourly (and only part time) has been both a huge help in disconnecting and a huge hindrance. Fortuately my boss is perfectly willing to say that no, MBD cannot do your event at 10pm on Saturday night sorry you didn’t plan ahead. But often if someone doesn’t get an immediate reply from me (staff OR client) they’ll send off emails up the chain. Just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I will be available when you can’t log into your email at 7pm, sorry.

    2. Abogado Avocado*

      I am in an exempt position for an urban government, am involved in the response to this pandemic (as well as to other local disasters like the severe winter storm), and agree with NotAnotherManager! about working from home. While I’m in the office most days (as essential staff), I have found working from home to be a pleasure. As I’m working longer hours anyway, WFH allows me to get the laundry done and deal with other small tasks (cleaning the grout in the shower) in between the relentless Zoom meeting and need-help-now! texts and emails. The coworkers I feel for are our non-exempts, who are bearing the brunt of dealing with that segment of the public that feels it’s all right to call their local government and curse out whoever answers over the government’s mask requirements.

      However, in answer to Alison’s query about whether COVID has killed work-life balance, I don’t think so. Once the U.S. is able to open up, balance will return to those who pursue it and/or whose jobs allow it because they’ll be able to return to seeing friends, eating out, attending sport and arts events, etc. What COVID has killed is the idea that work can only be a group activity performed in an office, usually in an urban center. We now know that lots of work can be done from home and managed from afar.

      My sense is that COVID has helped millions of us understand whether working from home fulltime is something we enjoy. One of my friends, who before the pandemic, wanted to WFM fulltime has discovered they abhor being alone all day. Turns out they really like being able to walk down the hall and solve thorny problems with a colleague over a cup of coffee. OTOH, another of our friends (and one of the most outgoing people you’ll ever meet) has decided he wants his growing law firm to go fully remote and only meeting in person for partners meetings, depositions, and things like that.

      So, in sum, I hate this pandemic, but I think it just could be the best thing that’s ever happened to work.

      1. Esmeralda*

        We all know that work can be done at home with the same or even better productivity (that’s the case in my office). That doesn’t mean that TPTB are going to act rationally on that information. My boss is onboard w WFH a couple days a week during the school year. My grandboss thinks it “looks bad” if we aren’t here if a student happens to drop in whenever. Dude, in the Before Times, students dropped in only at certain times of the semester. If they drop in and I’m not here, they make an appt. If it’s an emergency (almost never, seriously, I’ve been here over 20 years and I can count on one finger how often a student has dropped into the office with a legitimate emergency that required a live body to assist), someone else in the office helps them.

        In my extended family, almost everyone is expected to be butts in seats all day every day in the After Times. Even if they could get their work done remotely.

        So, I’m not sanguine about this. Alas.

      2. FiveWheels*

        My law firm keeps insisting people will go back to the office part time as soon as possible because “we don’t want to be a virtual law firm.” What I find most frustrating is that they haven’t given a single reason WHY.

        If they insist on it I’ll be job hunting immediately. I love law but would even switch industries and take a pay cut to keep working from home.

  3. MarMar*

    One strategy that helps me is shutting down my computer every night. It forces me to actually find a stopping point, save and close everything, and plan where I’ll pick back up. Plus it creates a little more hassle if I’m tempted to log back on for “just one more thing.”

    I picked it up as a good IT habit, but it’s helped a lot during WFH.

    1. The Tin Man*

      Yes! I shut down my computer when I’m done for the day and usually turn off my work phone about an hour after that, unless I’ve worked past my usual stop time. Then I turn my phone off when I shut down the computer.

      My wife keeps her computer on but she has a secretary desk so she can close away all of her work things when she finishes up for the day so they aren’t staring at her during the evening/weekend.

      1. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

        As Allison suggested, I literally close off my workspace at the end of the day. I turn the laptop off and leave my cell phone on my desk. I can hear it if I get a text or call but I don’t make a habit of checking it at night. And there it stays until the next morning. I’ve also completely embraced the flexible schedule. I exercise late morning and then eat later when I need a quick break. I can’t imagine being “butt in chair” ever again.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          I do this, too. Plus, my phone not only stays on my desk, but also is on do not disturb from an hour after my regular quitting time until an hour before my usual start time the next day. People can leave messages that I’ll retrieve the next time I’m being paid to work.

      2. lilsheba*

        Meh I keep my computer on all the time and reboot once during the week. Makes no difference to me.

    2. Blomma*

      Yes! I have a Surface connected to a docking station and two big monitors. When work is done, the Surface is turned off and closed. On the weekends or days off, my Surface is unplugged and put away in a drawer so I can’t even see it.

    3. many bells down*

      We were lucky in that both our kids moved out just before lockdown started, so we had bedrooms going spare. I made one into an office and I leave my laptop in there. It’s easier for me to walk away when the computer is in another room entirely!

      1. Quill*

        We had a chunk where my brother and I went to my parents’ for “spring break” and…. stayed there.

        Dad got the actual spare bedroom as an office. I got the dining room. My brother (grad school) got the basement. (Mom is a private tutor, she was still going in.)

        It made for great lunches, where my brother and I were sniping leftovers depending on who could schedule lunch faster, and arguing about my data entry tasks vs. his data modeling for his thesis. Turns out I don’t program for shit but he has never figured out how to work excel.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I’m old enough that I’ve never quite understood keeping your computer on constantly – even when I was in an office every day I shut mine down every evening. But yes, I agree – I’m done at 4:30, my laptop is off and tucked away for the evening.

      1. OyHiOh*

        My IT person scolds me every time I shut my computer down (desk top) before leaving. Something about always being available for updates.

        Feels like a giant flaming security risk to me

        1. Evan Þ.*

          If you encrypt your hard disk (say, using BitLocker), there’s some security risk in that in-memory files and programs are decrypted while the computer’s on. But for most people, that’s minimal – I work at a very security-conscious software company, and they’re totally fine with me leaving my computer on overnight. The big thing is to lock your computer, so you need a username and password to unlock it.

          As your IT says, if computers are on overnight, it’s much easier and cleaner to install updates then. They can even do it remotely on all computers connected to the company’s domain, as long as they’re all on.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I’ve always had to restart my computer after updates anyway? And my orgs have always pushed them during business hours. But if I was specifically told to keep it on I would.

            1. Mongrel*

              When we were in the office we were always told to turn our PCs off except for 1 evening per week and that’s when they’d push the updates.
              Now we have some update manager software, which is always on thanks to domain policy, and despite being obnoxiously ‘there’ when it’s downloading allows you to delay the restart until the end of the day.
              It helps that we’re on the network, via VPN, 100% of the time so it’s a lot easier to enforce than someone who may only need an E-mail client and Office.

      2. lilsheba*

        I can’t understand turning it off, why not just leave it? It’s easier to get back on it when you do need it.

        1. Mongrel*

          Simplistically. When your computer is running it’s writing lots of little snippets of information to various places across the system, the more you do the more snippets get strewn about.
          In theory the software, which includes the operating system (OS), should be cleaning up after itself and deleting these snippets – this does not always work. So as the system is working normally more and more background stuff is being created which runs the risk of causing issues with anything else that you’re trying to run.
          Shutting the system down give the OS a chance to clean all the cruft out and start afresh.
          There’s also a mechanical aspect that depending on the sleep\hibernate settings and how well they work can cause increased degradation, due to heat management issues, of all of the components.

          1. lilsheba*

            I was always of the thought that restarting a computer was putting it through hardship, it’s hardest it has to work. That being said I restart my work laptop once a week and it’s fine. Stays on all the time. Home computer I rarely have to restart, unless it’s doing updates and does it on it’s own. On all the time. Also fine.

            1. Mongrel*

              Making it work it’s hardest… That’s something that was,maybe, true 30 years ago.
              Modern machines have very few moving parts now and the ones that will be doing more work if the machine is left on are the cooling fans, increasing the chances of getting dust inside leading to overheating & shortening the life of the components. Laptops are even more susceptible to this because of how much smaller everything has to be to fit inside.

    5. Loredena Frisealach*

      Because essentially all of my work is done in O365 in some fashion, I developed the bad habit of using my personal desktop for everything because it has the big monitor. I’m overdue to patch and charge my business laptop. I need to change up my setup to get a monitor and workspace set up specifically for the laptop when/if I change jobs as a reset button as using my desktop means I’m always on. Teams is there, outlook is there, presence is visible. On the plus side though, I can walk away to eat, take the dogs outside, or do other chores w/o guilt so that’s the plus of fully WFH for me.

      1. Indy Dem*

        I use my personal monitor both on my home computer and work laptop (much bigger screen!)- is there a reason why you can’t use your monitor for both?

        1. Sweet Christmas*

          It may be an all-in-one desktop. I also have one of those – it is my personal PC, but I much prefer working on it because of the giant screen (32″!) than working on my work laptop.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, I do the same thing. My employer absolutely forbids using personal devices for any work stuff. Peripherals like monitors, keyboards, and mice don’t count, as long as there’s a driver for them in the Windows Software Center. I won’t get any IT support for them, though. I absolutely love my 34″ 4K monitor. So much space!

        3. allathian*

          Yeah, I do the same thing. My employer absolutely forbids using personal devices for any work stuff. Peripherals like monitors, keyboards, and mice don’t count, as long as there’s a driver for them in the Windows Software Center. I won’t get any IT support for them, though. I absolutely love my 34″ 4K monitor. So much space!

        4. Loredena Frisealach*

          I’m really really bad at moving my mouse between laptop monitor and desktop monitor, it’s embarrassing! I even find the current docking stations at the office awkward because of that. I used to have a setup where I could close the laptop in the station and everything worked, but if I do that with our current one my laptop promptly sleeps.

      2. I take tea*

        My partner bought a switch for the monitor, which makes it possible to use the same monitor for work laptop and personal computer. After work they close the work computer and switch computers. It sadly means that work and leisure is in the same spot, but we have a small apartment, it can’t be helped.

        1. Mongrel*

          This killed me when I did WFH before we switched to it permanently (a year or so before the world plague).
          I maintain a moderately expensive gaming PC and found it really distracting to have all my games ‘just there’ while I was trying to work.
          When we did get setup for WFH we had the room to turn the living room into an quasi-office and they supplied the hardware plus whatever we could scavenge from the office (so desks and nice chairs).
          I found having seperate work and play areas a lot more manageable.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      Not only do I do this, but I put my laptop in its bag & stick it in a hard-to-reach spot. (Not hard for me. I’m sharing a one-bedroom apartment with someone else who’s doing WFH. I don’t have permanent desk space right now.)

    7. Elenna*

      Yes – I don’t shut down my computer, but I do disconnect from the VPN (so, like you said, a little hassle stopping me from logging back in), and switch to my personal laptop. But it really helps that my team’s culture is such that there is absolutely no expectation to work evenings/weekends. In the year+ I’ve been working here, I’ve worked outside 9-6:00ish maybe two or three times, and only for an hour or two each time. It also helps that I have literally no way of checking my work email or Webex on my phone. (I can log in from my personal laptop but I usually don’t)

      1. Elenna*

        Oh, and it definitely helps that my parents’ house is big enough that I can have my personal laptop in my room and my work laptop in the basement, so I’d have to go down two flights of stairs to access my work laptop.

    8. DarthVelma*

      I came to the comments to say exactly this. I turn off the work computer at 4pm. I don’t turn it back on until 7am the next workday morning. It stays off all weekend. I also turn off the email function and Teams on my phone at the end of every work day. If someone wants to contact me, it has to be a big enough emergency to justify actually calling me.

      And as much as I hate stairs, living in a two-story house has helped. I don’t just shut down the computer, I get up, walk downstairs, and start dinner prep. It may be the world’s shortest commute, but it makes a really nice separation point between “work” and “home”.

    9. NYWeasel*

      I’ve developed a full routine, which starts with “facilities” (me) turning on my office light after breakfast but before I get ready, and ends with “security” (also me) turning out the light at the end of the day. Having a visual/physical cue helps me shut my brain off. I’ve really gotten a much better balance since working from home!

    10. Persephone*

      I do this, too, much to the dismay of our IT team, who decided to start running patches at night, which led to this discussion. Note: our IT is located in an affordable mid-sized city, while I live and work in a HCOLA.

      Me: can I patch manually? The sound of my laptop constantly restarting keeps me up at night.
      IT: why is your laptop in the same room as you? You should keep it in your designated workspace.
      Me: there’s no other room to put it in. My designated workspace is ALSO my designated sleep space.
      IT: uh… I’ll see what I can do.

    11. Wintermute*

      I am sure your IT department thanks you.

      It’s rather staggering. every time a patch to some backend software comes out that breaks compatibility with clients that haven’t been updated yet or otherwise means that unpatched old versions won’t work any more we TRY to give users a few weeks of lead time (unless it’s so critical we cannot afford to). Despite this we’ll get dozens of calls stating “I get an error when I try to use this software” and we go look and see we pushed the client update out four weeks ago, and tell them to restart and try again… and it works. The problem was they hadn’t restarted their PC in the month since the update went out.

    12. I'm just here for the cats*

      Another thing that worked for me is completely removing the work.computer donuts.oit of site. So I either stashed the computer and.notenooks in a file or put them on in a desk.drawer.

    13. Mr. Shark*

      In this WFH time I used to have my laptop on all the time, because I have one big screen and I often would stream shows/movies from my work laptop. But they actually disallowed streaming, so now I have to switch to my other computer or watch in my living room on my big TV. If I switch to my home laptop, I disconnect the big monitor from my work laptop and connect it to my home laptop. It has actually made it a little easier to disconnect, because I don’t have it open all the time and don’t have the big monitor to do work on.
      So by removing my ability to stream, my work actually improved work/life balance because I was no longer able to just jump on my laptop and work unless I just wanted to use the laptop screen (which is too small for most of the work I do).

    14. Liz*

      I do this as well, and as my “office” is my dining room table, every friday, or day before I’m going to be off for an extended period of time, I not only shut down, but move it over to a side table, so my DR table is clear. and then the night before I go back to work, i set it all up again. Since I don’t have a decidated room i can make into an office, this helps a bit.

    15. Sammi*

      I put my Skype on “show offline” – some know I’m still there, but for the majority, I’m not there. I do it at 4:30 to 5pm

  4. LawLady*

    My job (biglaw associate) has always required pretty much round the clock availability, so this isn’t particularly new to me. But I’m incredibly lucky to have an office in my apartment. It really does help to have a designated space for work, so that work doesn’t invade my living space. It’s still a little different (and gloriously, now my dogs are in my workspace), but it’s so much easier to separate work and life when there are distinct physical spaces.

    I do really like the schedule flexibility of working from home. I take my dog for a 20 minute walk every afternoon, and it’s a great reset. That just wouldn’t be feasible working in the office.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Similar! I have mixed feelings about home vs. office in terms of where I’m most effective, but I was ALWAYS expected to respond to emails at night and on weekends. That part is not really a change. If anything, it’s better, since I now have a proper desk setup at home instead of laptop on my knees on the sofa.

  5. Justin*

    It’s interesting the person thriving is neurodivergent as that has been the case for more (after an initial rough adjustment doom scrolling in NYC last spring)

  6. J.E.*

    I’ve loved working from home. I’m non exempt so I’m not encouraged to work over time. Even if I did, I work for state higher ed, so I’d be compensated in comp time instead of extra money. Say I did have to do something after hours, it’s much easier to just log on and get it knocked out while I’m on the couch watching South Park. I love being able to get household errands knocked out on my breaks instead of having to cram that kind of stuff in during the evenings and weekends when I’d rather do other things. It’s been great getting to sleep in later because I don’t have to commute. I’ve enjoyed it to such a degree that I’m considering looking for a fully remote job. I will say I’ve been lucky that my employer doesn’t make us install spyware to monitor us all day. I’d probably feel differently if I were being watched all day.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      I am sooooo hoping that one thing our state higher ed system learns in response to this thang is that people like you and the amazing person on my team who can totally work from home should be ALLOWED TO DO SO. Up until now it’s been a total no for Reasons, but those Reasons are spurious and have to do with bad management not operational efficiency.

      If my person, who is a hero and a patriot (not in the political sense, just my appreciative whimsy), is not allowed to continue to work from home, they’ll likely quit and find a new job, and I won’t blame them.

      1. J.E.*

        There are lots of behind the scenes jobs on college campuses that don’t directly interact with students and could be done anywhere there is an internet connection. As for how it’s perceived by students/their parents to not see staff in every office, lots of these jobs are located in tucked away offices and aren’t out on view so the students don’t see them anyway unless they have to go to a specific department for a specific thing. Like your institution, mine had previously no to remote work as well, but then we had to do it and they found that people could adapt and the work is still getting done. Higher ed can be slow to adapt to changes like this, but when they had to do it they did and I’m hoping more flexibility comes out of this.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Yes! My institution has told us a couple of times that they want us back in the office on X date (and then walked it back), with the argument that “if students are going to be on campus, it’s important that we are in our offices to assist them!” Meanwhile, back in reality… if a student even gets close enough to my office to tell whether I’m there, they’re lost. I don’t love everything about working from home, and I look forward to having the option of going into the office sometimes, but I’ve spent a year proving that 95% of my job can absolutely be done remotely; if we go back to No WFH Under Any Circumstances because someone feels I need to be there to give that hypothetical lost student directions to the bathroom, I’m going to be pretty ticked off.

  7. Madeleine Matilda*

    I try as much as possible to sign off of my computer within 30 minutes of my end of day time and don’t check email in off hours unless we are in the middle of an urgent issue. I work on a laptop so when I log off, I move it to another area out of sight. My co-workers and I have loved not having the daily commute in the DC area which ate up 90-120 minutes of my day and meant getting up early. The down side is that we have work on hold until we can go back to the office and only virtual interaction isn’t the same as seeing people face to face.

    1. Annie Jean*

      Fellow DC’er here and my goodness not having to commute is the BEST. I live with my sister and even though we’re together 24/7 now, we’re both in such better moods not having to deal with the metro/bus every day!

      1. Elenna*

        SAME my commute was 2 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evening and my god I do not miss it at ALL. Although to be fair, the distance is because I’m living with my parents. I was planning to start house-hunting in April 2020, but that hasn’t happened yet for obvious reasons.

  8. HotSauce*

    I was falling into this in the beginning, but several months in I got into a habit of powering completely down and putting my out of office on with an emergency contact number on my outgoing message along with my office hours. That has helped tremendously.

  9. Spearmint*

    I guess I may be the exception, but I’ve found work from home has improved my work-life balance. I’m judged more on what I have accomplished than on appearances (like how long my butt is in the seat). This means that, for example, if I only have 3-4 hours of work in a day, I can spend the rest of the day on chores, goofing off, etc. (while monitoring my email) without being judged. Occasionally I’ve even run to the grocery store or done other errands during work hours. This is how salaried work *should* work, but I’ve found it has only been possible with WFH. It’s so freeing to not feel like I have to pretend to be working 8 hours all day every day.

    I suppose it helps that I don’t have trouble compartmentalizing between work and non-work. At the end of the day, my laptop, work notebook, and work phone all go into my laptop case. I refuse to have work email on my personal phone, and no one has pressured me to do so. My boss very rarely contacts me on evenings and weekends, and I would work hard to set clear boundaries if they did. When I’m off work, I don’t worry too much about work, and even when I do it just makes me want to avoid work stuff more rather than anxiously check my email or work on low stakes projects on a Saturday.

    1. Spearmint*

      I should also add I’ve had some friends in multiple industries with similar experiences as well.

    2. AnotherAcademicAdmin*

      This has been my experience, too. I can be completely available even if I’m not sitting at my desk right that second. It’s made me ponder looking for a job that is remote. Right now I’m in higher ed and although I suspect they’ll have to be more flexible about WFH–especially considering they’ve eliminated snow days due to us being able to work from home–they feeling that students need to see a campus filled with people does make sense. I love my what I do, but I feel like I’ve seen that light on what true work/life balance is.

      1. J.E.*

        I work in higher ed too and I know exactly how you feel. I get that as a college campus there are some things that cannot be done remotely, but there are quite a few jobs that don’t involve working directly with students or the public, that are more like traditional office jobs that could be done remotely.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          Also in higher ed and this has been pretty good for me in general. I am able to focus more on things I need to do without being in a busy office and being interrupted all the time; I get overstimulated in that environment. I have been working more, but with the lack of commute, I don’t really mind; my commute really killed a lot of time in my day.

          I would love for some WFH to remain an option once things are better. This way I could do the administrative tasks in an environment that meets my needs, and I can devote my on-campus time solely to people-related tasks. I understand I would be unlikely to only have to go in once a week, but even 2 days working from home, and 3 days in the office would be a help in terms of concentrating on tasks, serving students more fully, and making my life a bit more pleasant.

          1. FiveWheels*

            I’m unusual in that a split would be worse for me, because it would ruin my sleep schedule.

            Honestly what I think needs to happen is in the After Times, if a job can be done remotely, the employee should decide. Want to go in? Go on. Want to WFH? WFH!

        2. Belle of the Midwest*

          I work in higher ed (I’m a career advisor, formerly academic advisor) and this week marks one year that we were sent home with laptops to work for two weeks. We do direct service to students. Our entire campus shut down for nearly six months and while we’ve been back an a rotating skeleton crew since August, the majority of the students still wanted to talk to us online rather than leave their dorm rooms or off-campus housing, From March until May last year, we went into learning mode. We figured out how to do nearly every part of our jobs online–student meetings, workshops, teaching (all on Zoom), career fairs and employer panels (all on Handshake), orientation, etc. Our enrollment only dipped slightly, and while our students are really tired of online classes, they have appreciated the flexibility of being able to keep an appointment when they’ve had car trouble or got out of work late and need to do their video appointment from a break room or a parked car. Our directors are actually looking at ways to do hybrid schedules where we are on campus some of the time and remote some of the time.
          And honestly. . .in some ways, I’ve worked harder and been more productive this last year than the one preceding it. As long as the students get the attention they need in a timely manner, they don’t care whether you are in the same room or three states away (one of our staff members ended up stuck in Florida for three weeks when the pandemic first hit and she didn’t miss a single student meeting).

      2. Esmeralda*

        I think higher ed is going to be less flexible. (I work in higher ed.) First, because it’s actually conservative regarding employment for anyone who is not a tenured professor. Second because it tends not to be very nimble in changing structures. Third because it’s often strongly wedded to “how will this look to the kids and more importantly to their parents and really importantly to the state legislature (for state schools).”

      3. Foxgloves*

        Also higher ed, in a role which is explicitly focused on online education (its been a REALLY fun year…). Fortunately my boss is a BIG fan of WFH so I know I’ll be allowed to work in the office some days and from home on others with no pushback, but totally agree that the pressure from Above to have a campus full of people is real….

        1. J.E.*

          A lot of support staff positions on college campuses are tucked away in offices and students don’t even see a lot of us. They don’t even know we’re there or what we do, so while I agree there is pressure to have a campus full of people, I don’t get why that should apply to all positions if they don’t interact directly with students. It will be interesting to see if higher ed is quicker to adapt to change after this. Higher ed has often been slow to adapt, but this year, it flat out had to and the work still got done.

    3. Software dev*

      Yep, this is where I am at as well. I probably rarely work 8 full hours, but my work isn’t suffering. I am always responsive on Slack. Somedays I am highly focused and productive and other days I start at 10 and leave at 4 and never worry about it. I recently got a new title because my performance is so good. Turns out that actually being at a computer for 8 hours is not some kind of guaranty of productivity.

    4. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      Same. I work in bursts of productivity and then need downtime to give my brain a break.

      At the office, I had to physically leave my cube to get the downtime because even reading a few paragraphs of an e-book was frowned upon.

      At home, I just. . . do whatever I want when I need a break. Stay at my desk and read for leisure or watch TV, or get up and do something in the house or yard (there is *always* something that needs doing), or drive to the store for a pickup order.

      If I’m working past the normal end of day, I flip all my statuses to “away” or “offline” so no one pings me with a question.

      My job is 70% brain work, 30% typing out my thoughts, so I’m never really fully disconnected from work anyway. If my brain tosses out a solution to a sticky problem on Saturday afternoon when I’m at the park, it’s in my best interest to pull out my phone and make some verbal notes so I can pick up the train of thought on Monday.

    5. nnn*

      That’s my experience as well. I started working from home long before the pandemic, and I find my life is so much lower stress and I have more usable hours in the day simply because of eliminating the work of “wake up in time to work out in time to shower in time to do my hair and makeup in time to get out the door in time to get on the subway in time to get to the office on time.”

      I wake up later, go to bed later, start work earlier, and end work earlier.

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      This has been my experience, too. I never have a day where I don’t have enough work to fill my 9 hours*, but being able to take the 2:00 PM grocery pick up slot or fold clothes during a call (where I have to be paying enough attention that I can’t do other work) has made me wonder how I’m going to manage when we do go back to the office. I can also completely turn off at the end of the day; I do have to work if there’s an emergency, but it’s rare there’s one I don’t know about (I work weather-related emergencies) and even if there is, the person who calls me in to work knows to call my personal cell if they don’t reach me immediately on my work cell. It helps I trust that person to never, ever call my personal cell if it isn’t an actual emergency :)

      *we work a flex schedule

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Adding, since there’s some conversation about this below: my husband is a teacher who has been in-person since the fall and our daycare-age children have been going to daycare since last summer. When they were all home, my husband handled the kids during the day because his school got *very* lax on requirements for both teacher and students (and his students liked seeing our kids). That, plus being fortunate enough to have room for a separate office space in our house, certainly plays into my “I like it” opinion of WFH…even though I thought I’d despise it when we started last March.

    7. CSI*

      I also have found it has really improved the balance, but I am very lucky have a few factors really working in my favour:

      1) a separate physical office in home that we don’t go into when we’re not working.

      2) I’m in a billing profession, so I’m judged by the hours I put in. I’m also a partner now and in control of my own practice.

      3) I’m currently working at 60% budget (and income) which means I both have to control how much I work and can control how much I work without it hurting my performance.

      4) I have a toddler and am pregnant so my non-work time is distinctly spoken for. I have definitely taken calls with the baby around, and have had to juggle, but I try to be OFF when I’m off so I can be with my family.

    8. Liz*

      I’m the same with you re: work email on my personal phone. Thankfully its not a requirement, and both my bosses will text me if ANYTYHING emergent ever comes up, which it never has, so they def. don’t abuse that at all

  10. Ñbrevu*

    Covid hasn’t necessarily killed work-life balance, but it has destroyed a virtual wall that separated work life from home life, and that it not good at all. Of course, for some people that wall never existed at all, either because they worked from home or because their job was so demanding/they were such workaholics that the wall didn’t really exist before.

    For all we like to shit on commute*, it served as a separation between work and life, a liminal space of sorts that your mind could interpret as “time to switch”. Now, my leisure room is less than five metres away from my job room, and for a lot of people there isn’t even a separate room. And the psychological effects are there even if you take your hours seriously and close your work computer as soon as are allowed to. I still take a shower every day before starting work, and there are some small rituals here and there, but it’s not the same, not even close.

    I’m really looking forward for the day where I’m vaccinated and the amount of contagions/deaths is low enough for me to feel confident and finally go to the office again.

    * Depends a lot on many factors, for sure. I’m not from the USofA and in my country we have good public transport, so I used to take the bus. With about 45-50 minutes per travel, to me it was more than 1 hour and a half that I could enjoy reading. I actually miss it a lot. I guess that if you need to drive for 1 hour and then another hour back, it’s not very fun.

    1. hlyssande*

      Yes, I struggle with this exactly. The commute seems to be essential for me to switch between work and home mode. I’ve created a very strict routine for my work days that includes the commute and a stop for breakfast and during the last year I’ve been absolutely useless without it when trying to WFH.

      It also doesn’t help that I don’t have a good setup in my apartment for WFH – no desk, no shiny extra wide monitors and docking station, no ergo keyboard. If I’m WFH the switch between work and leisure is which laptop I’m using. I don’t like it.

    2. AGD*

      Yeah, this is me. Demanding job in a field that prizes overwork (academia), never really established any work-life balance in the first place, but what little I had was predicated on the idea that I could at least try to leave my work in the office and then get to go home and do something else all evening.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Sorry, but I never looked at my hour long + commute as a transition between work and life.
      Spending 2 hours of the day in my car was not, and never will be relaxing. It was a complete and utter waste of time and gas to sit in traffic.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Exactly! If I wanted to sit and read from 8-8.45, I can still do that now. I could even ride a bus away from home and then back if I needed commuting to get me in the mood. WFH doesn’t take that away, it just makes it optional.

    4. allathian*

      For me, WFH hasn’t killed work-life balance. Perhaps that’s because I’m better than some at compartmentalizing between work and leisure in my head. Like I posted above, I use the same monitor for work and for my personal computing stuff, although I use my work laptop for work. My job isn’t one where I’d have to be prepared to deal with emergencies at all times, but if there’s an issue that might need my input outside normal working hours, I’ve occasionally agreed to be on call for a few hours. So far, it hasn’t happened more than twice in my nearly 14 years at my current job.

      I do realize that I’m in a very privileged position in that we have a big enough house for both my husband and me to work in different rooms, and even on different floors, and for our son to do distance learning at home if necessary. He’s currently at school, which helps, but even with him at home it would be workable, he’s a diligent and motivated kid and doesn’t need constant supervision. His teacher’s also very good at ensuring the work gets done when they’re remote. Our current numbers are bad enough, though, that I feel it’s only a matter of time before elementary-age kids go remote. Kids in any school above elementary are already remote.

      I like to shower in the evening and I don’t wear makeup at work unless I’m going to a conference or we have external guests and I’m dressing up. I mostly dress the same way I would dress for the office, although now I’m wearing leggings rather than jeans and no shoes, and my knitted pullover is too threadbare for the office. I’ve never understood the rationale that people work better when they dress for the part. For me, the simple discomfort of wearing stylish clothes outweighs any advantage I might get out of wearing nicer clothes. For all I know, it might be a low-level sensory issue, and I definitely get that discomfort with a mask as well.

      My commute was about 45 minutes door-to-door, and I’m very glad to get those 90 minutes back. Sure, the commute is a transition ritual, and definitely something I valued when my son was younger and it was pretty much the only time when he was awake that I had completely to myself. But now that he’s a tween and enjoys playing on his computer with his friends, I can schedule that me-time even when he’s at home and I definitely don’t miss the commute. This doesn’t mean that he spends all evening in his room, not at all, just that I don’t have to be constantly available for him when he’s at home. We’ve also definitely spent more time together as a family this year than at any time since I went back to work after maternity leave, and I love it.

      If you discount the potential danger of catching Covid, my biggest gripe with this period has been that there’s very little to distinguish one day from another. Sure, for us there’s a difference between weekends and workdays, but it’s just more of the same week after week, month after month, with no end in sight. I admit it’s getting me down a bit. Sure, social engagements can be exhausting, but if there aren’t too many of them, they’re something a bit out of the ordinary. I’m starting to miss them…

  11. sophie*

    A lot of us never even got the chance to work from home. Many of us are essential workers (or people whose bosses insist they’re essential, even though their jobs could easily be done from home). Some of us still have to do those long commutes. And our work-life balance is messed up too – we’re all being stretched to the limit and asked to work longer hours.

    I wish everyone would stop assuming that everyone has a cushy work-from-home job and that we’re all working from laptops in our pajamas. Because a lot of us feel really ignored.

    1. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      I see you, sophie. I’m sorry. We didn’t address any of these things in the last year, and it shows. That’s the #murican way.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      And at the same time, most of you are probably essential enough that you have to be physically in the workplace – but not so essential that you qualify for an early vaccine. It’s all kinds of messed up.

    3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I would like to see more spaces created for people to talk about their experiences as essential and in-person workers during COVID. All of the chatter I see online and in media is about the new WFH reality. I don’t actually have a good sense of what other people are dealing with, at all. The most I ever see is a pious, cover-your-butt remark tacked on the end of an article. Something like “of course, not everyone can work from home” – after five pages about the new WFH reality.

      1. sophie*

        it’s been awful. we still get yelled at if we ask for time off. I’ve had exactly two days off since March 2020. i asked HR for a week off and the next week I got written up for “unrelated” reasons.

        1. allathian*

          I’m so sorry your employers are jerks.

          I do think, though, that if the job is such that it can be done from home, it should be done from home, if only to keep those who actually do have to come in because their job can’t be done remotely safer.

          Many essential workers who don’t have in-person jobs can and do WFH.

          To be fair, Alison’s article is about how WFH affects work-life balance, so that’s what most of the comments are focused on. Maybe you could post something about this in the Friday open thread?

          1. DireRaven*

            Those of us in my workplace whose jobs technically could be done from home have to come into the office because “it is not fair to those whose jobs require physical presence” (and I think it is also because they want to justify what they spend on the monthly lease for the office space). We were doing work from home on a rotating basis and just as my husband and I decided to actually spend money on a real setup for me (albeit a proper desk, laptop docking station with monitor and keyboard and chair in the living room, maybe a privacy screen – all of which I had picked out and was about to order once I got my bonus, which, of course, was never distributed) TPTB decided to recall us back to the office full time.

      2. Retail Not Retail*

        I feel like there’s this mentality that people only read articles/thinkpieces on computers (never phones) and people only use computers when they have work/college, never on their own free time.

        So if articles are only read on computers and computers are for working and if you work on a computer CLEARLY you can work from home, articles are for people working from home on their computers.

        I’ve been working the whole time onsite, we’ve had half our team transfer or quit, and I’m lucky because I’m outside and don’t have to deal with the public. If i were still in grocery world, I’d deal with covid customers all day then browse here or other websites that discuss the new style of working… i’d have lost it. (As it is, you are NOT allowed to simultaneously complain about working from home and wearing a mask because you are more than welcome to wear one 40 hours a week.)

      3. Exhausted Frontline Worker*

        +10000000. I’ve posted a bit over the past year on what it’s been like as an essential worker this past year, and also want more spaces to process it outside of just my coworkers. I think both the majority of people who write into this blog and many journalists have been WFH this past year, so there’s a cultural blindspot and it feels like everyone is focused on the WFH experience. So it shouldn’t be surprising this is happening, but feeling invisible still sucks.

    4. Skippy*

      Thank you for saying this. I work in a field that has been devastated by the pandemic, so I’m not currently employed, but when I do eventually go back to work, I will probably be going to an office most days, if not every day. There’s a huge gap emerging between workers who can work remotely and those who can’t, and I don’t think we’ve considered the impact that will have on society as a whole.

    5. Ellen Ripley*

      +million. One stat I saw was that only 40% of people in the US were WFH, even at the height of lockdown. That’s not even half, yet it’s dominated the discourse (because it’s new-ish, and those are the people with extra time and extra money). There’s lots of conversation about WFH and some about the unemployed, but zilch about everyone else.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        This! My job could theoretically be WFH (phone/live chat customer service for a manufacturing company) but we were never given the option. I’ve been coming into the office (while pregnant) since June 1 (we shutdown completely March 15-May 31).

        COVID really peaked locally in November and I caught it from my boss. Luckily I had a mild case and baby seems unaffected, but it could have been so much worse!

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        It’s part of a…cultural (?) Silence about the retail, food service and casework industries. Sometimes a politician will talk about the trades, but that’s not as common either

      3. Sophie*

        exactly! i don’t understand why every website assumes everyone has a WFH job, almost no one i know irl actually does. I was hoping Ask A Manager would be the one place to acknowledge us :(

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Of course you exist and should be acknowledged, and lots of columns here have done that. This one in particular was about how working from home is impacting people.

  12. TimeTravlR*

    I know I am blessed to have a boss who not only doesn’t expect me to work just because I might no have anything better to do, but also insists that the end of the workday is the end of the workday. She helps us maintain balance. For my part, I am also fortunate to have a separate room that is my sewing room/office so I can walk away. I turn the laptop off at the end of the day so even if am in there sewing, I am not tempted to just take care of something real quick.

  13. Bagpuss*

    I was WFH for several months at the start of the lockdown – I’m lucky to have the space which allowed me to set up my spare bedroom as a home office so I could literally close the door on work at the end of the day.

    I’ve since returned to the office as part of the skeleton staff, as we can’t all be fully remote. I prefer it (although I am sure that this also reflects the fact that when I was working from home it was at the start before we’d worked out all the practicalities, and while we had a lot of people, including my assistant, furloughed, so it was harder objectively for other reasons than the work-life balance) but I did find it harder to switch off.
    It would have been far worse if I didn’t have the luxury of being able to shut a door on it all.

    I’ve always consciously tried to stay late in the office when I needed to, rather than take anything home, to maintain that division, and I did find that more difficult when I was working from home, even after shutting everything work-related into once room.

  14. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    I’m worried about going back to the office b/c I can’t be as productive there as I am at home. I’ve shared this with my CEO: there’s no way I could have accomplished what I did last year if I hadn’t been home. There were a couple of months of poor work-life balance but that’s normal for my fall-even based job. I’m not sure how to that once we’re back in the office. I also love the shit out of not spending emotional capital on hair and makeup, dressing for work, and commuting. I know that I don’t *have* to spend it on hair/makeup/clothes, but it’s ingrained in me. Plus, I could NOT bear it if people told me I looked tired all the time b/c I’m not wearing makeup.

    1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      I would gladly give up makeup and stylish hair forever if women weren’t punished in the workplace for not looking “professional” without it.

      For most of the pandemic, we weren’t required to turn on our cameras. However, there has been a small but vocal contingent wailing about how hard it is to develop interdepartmental relationships if they can’t see anyone’s face. So a new rule came down and everyone is expected to be on camera for all meetings, even when it’s just a meeting with my own team members. I am pissed off that I have to go back to spending money and time on makeup. Especially when I’ll spend 30+ minutes on hair and makeup for a single 5-minute meeting that day.

      Women get a raw deal in the workplace.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        We just had the same thing happen! I find having my camera on very stressful, & am not a fan.

        And today I just read an article that posits Zoom fatigue is caused by… Using video cameras. (Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue)

      2. James*

        “However, there has been a small but vocal contingent wailing about how hard it is to develop interdepartmental relationships if they can’t see anyone’s face.”

        This is simply false. I’ve developed very good working relationships with people I’ve never seen, people who’s voices I’ve never heard. And I’m not talking folks that I email once a month–I’m talking people I work with constantly, usually several times a week if not several times a day. The idea that you need to see someone’s face to build a relationship with them is purely a personal idiosyncrasy. A valid one, sure, but NOT universal and while the company should provide the option (it’s cheap enough for them), they should not be making it a requirement to conform to one group’s personal tastes.

        Second, there are far better uses for screen real estate. I’ve said it before, but I stand by it. I have seen exactly one conference call where seeing a person mattered–when my son did a teleconference for a pre-surgical consultation, and the doctor needed him to do certain things (run, jump, etc) to determine if the thing they were doing surgery for was affecting motor function. Every other time I’ve seen someone’s face on the screen it was a detriment and a distraction. The reason to look at faces is socializing, not work; if you’re focused on the work screen real estate is better used for maps, diagrams, figures, and the like.

        Finally, while I personally like getting dressed for work (ten years as a field grunt and grew up with people who considered “awake” to mean “fully dressed and ready for work” will do that to you), I know at least three people who work best in their pajamas. I have never been on a project where it mattered, outside of client-facing roles. It’s the information and the work that matter for these jobs, not the outfit. If you can get the work done and give me high-quality deliverables sitting naked in the bathtub, hey, you do you! Just get me a report I can deliver to the client a few days before the deadline.

        Frankly I don’t see any situation where I would put my face on a conference call. I just don’t see any benefit from it.

        1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

          I’m old enough to have developed deep friendships, romantic relationships, and successful working relationships solely via voice-only phone calls because video calls didn’t exist.

          And every single video call I’ve had at work, I say Hi to the people and then block the incoming video so I’m not distracted by their movements and can concentrate on what is being said.

          Going forward, I’ll say *out loud* that I’m blocking the incoming video and make a big show out of it, to signal that it’s OK for them to block my video, too. And then I’ll just proceed as if I don’t have my camera on.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Can you came give that speech to my divisional director?

          I think my attitude is similar, because I worked with remote teams for years without videoconferencing, & it didn’t hurt our work one bit. I’m also an introvert, & that much close-up & personal viewing of faces exhausts me.

          We have run some webinars with ASL interpretation, & I am 100% on board with video for that or when someone who is hard of hearing needs to see a person’s mouth when they speak. Otherwise, it’s just annoying.

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I courted my wife by letter (postal mail) after meeting in face to face for a few months……..and video calls have had a massive positive impact on building long-distance relationships at work. Video all the time or even a lot of the time is not important, but some face-to-face online is a MASSIVE help in building morale within my organization across geographies.


        4. Helen*

          So agree with this! My office is one of four within the company and I’ve been working for them about 3 years – our team is spread out across three different offices and one permanently home working person. Of the team of about 16 – 6 I’ve never met face to face and I don’t think I’ve even seen their faces on video calls! Of the remainder, 4 of them I’ve met only twice. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out in getting to know them or forging connections in any way. In fact, I feel like I have better relationships with the one guy who works fully from home and one of the team from another office (one of the ones I’ve never met) than the 5 other people I spent 2 years working in an office with before the pandemic!
          Everyone’s different of course, and I do feel my particular industry had a bit of a leg up as we typically work very closely but remotely with our clients and are frequently based all around the country due to our need to have people within short distances of a variety of geographic locations, but it doesn’t feel like our work or the way we interact has suffered (most of my colleagues being workaholics anyway – I just switch everything off at the end of the day and they know that). There’s genuinely only one person in my office who’s desperate to get back in person and he’s a massive extrovert who LOVES chatting – he’s currently driving his housemate to distraction.

      3. Quill*

        I haven’t worn makeup since march 2020, precisely because not all of us had functional laptop cameras for zoom meetings.

        And by the time I was headed back into the office… if you can perceive me, you’re standing too close!

        My skin is SO MUCH better than literally any time before puberty, because as it turns out my pores despise everything besides lotion, sunscreen, and more lotion.

      4. allathian*

        I think it depends on the field and the national culture, at least to some extent. I work for the government and my job is not client-facing, so I don’t take pains with my appearance any more than the men who work in similar jobs do. I haven’t worn makeup at work, unless we have external visitors or I’m at a conference, for years. If someone says I look tired, I can shrug it off. Granted, I’m not particularly ambitious and would happily work at my current job for the next 20 years or so until I retire, so I do realize that my position is probably different from that of more ambitious female employees. It has to be said, though, that plenty of women who don’t wear makeup or style their hair have been promoted at my job, I’m not an outlier because I don’t wear makeup every day. I guess it’s an advantage that at nearly 50 I don’t have any wrinkles except the beginning of crow’s feet and my basic skin color is pretty even.

        It has to be said, though, that I’m in Finland and we’re notoriously frumpy. I embrace it, although I do admit that sometimes I think we go a bit too much the other way, women who take pains with their appearance are often dismissed as superficial, especially by other women. Obviously looking better is still an advantage, but taking pains to improve your looks is sometimes frowned on. I’m not completely blind to standards of grooming for women, before the pandemic I got a haircut (although I haven’t dyed my hair since my twenties and never to cover up the gray) once a month and I still go to the beautician about every six weeks to get rid of my facial hair. I suppose I could skip it for now, especially given the mask mandate (finally!) in public spaces, but I still do it for my mental health. I also want to support my favorite local business, and other than going there, I’m at home all the time except when I exercise outdoors. I do get it that many women feel more comfortable and confident when they wear makeup and know they look their best.

  15. MelonHelen*

    WFH has massively IMPROVED my work-life balance. I literally got back 3-4 hours a day of personal time, in addition to actually being able to be MORE available to work/available at earlier hours that are more in line with my big bosses. Even with having a weekly errand to drive to the office every Saturday to swap out physical files (I’m not allowed to do this during the week, while the remaining essential workers are in the building), I would chose to do my job this way for the rest of my working career if I could.

    1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      I had no idea how deeply sleep-deprived I have been for *decades* until WFH. I really, really, REALLY do not want to go back to getting up at 5:00 in the morning so my butt can be in my cubicle by 8:00. Then not getting home until 7:30 with several hours of chores in front of me.

      Pre-pandemic, I would eat in my car on the drive home, do the most minimal chores I could get away with, and fall into bed by 9:30 PM. Those two hours in the evening were not nearly enough to both take care of household responsibilities AND unwind. Weekends were 12-hour days of laundry, meal prep, cleaning, pet care, and yard work. Gods help me if I went to a party or game night at a friend’s house. I’d have to take a day off just to play catch-up.

      I genuinely dread the day when we get called back into the office.

      1. willow for now*

        Oh, the sleep deprivation! I have been taking a nap every day for a year, and it is wonderful. I also worked out that I can start later, so I also get to sleep in. Yes, that means I don’t quit until about 8 pm, but hey, I am not getting up at the crack of dawn, and for a night owl, it’s heavenly!

    2. Jules the First*

      Thank you for saying this…I’ve been feeling very alone in finding that Covid WFH has saved my sanity. I’m working the same number of hours a week, but I’m more productive (I may be doing 7-10 video calls a day, but I’m not wasting ten minutes running between buildings for each meeting), I’m better rested and more relaxed because I’m not commuting 2hrs/day, I’m reliably getting a proper lunch break, and my team says I’m more available and approachable. The real challenge will be figuring out how to retain these benefits when we reopen the office.

  16. Al*

    For me, it has been a Tale of Two Pandemics. At the beginning, my child and partner (teacher) were both home, I was responsible for a high stress work project and I felt like I was a failure at everything. Once child and partner were back to in-person school, WFH life was much better. Dinners were started at lunchtime, laundry was going while working and commute time was fabulous. For a bit at the end of the year, my child had a few extra weeks of virtual school and it was amazing how quickly my stress levels shot right back up.

    1. Ashley*

      I am really curious to see how the summer plays out for parents because while there is a push to reopen schools this year I can’t image summer camps open at the same level. So no parents don’t need the kids to be logged in, but younger kids still require supervision. And as more people get vaccinated I am wondering how offices are going to plan the transition.

      1. Distance Learning*

        I’m not sure where you are located, but I work at a summer camp in an area with a lot of camps (western North Carolina), and we are planning to open. We have a lot of covid restrictions in place, but because we’re outdoors we are actually safer than schools.

  17. Stormy Weather*

    I think Management in a lot of places expected this kind of response their demands prior to lockdown. I once had a grandboss who would send emails at 2:00 in the morning and get cranky when you didn’t answer him right away. When you traveled on business and met with a client for 8 hours, you were still expected to put in 8 hours back at the hotel for all your other projects.

    I’m a contractor and only get paid for 40 hours a week, so I find it really easy to log off the work computer by the end of the day.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      I’m half-time and I flatly refuse to check my email when I’m off. So far, so good. I may check it the night before I go in again, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I’m not in a job where urgent stuff comes up for me to deal with much, though, so this might not work for everyone.

      1. Liz*

        I’m full time and this is how my job is as well. If i’m off for a week, I MAY check my email the night before, just so I know what awaits me, but that’s about it. If i’m off, I’m off. and thankfully both my bosses and company respect that. Early on, we got a lot of emails saying make sure you take time for you, don’t work crazy hours just because you’re home and so on. Which was nice to hear.

        While there’s no set time for going back, my boss has told me i can work from home as long as I want to. Right now, I’m not comfortable doing so. But later down the road? When I’m vaccinated, and many more are, I may be more comfortable doing so, but def. not 5 days a week like I used to

  18. JelloStapler*

    It gave us more flexibility but also moments of lack of balance for sure due to our industry (higher education) being hit pretty hard by the pandemic.

  19. Empress Matilda*

    I don’t have too much of a problem with boundaries – I’m pretty good at shutting off the computer at the end of the day and not checking emails until the next morning. (It certainly helps that I have a work culture that supports this – I know not everyone does.)

    The problem is, now that my office is in my bedroom, I feel like my work is in my bedroom as well! I can’t tell you how many dreams I’ve had where my boss comes into my room while I’m sleeping; or sometimes my grandboss; or sometimes I’ll dream that there’s an entire team meeting taking place around my bed. Super fun new variation on the classic “showing up for work naked” theme.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I live in a studio apartment, so I have a similar problem. I’ve mitigated it by changing the lighting when I get off work.

      1. Wintermute*

        why am I picturing a “blue alert” bulb with color-changing lights, where you hit the button and a calm computer voice counts down and then all the lighting changes to soothing blue?

    2. pope suburban*

      This is what I despised about WFH. Work was always there, even when my phone was unplugged and my computer (My computer; I was not provided one or reimbursed for anything) was off. It felt like I was always working, a feeling that was not helped by the fact that I have been expected to go above and beyond on what is supposed to be my off time since I started here, pretty much. I was happy to go back, because my building is closed to the public, we are able to stay fairly isolated from each other as we work, and my colleagues are following masking and cleaning protocols. I’ve always had a very short commute, so it’s not like I’ve been losing appreciable time since I’ve been back. For me, I really, really need a strong separation between work stuff and home, and I hope to be able to maintain that going forward.

  20. tanklizard*

    The work-life balance I’m having problems with is taking a sick day. It used to be if I wasn’t feeling well I took a sick day and didn’t come into the office but now the office is in my house. If I’m not feeling well that doesn’t mean I’m so sick I can’t get out of bed, I’d probably call an ambulance for that. I can still stumble downstairs and watch tv, cook meals, and screw around on my personnel computer, things I want to do while relaxing and recuperating. Now that my work computer has invaded my house I feel guilty if I take a sick day and not do work instead of WFH while sick. When I’m sick I just want to take the day off and be sick, not be on the work computer doing data entry and answering emails all the while my nose is running like a faucet.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      More frivolously, I missed having snow days this year. We’ve had a couple weather closures, and in the before times, we got the day off. Now, you’re working from home or else.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s the one bad thing about them realizing we actually can work from home… no more snow days!

    2. CheeryO*

      Same. I haven’t taken a single sick day in the last year, when usually I’d take a few real sick days and a couple mental health days. It feels hard to justify taking a sick day now, especially since there are only so many vague illnesses that don’t warrant worrying about a Covid test and potential quarantine.

    3. Loredena Frisealach*

      Oof. I have this problem too! Just this morning I was feeling poorly, queasy stomach and headache, but nothing that prevents sitting at my desk and working since I’m home anyway…

      It’s sometimes hard to remember that yes, I’m entitled to just be sick and not work occasionally.

    4. Emmie*

      I have worked remotely full-time for more than five years. I still feel terrible calling off sick. I started asking myself these questions lately, and it helps.

      – Will I be productive today?
      – Will rest help me recover?
      – Can I meet my goals today feeling like this?
      – Will the side effects of my sickness, or medicine impact my productivity?

      Set an arbitrary productivity percentage for your sick days if you need to. If you cannot meet 50% or 75% of your tasks, give yourself permission to call of sick. We also need to normalize disconnected sick days in the states. Our bodies need time to rest and recover. Mental health or unplanned break days are important too.

      I expect that this is good practice for those who return to office environments. I hope that coming to the office sick is less acceptable in the post-COVID future, and that companies give sick / flex work environment options to support this.

  21. Allegra*

    My job had excellent work-life balance before the pandemic, and I’ve been really grateful that that atmosphere has continued. We’ve been given a handful of company-wide closures over the last year as “screen break days”, and parents/caretakers/folks who need flexibility have had free rein to shift their schedules as needed while keeping the general expectation of “nobody works past their 7.5h a day and nobody works on the weekend”. We got an EAP added to our benefits in the summer for no extra charge and our HR person sends out reminders on services available through it.

    However I personally haven’t been doing great, despite all the support. I have a harder time focusing during the day (anxiety/depression flares), so I’ll work later to try and still get in a full workday and stay current if I accidentally spaced for an hour. (“Late” here means “maximum of 7pm” so I know that’s still better than a lot of people.) I think it’s just having my home be my workplace/doctor’s office/place of worship/gym/bar/cafe that’s building up to be too much.

  22. Lacey*

    I’m hourly, so there’s absolutely no push for me to be available after hours. I also sign out of email and slack so I don’t get any notices that drag my brain back to work in my off hours.

    And, since our work tends to be either super busy or super slow, it’s nice that I can read a book or something in a comfy chair while I wait, instead of making banal chit-chat with my coworkers.

  23. SBH*

    Both myself and my partner work for the same firm in different roles. She works the weekends, I don’t. Trying to explain to colleagues that there isn’t a single day in my home where I can escape work without sounding like a negative, work-hating grinch has been a struggle. (Not to mention the physical space in our tiny apartment we’ve had to repurpose, rent free from o the company, as ‘office space’ for over a year, or the expectation that I purchase & supply my own office furniture.) COVID has been a huge disruptor, and in any disruption there’s the opportunity to uh, capitalize on it. I’ve definitely been capitalized upon. :/

  24. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    WFH has been a blessing to me. Office literally just had us drag our work computers home. I had a spare table I used until I found a desk I liked on Craigslist. I have the ability to start work earlier now that I don’t have a commute. I get things done faster too. Everything I did not like about working physically in the office went bye bye with WFH. Saving on car insurance and gas.

  25. CheeryO*

    I definitely appreciate the newfound flexibility. I usually take a long lunch or a couple extended breaks in the middle of the day, then work a bit later into the evening. It’s great – I work better in the late afternoon anyway, and I can get errands and a workout done when things are quiet in the middle of the day.

    I definitely feel like I need to be super-responsive at all times, so I’ll do a quick email check every 15-30 minutes even during a longer break, but it’s still worth it to me to have that level of flexibility in my schedule.

  26. 50/50*

    I’ve had a mixed experience of working from home and working from the office since last March.

    I worked from home for a few months – I was helping with the pandemic response every weekend, but I found I was able to do my normal work in ~10 hours during the week, so I never felt burned out. I was more proactive in getting assignments done because it felt like putting them off would just take away from my free hours.

    I later got a promotion with another department and totally new management chain. This job has some tasks that had to be done on location, but these tasks eventually became routinely schedule on some days, leaving other days available for work similar to what I had been doing from home. Unfortunately, management has not been supportive of WFH (to the point where they eliminated some reporting activities because they required remoting in during early morning/late night).

    I feel like my work/life balance was much more in line with my expectations when I was working from home than since I’ve had to come back to the office. The commute plays a roll in this (2hrs/day), but so much of it is made worse by the continuing pandemic and restrictions (which I’ve been good about following). There’s little opportunity for *life* in the work/life balance so every additional burden added by work is just that much more pronounced than it would have been otherwise.

    Thankful for the continue employment, but this attitude of gratitude is starting to grate.

  27. BangBoom*

    I feel so bad for people who are stuck on call all day. Our hours haven’t changed at all during the pandemic, so I’m still expected to do the 8-5. But once it’s five I’m off to do dog walks, cooking, working out, zooming family to watch shows — I’m busy! The idea that you have leave your house to be “busy” is wild to me as a homebody introvert. I’m doing stuff! And hell yeah it’s important.

  28. veronica*

    I just submitted the paperwork to reduce my hours Covid has messed with my work life balance because life keeps intruding on work. I can’t make it work early enough in the morning because the kids need to be driven to school or have help getting started on their home days. I can’t get a full day in when they are home. Even when I do go to the office I get texts and emails from their teachers if the kids fail to show up on zoom (they don’t text my husband though !?!). I used to work from home and be able to turn off work at night and on the weekends. Now it’s not getting done during work hours and so I feel stressed when I do try to unplug.

  29. James*

    I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

    The problem is, it’s not just MY job that affects this. My wife’s job does. My kids’ schooling does. I did not go into education for a variety of reasons, and needing to maintain discipline while my kids do remote learning basically means (given my personality and my children) that I can’t do my work while my kids are doing e-learning. That means I’m working late into the evenings. But none of the time I spend with the kids counts as quality time, either. If my wife has to record a lesson at home I have to keep the kids away. And she’s basically doing twice the work now (setting up in-person and remote lessons), so she’s exhausted when she comes home. This reduces our quality time. Last but not least, my job is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, and I have zero time to recover. I have spent the last year wishing I had fumes to run on. And to be clear, my wife is in the same boat.

    Don’t get me wrong, the company I work for is handling it great. Ample vacation time that I’m encouraged to use when I can, a lot of flexibility, and I really enjoy the work. And that was in place prior to the pandemic; that’s just how the company functions. I believe in what the company is doing AND I get compensated very well for it. It’s just that the pandemic has forced us to restructure our lives in ways that simply are not tenable long-term. Work is work, and now the only parts of life we get to see are work.

    1. Elenna*

      Yes – I strongly suspect that most of the people who have preferred WFH (and that includes me!) don’t have small children to worry about.

    2. Anon for this one*

      I can’t do my work while my kids are doing e-learning. That means I’m working late into the evenings. But none of the time I spend with the kids counts as quality time, either.
      You are lucky to have a company that lets you work “late into the evenings” as a substitute, then. I wonder why you prioritise their schooling over your work? It seems clear that work needs to be the priority right now.
      I have zero time to recover. I have spent the last year wishing I had fumes to run on. And to be clear, my wife is in the same boat.
      That’s the way managers/the company feel every time someone calls out with yet another crisis.

      1. Roci*

        This seems pretty harsh to a parent who is clearly struggling with unreasonable expectations by forces out of their control.
        Managers/the company have more options than parents who have to homeschool while working. A company is not a thing, it will survive if one person is out (or it won’t, which means it wasn’t a well-structured company). Managers can rebalance the workload and lower expectations for their workers struggling in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

        And seriously, “why don’t you prioritize your work over your kids’ schooling”… what do you think that looks like? Just leave your kids alone all day and don’t supervise them? Put them in front of the TV and have them repeat 3rd grade next year? Where are the kids supposed to go?

        I think it’s in very poor taste to see a parent commenting about how everyone working/learning from home at the same time is untenable, and respond “your bosses are struggling too. Why don’t you just…”

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, indeed. It very much depends on the age and personality of the kid as well. I guess I’m lucky in that my son, who was 10 last year when they were in remote school, is a motivated and pretty diligent student and he has a great teacher who was able to keep the kids mostly engaged during school hours. Sure there were more interruptions than there are when he’s not at home, but it was workable. Still, I was very happy when he was able to return to in-person school, and so was he. But I’m very glad I didn’t have to try and help a 6-year-old with remote school!

          1. James*

            “It very much depends on the age and personality of the kid as well.”

            Gods yes…..My older son is mostly content to read and play and do homework in his room unless something goes wrong. My other son….Yesterday while I was on a conference call he managed to hack my wife’s Amazon Fire passcode and purchase a Bubble Guppies movie without permission. The day before that he’d built a makeshift zip line in the back yard, then tried to convince his little sister to be the test pilot.

            My oldest is in first grade, so school doesn’t occupy a huge percent of the day–a few hours at most. Lots of time for the typical trouble small children get into.

      2. James*

        “That’s the way managers/the company feel every time someone calls out with yet another crisis.”

        I’m fully aware of the burden having someone call off places on the manager–I’ve been the manager responsible for dealing with it. But there are some differences. A good manager has contingency plans for when an employee has a personal crisis. People get sick, people have babies, people have relatives that get sick or die (I’ve had to manage teams where all of that happened). To not plan for that is to fail at planning. If a person is constantly having one crisis after another, you either address the issue or get rid of the employee (done that too).

        Secondly, there is a difference between a personal crisis disrupting plans, and creating a situation that is perpetual crisis. A personal crisis is finite, usually of short duration (otherwise you pull someone else into the role). Covid and work-from-home for parents has created a situation where they are in crisis mode all the time, with the end just now coming into view. After a year.

        “You are lucky to have a company that lets you work “late into the evenings” as a substitute, then.”

        Luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve worked for ten years to get to this point, and even here I’m only able to do it because the jobsite I manage happened to shut down this week and I spent the last month positioning myself to be able to be home.

        “I wonder why you prioritise their schooling over your work?”

        Because it’s easier to explain why I’m not available to complete a report than it is to explain to Child Protective Services and the truancy board why my children are not attending their virtual classes. My family has had a few run-ins with CPS (small town, the guy in charge has a vendetta against my family and has openly admitted it in court records); I’d rather avoid that.

        I’m also trying to maintain some normalcy for one of my children. He’s got Chiari Type 1 malformation, and is going in for surgery soon. Outcomes are best if the parents attempt to maintain normalcy–normal discipline, normal schedule, normal responsibilities in the household. There’s no such thing as safely removing a chunk of skull (which is what Chiari decompression surgery consists of at best; it gets vastly more dangerous if they need to do more), and as a parent I want to do everything I can to give him the best chance of not having negative outcomes. That’s why I’ve spent a month getting ready to not make work a priority for a bit.

        I also can’t expect my spouse to do it. I CAN work from home right now. My wife can’t. Since it’s possible for me to help with the kid’s schooling–however great the difficulty–and it’s simply not possible for her to help with it, the choice of who to have help the kids is pretty easy.

        I neither expect nor intend to garner sympathy here. My intent was to demonstrate that you lack information necessary to make the assessment you made. While some of my situation is unique (Chiari affects 1 in 1,000 people, most of whom are asymptomatic), much of it is widely applicable (kids get sick, kids have snow/weather days, most households have two working pareants, etc). I am including some details of my situation to demonstrate that there are things going on that you are unaware of, and that your presumptuous assumptions are based on ignorance of the reality of my situation. And there is nothing unique about that; the same could be said about any similar statement made to any commenter here. A blog comment cannot possibly give the full context of such a complex situation as being a working parent during the worst health crisis in a century.

        “It seems clear that work needs to be the priority right now.”

        No. In fact I’ve taken pains to position myself to where the work ISN’T a priority (at least, only actual priorities are the priority). But between the high priority tasks no one else in the company can do, and helping out with the kids’ school, and doing the chores necessary to keep the house running, this still doesn’t leave enough hours in the day. I’m only posting here because my son is on a Zoom call with his teacher and I routinely need to jump up and help with minor IT problems (my 5 year old and 7 year old aren’t great at figuring out keyboard shortcuts or figuring out work-arounds yet), and I can’t do the types of deep work I need to do when I’m constantly interrupted so I’ve just written off this hour as “not productive at work”.

  30. learnedthehardway*

    I’ve worked from home for over 10 years, and have never really had work/life balance. Or at least, I struggled to find work/life balance, realized that I had work/life flexibility, and have made that work for me. So, some days are long, others are short, and my schedule varies. I’m working a lot on weekends right now because I take my kid to and from school (and that eats into my workday during the week).

    Still, I like having things this way and it’s been kind of fun watching the rest of the world realize that working from home isn’t what they thought it was (attitudes previously varied from “you’re not really working” to “you’re available 24/7”, and all points in between).

    1. learnedthehardway*

      ETA – I really feel for families that have struggled to work from home, esp. with younger children or a home setup that isn’t conducive to separating home from work life.

      I have been able to choose my house and location with my home-office in mind, and my kids are now at an age when they’re pretty self-sufficient.

      It’s the people who used to comment negatively that I’m chuckling at. (Including the VP who complained several years ago that I was insufficiently dedicated, when I had to ring off a conference call at 7:45 PM because my young children were hungry. He seemed to think that my schedule should conform to his, despite the fact that he was 2 time zones away).

      1. Elenna*

        Oh no, how dare you prioritize YOUR CHILDREN’S HUNGER over being a 24/7 work machine! Clearly the problem lies entirely in your lack of dedication, and not at all in your VP’s warped priorities!

        *insert huge sarcastic eyeroll here*

  31. Susie Q*

    WFH has been a blessing. I’ve saved so much time and money on commuting. I actually cook dinner as opposed to just eating something up. I can get laundry and chores done throughout the day. I don’t have to spend 30-45 minutes making myself look nice because of beauty standards for women. If I am in a meeting where I won’t be expected to participate, just listen, I can multitask and walk on the treadmill at the same time. My company has always been bad with work life balance and I feel more empowered to force those boundaries.

    I’m also 10 weeks pregnant so it’s nice to deal with morning sickness in my own house as opposed to an office bathroom.

    1. DarthVelma*

      I’m curious how well things have worked out exercising during a meeting. I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet with either the treadmill or the exercise bike but I really want to.

      1. Hundydundy*

        I have a few meetings a week where I’m only listening and I don’t need to participate at all. I have a stepper next to my desk and I use that when I’m listening to those calls.

  32. Kat*

    As a non-exempt hourly employee WFH has drastically improved my work-life balance. But I think the non-exempt part is key because everyone I know who is exempt feels like they are working all the time. I think that is why non-exempt people aren’t usually allowed to WFH. I have been given flexibility to do things like log in a bit before my stated start time so I could take time to say hi to my kids while they had breakfast and make sure they got logged into their classes. And being home I could prep dinner while we ate lunch which before I’d have to get up early to do before work. I love to cook but I do not like to get up early. And I could work a little late if I took an extra break to help kids with homework or something (which is soooo much more pleasant in the early afternoon rather than 6pm when they – and me – are tired and/or hungry). I always make sure I work for a full 8 hours and am never away from my computer for more than 15-20 minutes outside of lunch but being able to put those 8 hours inside of a 10 hour block – without a commute – has been really nice. Its an unearned benefit though so I am preparing myself to going back to the way things were soon.

  33. Amethystmoon*

    There are options for socializing online and making sure you are unavailable after work. You could have family meeting time, for example, or book club, or Toastmasters, or online exercise classes. There should not be an automatic assumption that people are doing nothing with their free time.

    1. James*

      “There should not be an automatic assumption that people are doing nothing with their free time.”

      I would put it a different way. I would say that the assumption should be that the company gets zero say in the employee’s life during the time they aren’t on the clock (outside of a narrow range of exceptions, such as committing crimes or violating clearly spelled-out codes of conduct). If I want to do nothing with my free time, so what? You’re not paying me, so it’s my time.

      The idea that we must be available whenever we are not actually scheduled for some other activity has a name: being on-call. There are cases where this is warranted–my cousin, for example, is a cop, a volunteer EMT, and a 911 coordinator, so he’s on call 24/7–but these should be limited to emergency responders and similar. And if you are on call, the law says you need to be paid for it.

      If I’m scheduled to work 10 hours a day (standard in my industry), my employer is not being generous by leaving me alone for those other 14 hours. I might be generous and work more–I’m in a hotel 40 weeks a year, what else am I going to do?–but that’s MY choice. If I want to sit on my butt and watch crappy TV, that’s my choice too. The key factor is: my choice. Slavery is illegal; the company doesn’t own me. The company doesn’t get to say “Well you’ve got nothing else to do, you need to work.”

      This isn’t just me saying this, by the way. Worker fatigue has come under increased scrutiny from OSHA. I have been on two sites where people have died from work-related accidents, and in both cases fatigue played a central role. Nearly been killed myself that way more than once. And this isn’t unusual. Fatigue is a trigger state, after all. Fatigue management is increasingly prominent in safety plans, and is going to become more so. And increasingly office work is being targeted by safety officers. We’ve become reasonably good as a society at keeping workers on hazardous sites safe; now the rate of office injuries is coming to light, and it’s not pretty. I expect that OSHA is going to have some very pointed things to say about office worker fatigue fairly soon.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Well I agree that some jobs are on call, but that did not seem to be the kind specified in the OP’s letter. Obviously it is differently for emergency responders and such. But if one has a 9-5 office job, as most of these letters imply, then certainly there should be some boundaries drawn.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          BTW I was at a speech contest one year and one of the participants was a police officer. So they do have some balance.

        2. allathian*

          Indeed, there should. But the thing that bothers me is that some people are forced to more or less invent plans if they don’t want to work all hours of the day. It should be enough to say you need the downtime and it’s yours to do what you want to do, even if it’s just to sit on the couch and watch crappy TV. The whole attitude where you need to be working if you aren’t doing anything else productive is toxic and needs to go. I guess I’m very lucky in that I’ve never had to enforce those boundaries, when I log off, I log off and don’t get tempted to read my work email, and what’s more, nobody expects me to.

          Sure, I’ve had busy periods when I’ve worked 6 days a week, 9 or 10 hours a day, so 50 to 60 hours total. But then when the busy period’s over, I’ve been able to work 30-hour weeks and sometimes take full days off on my banked working hours. I’m not in the US, I’m salaried, and I have an expected number of working hours I should aim for every week and that my employer keeps track of, but there’s lots of flexibility. Knowing that I can take the time when I need to rest makes me more likely to make an extra effort for my employer when it’s truly necessary.

        3. James*

          That was my point.

          The idea that you need to be busy in order to not be at work basically views the employee as on-call at all times–and that’s wrong. For most jobs the assumption should be “The employee is available from 9 to 5” (or whatever the hours are), and after that the employer has zero say in the employee’s schedule. The employee shouldn’t need to justify not being at work by saying they’re doing X, Y, and Z; the burden should be on the employer to prove that the employee is actually needed at weird times. How the employee spends that time–even if it’s staring vacantly at a wall for four hours–is none of the company’s business.

          The company is buying our labor, not our lives.

          That’s why I mentioned OSHA in my last paragraph. What the OP’s company is doing kills people.

          And I agree that most police officers have balance. My cousin is somewhat unique. He’s positioning himself for some long-term goals, so he’s working himself pretty hard right now. Most officers I know do their shift then go home and forget about work.

  34. Purplerug*

    It has killed it in a way, although for me I don’t work more hours per week as such but they are spread over a much longer time period. This is due in part to myself (I tend to take a long break during the day and then work late to compensate) but also due to the majority of my colleagues being moms who are having struggles with child care and so work their hours whenever they can fit them in. Grandboss is very supportive of that which is a great benefit but it does mean everyone else ends up logging in at weird hours to connect with them and you’re never quite sure when they’re going to be online. I say moms as we’re a 100% female workforce. The upside is I can take a couple of hours off to go pick out new glasses, buy a lawnmower etc. and just make the time up. My commute would be 2.5 hours round trip so I’m also saving that time but I’d love to be more disciplined about putting my hours in and then logging off….and if my boss would stop calling me for hour-long conversations when I’m trying to each my lunch that would be great.

  35. HR Exec Popping In*

    I am not a fan of WFH, but I have adapted to it ok. The good news is I have the space for a dedicated home office and now have it fully set up with everything I need. And I’ve created my own “fake commutes” to give me the transition from home to work. I go get drive thru coffee in the morning and at the end of the work day I force myself to take a walk around the neighborhood. These habits have really helped me keep some separation. I’ve always had jobs where I need to be available but in the evening and on the weekend, I try to keep that to my mobile and not log into the computer.

    1. Elenna*

      Yes, that’s how they pay Allison and other writers. As has been said on basically every post where Allison links to an outside source.

    2. D3*

      So subscribe. Then Alison gets paid for her writing. It’s how she makes a living.
      She knows that access to Slate is limited without a subscription. That’s not news. You get a few free articles every month but then you have to pay.

  36. Bookworm*

    I actually like the WFH, but my org has had a lot of trouble adjusting. The head was always against it (despite people asking for it, we didn’t have a org-wide policy and it was always a “ask your supervisor” deal). Thus far it mostly worked for us, but then again I’m not aware of anyone who may have needed WFH as an accommodation rather than something to request.

    But since our work is highly dependent on the newscycle, we’ve had to deal with PPP as both a work hazard (literally) and a work subject (as in, our projects were rearranged because of COVID). I resent my work expecting us to possibly work overnight to process data (thankfully didn’t happen), plus making us take weekend shifts for what is really busy work to collect any news that happened over the weekend. They’ve been good in other respects (if we do ask or need time off that’s usually honored) but they also only seem to remember COVID when it’s convenient.

  37. Ann O'Nemity*

    There’s a line from Lord of the Rings, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” That’s how I’ve been feeling this past year. There are not enough hours in the day. Not enough hours for me to be a good employee, a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend. Certainly not enough hours for anything resembling “me” time. Work-life balance is dead. We’re in survival mode and there’s no end in sight.

    1. Quill*

      TBH even though I’m hourly I feel the same way. I have no responsibilities to anyone but myself, but also? I am absolutely terrible at being my own zookeeper! Over the year all my coping mechanisms for getting shit done wore down and broke, and it’s such a big deal / potential exposure to go buy stuff. Used to be I could at least get some excercise and/or run errands with a friend. But work got more complicated, stuff started to break physically as well as emotionally, and the fact that I am a different person in the winter than the summer raised its ugly head.

      So the only time I ever cleaned was when the house was being shown. My last day at this job is thursday and I don’t think I’m going to be human again for a good two or three weeks after.

  38. juliebulie*

    I am still struggling with WFH. I have no trouble limiting myself to 40 hours a week, but for some reason, I don’t have many hours left in me. Like I feel like home is nothing but my workplace now, and when the 40 hours are up, I don’t want to lift a finger.

    1. Anonya*

      I feel the same way. For every advantage of WFH, I cannot get over the lack of separation between work and home. I have really, really tried to have fake commutes and breaks and whatnot but my brain KNOWS they are meaningless.

  39. WorkerGal*

    I was happier when both were separate. I’ve teleworked before but it was to my benefit, i.e. the commute was horrible and I did not have any real friends there so it made no difference if I worked from home. Depending on the field you’re in, there’s a social aspect that can make or break not only your success at your job but also your overall happiness. If you plan on staying somewhere for a significant amount of time, it’s probably due to not just the work itself, but the people around you who may become great friends. We spend so much time at work every day; therefore, if you’re not happy at work, it’s going to bleed into your home life.

    That said, if you have a nice life outside of work, it’s probably easier to maintain a good work-life balance. But Covid cut out the opportunity to have a life outside of work– no more gym, spa, dinners with friends, shopping, taking classes in person, etc. So, what’s left? It’s all blended into one lonely day for many people.

    When we were all sent home I often spoke with my colleagues online. As time passed, the job actually worsened due to a bad boss who used the pandemic restrictions as an opportunity to micromanage and eliminate the good projects. So, I left and landed a job at a company that did not cause me so much mental stress. The tradeoff? I’ve never met anyone in person and really don’t have any strong ties. I can go all day without talking to anyone. It’s not the same and I expect it will continue this way for the rest of the year.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I’m really glad that I’ve worked for my current employer for long enough that I really know my teammates well. Sure, I miss seeing them in person, but not enough to make me yearn for the day when I can return to the office.

      I’m also happily married and I’ve always been pretty much a homebody, so I like being at home most of the time. I miss seeing my friends, parents, sister, and in-laws, but I can wait to see them until pandemic restrictions are lifted. Until then, texting and voice calls with one friend or relative at a time are much better than no contact.

      I’m sure that people who are in unhappy relationships, or sharing their space with roommates who are neither friends nor partners 24/7, or who live alone, are far worse off than I am. I’m grateful for what I have.

  40. Anonymous Hippo*

    I’m still working through boundaries with work. I basically just don’t answer my phone noon-1pm, and I won’t pickup after 6pm either. These both assume we weren’t in the middle of a crisis when those hours rolled around. We’ve been jumping from one “crisis” to the next for a while now, so sometimes we still have to schedule things through lunch or work later in the evening, but sometime when your company has been in that mode for a while you can lose sense of what is and isn’t crisis, and I’m trying to reel people back and make them take 2 minutes and think about if really a crisis. For example, if my boss calls me at 7pm, I ignore it. If it is important he’ll text and tell me what it is about. If not, I’ll talk to him the next day. That kind of thing.

  41. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    One thing I’ll really miss is Zoom court. It takes me forty minutes to go downtown, so I have to get up early. And of course, then you just wait for hours, in bad wifi until you are called. Used to take my whole day up! Now at MOST an hour.

  42. twocents*

    On the whole, I hope to never return to the office. Cons of WFH are that it’s been more expensive for me and people don’t mind cutting into my non-work hours the way they did in the office.

    But I don’t miss the commute. I don’t miss people disrupting my work to gripe about stupid s–t. I’m glad my dog can spend the day out of her kennel if she wants to (she often naps in her kennel all the same). I don’t miss being surrounded by food pushers. I love being able to nap or exercise during the day, schedule allowing. I’m way more productive when I do work. I spent almost no time sick this winter, thanks to not spending 8+ hours around people with minor colds.

    I stow my computer away at the end of work Friday (too much a pita during the week) and I use headspace after work to mentally transition. I also have a habit of ending the workday by writing down my wins. Not “this could justify a salary increase” necessarily but some days it’s just “Josh made me laugh, got a compliment from Jane, had a really good cup of coffee.” Something to put a period on the end of the workday.

  43. Anon for this one*

    I think wording like “having their jobs invade their homes” is quite emotive, honestly.

    I understand how everything changed suddenly.
    We go to the office/workplace/job site, we carry out 8 hours of productive work, we leave (or not yet, if there’s something yet to be finished) and go home; rinse and repeat.
    Now, suddenly we have to WFH and make it work, somehow. We didn’t expect to have to WFH (primarily because, in office jobs at least, “bums / butts in seats” have been prized all this time, so it was assumed that we’d be in the office come hell or high water, so what does it matter what living situation we have at home?!)
    So, naturally, most people didn’t have a dedicated office space or a quiet corner of their home to dedicate to WFH when it was suddenly imposed on us.

    But even so … let’s say work equipment takes over 20% of your living space (it’s probably less), “for now” (for however long that is!), well.. that’s what you need to do to continue with your job right now. I’m fairly sure your income from the job is more than 20% (more like 90%, probably) of the way you are paying for your costs of living! And in a crisis we all need to pull together, after all.

    I would think carefully between characterising it as “my job invaded my home” vs “my job needed me to dedicate a portion of my home to work equipment in order to keep my job”, only on the macro level. We are after all in unprecedented times. This applies to individuals as much as employers.

    1. Quill*

      People are, unsurprisingly, going to be emotive about an event that is likely to trigger emotions. Anyone who tells you that a reaction that they have doesn’t have emotion is trying to sell you something. :)

      1. Anon for this one*

        Okay, well, what I mean is: “invade” is language that belongs to war. Or belongs to disease. It’s adversarial. It’s setting up two sides against each other.

        Language like “intrude into”, “impose upon”, is probably more realistic.

    2. young teacher*

      Before the pandemic, I was only ever home to eat, sleep, shower, and maybe throw a party. This space that was my sanctuary has become a source of stress because I keep thinking about the work I should be doing. I find that it has invaded my home.

      I’m also very young and don’t really know how to compartmentalize yet, though. Maybe it’s a skill that comes with time (and space).

    3. Roci*

      Work equipment only takes up 20% of my living space, but that living space is my kitchen table. Makes it really hard to prepare and eat meals without that 20%.

      And then my spouse also takes up 20% with their workspace, more if you factor in phone call time conflicts.

      So that’s actually over 40% of my home that is now dedicated to work. That’s a lot! That’s half of my house that is suddenly workspace!
      The remaining half is like, the toilet and shower and bed. But the bed is also sometimes a workspace.
      I don’t think employers fully appreciate this! Yes we are making it work somehow because we have no other choice. But it is a huge hardship for those of us without a home office/with dependents and family/coworkers.

      I think “invade” is an appropriate term considering the suddenness and intensity of this change.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree with you.

        I guess I’m very fortunate to live in a mid-COL area. Both my husband and I enjoy spending time at home, and so we decided early on in our marriage to put most of our assets into a 5-bedroom house. One of those bedrooms is now my office and another is his office, yet another is our son’s room so that all of us can be on video calls at the same time without disturbing each other. I have coworkers who make about as much as I do, who chose to live downtown in small apartments that they basically only used for sleeping, and who used to spend most of their disposable income on travel. Guess who’s more content with their lot?

      2. James*

        Add in children who have classes and pretty soon your entire house is dedicated to work and school. Even if we assume 10% for kids, with two kids that’s 60% of your living space dedicated to work. With 3 kids, that’s 2/3 of your home. Most people simply don’t buy homes with the expectation that they will only live in 1/3 of it. 20% is hardship; anything more is simply unreasonable and untenable unless it was planned for in advance.

        There’s also the stress. Being cooped up in a small area is torture; this is why house arrest is used as punishment. Humans need a fairly large area to roam, at a biological level. Some can handle being in one house for weeks or months on end, but they’re the exception; the normal person needs to go out and interact and change locations. It’s a cultural universal (the exception being monasteries, and even there the exception wasn’t as absolute as people think), and any time you see a cultural universal you should be VERY cautions in changing it!

        Oh, and we’re not getting paid for it. This is free overhead for the company; they get to rent 20% of our living space without compensating us. If you like working from home, that’s fine–but being told “You will dedicate one fifth of your living space to the company without compensation” and not having any say in the matter is the sort of thing that rubs people the wrong way. Then there’s utilities (phone, internet, electricity, water, sewer) and amenities (coffee, tea, snacks in some cases) and offices supplies (pens, pencils, paper) that the employees are likely not getting compensated for. All too often this is an arrangement where only one party is benefitting, and is using a position of power to force the agreement through. If this were any other institution or situation this would be considered horrifically bad.

        If you think companies are not looking at the potential opportunities this presents, you’re naive or ill-informed. I know of several that have opted to go full-remote, whether workers want to or not, precisely because it places the burden of paying for overhead on the employee not the company.

        If you enjoy it that’s fine–it takes all kinds. There are perks, and if those are worth the costs fantastic! I know many who love remote work for those reasons! But the discomfort many are feeling can’t be dismissed. Nor can the fact that this was something forced upon us, not something we did by choice. Okay, maybe it’s the best of the bad options–but that doesn’t make it a good one!

    4. Doris Thatcher*

      I think it’s not only about equipment and time for some people, but the type of information and materials you may have to process while in your own home. Some people process information that is distressing or have to print out documents that you might not want to look at while you walk through your living room.

  44. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    I’ve felt more able to make myself “available” to others at odd times in order to resolve problems or whatever.

    Yeah I may be marked as “away” but everyone knows people are just at the end of their phone anyway.

    I in theory work M-F but in the last 2 weeks I’ve been actively chatting 3 out of the 4 weekend days.

  45. young teacher*

    I see a lot of people saying they enjoy it and they have more of their life back, but as a teacher, I’m working insane hours. I don’t know if that’s because it is my first year, or because my work computer is also my personal laptop, or if it is because I can’t spend time during synchronous class grading and planning so my workload is super high. I have always had problems compartmentalizing and in college I went to the library or a coffee shop to study or do homework (I simply Could Not do it in my apartment). I loved walking or busing to school because I would discover so much new music during that time and pick up a coffee as a treat. Now all my life is within four walls.

    Also, as a young person, it is very lonely and isolating to not know my coworkers at all. All I do is talk to 12-year-olds all day. I don’t think I’m going to become BFFs with any of them (most of them are double my age), but it would be nice to have some adult conversation with someone who isn’t my significant other.

    The silver lining is that my job is 100% guaranteed to return to in-person eventually! I’m looking forward to it.

    1. young teacher*

      This isn’t just me, btw. All my friends in different jobs who graduated with me (May 2020) feel lonely and isolated. I don’t think older people who have an established family, didn’t need to move to get a job, weren’t going out and trying to make friends or meet someone to date, etc realize how lonely it is to be a young adult right now

      1. allathian*

        I’m sorry, you have my sympathy.

        I really feel for our poor high school students who missed out on their prom last year and who probably won’t be able to have a graduation ceremony or party this year. Those who didn’t get their graduation ceremony or party last year were rather unhappy about it. I still remember how significant it felt to me to have my first formal party when I graduated from high school 30 years ago. I also feel for the college freshmen who’ve never met their classmates in person. I really enjoyed much of my time in college, especially my first year, and I have all the sympathy in the world for the young adults who are missing out on this. I’m middle aged and one year is much like the next, but your teenage years and early twenties are full of milestones that’ll never come back if you miss out.

    2. F.M.*

      Just a grad student here, but I feel much the same way. It’s hard to get to know students when they’re exclusively little boxes on the screen. The second half of spring semester last year was awkward but still worked well because I already knew all the students in my class; fall semester, with four times as many students, most of them never turning on the camera at all, meant that I only ever felt I sort of got to know the students who were most engaged. And I couldn’t even tell what parts of class were engaging or boring or confusing to the other students, because I couldn’t see their body language or expression.

      (I fully respect all the many reasons why students might have their cameras off; sure, some of them were clearly just logging in and not attending, but a lot of them probably had other reasons. It still makes it much harder to be a good teacher to the class as a whole and to many of those individuals.)

      This semester I’m a grader for an asynchronous class, so I only interact with students if they email me about a problem. It’s rough! I really ENJOY teaching, and now my job is entirely dealing with student problems and annoyances, plus telling them what they’ve done wrong on an assignment. (I try to mark what’s gone right as well, but with 65 students to deal with…)

      I used to be WFH/on-campus pretty much as much as I wanted. If the weather was bad and I didn’t have class or office hours, I could work from my bedroom, and otherwise, I’d go in to the nice bright TA office with a bunch of colleagues who quietly worked on their own stuff but were happy to offer advice/commentary if desired on areas of mutual interest. I had shelves for my work, a nice ergonomic setup for my laptop, I got exercise walking there and back… And now I’m just sitting on my bed. All day. Every day.

      All my work is on my personal laptop, because that’s how it works for grad students. All my social connections are on my laptop, because I’m alone in this apartment. I work and play and chat and browse and read sitting in the exact same space every single day all day, with small breaks for walking the dog or picking up a grocery delivery at the front door. It’s an absolute nightmare. I have all the downsides of WFH, and no more upsides than I did before.

      I am so glad that spring semester is likely to be in person again. Even if some classes are still online, or even asynchronous online–which turns out to work nicely for a lot of international students who can get a degree from a university in the US while still in a completely different time zone, so there’s that!–just being able to go to the office again, to an environment separate from home, built for work, with OTHER PEOPLE in it, will improve my life enormously.

      It’s no surprise that I’m on a lot more meds for mental health now than I was at the beginning of the pandemic.

  46. Hundydundy*

    I am a home worker anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m living at work but until the kid went back to school I felt like I lived at his school :-/

    I’m completely dumbfounded by the fact people don’t switch their laptops off: I’ve always switched mine off every night. The more you know!

  47. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    I’m in the group where WFH has actually helped me have Work/Life Balance. Before COVID, my daily commute was 3.5 to 4 hours RT. I would get in a 7 hour day by skipping lunch (eat at my desk while working) and after I finally got home, fed my dogs, myself, and took care of a couple of things, I’d work a couple more hours. My entire job can be done easily from home and for the last year, it’s been great. It does help to have a dedicated space for my work stuff. I don’t mix personal and work equipment so there’s no temptation to just check email real quick if I’m looking something up on my PC. I do work longer hours but they are consecutive. I start at 8 AM (10 AM before) and I get off at 6 PM (5 PM before) and I still have more time. I get chores done around the house as a quick break. I get an actual lunch hour. My dogs are happy. I save money on gas and insurance. They are just now starting to reopen our offices at the end of this month but it’s strictly voluntary as few people have been vaccinated. I absolutely cannot fathom having to go back to commuting. The only thing I miss about the commute is the fact that I’d burn through at least 1 full audiobook per week. I’d rather have the time.

  48. Not loving WFH*

    Sounds like I’m one of the few that does NOT like WFH and is not more productive at home. I live in a small apartment and work from my bedroom and in the next room are my 3 kids, all under age 5. I have a nanny and the 2 older ones are in school part of the day but they are REALLY loud especially the baby and want me to play with them all the time. I tend to get sucked into caring for them when I should be working partly because I’d rather be doing that some of the time (not the fault of our nanny). They don’t go outside much to play because it’s been freezing cold where I live and because of nap schedules. So two weeks ago I started paying hundreds of dollars a month to go to a coworking space 4 hours a day (not reimbursed by my company). I know my situation could be way worse, but it seems my employer is not planning a return that meets my needs. They surveyed employees and most love WFH so I will not be allowed in the office full time once they open. I will be on a hybrid schedule.

    1. allathian*

      That’s gotta be tough. I hope that you’ll be able to get your kids into daycare and after-school daycare even on the days you’re WFH when the office reopens on a hybrid schedule. I have no doubt that you’ll be able to work a lot more productively when the kids in the other room aren’t distracting you.

  49. GrammarGeek*

    I’m the opposite of many. I’ll work a few hours on a slow Sunday. Or start at 5:30 am if I’m up anyway. At the same time, I have no qualms about running to the grocery store on a slow Tuesday morning or knocking off early to take my kids to the dentist. As long as I answer my phone/reply to emails during ‘normal’ working hours and get my work done, no one complains and I figure it all balances.

  50. PrairieEffingDawn*

    My work/life balance has decreased steadily since WFH began a year ago, in tandem with the company I work for more than doubling in size. I was hired with the expectation that work after hours was a rare, once or twice a year thing, now it seems to be the daily expectation. I actually had to explain to a newer colleague at a meeting today that I can’t work on weekends. I am planning to leave soon.

  51. Huh?*

    Every single person I know has either had to continue to go to their work sites all year, or got laid off completely and can’t negotiate remote work when applying elsewhere. Who are these people working from home and how did they get to? Legitimately baffled here.

    1. allathian*

      I work for the government in Finland. A few weeks into the pandemic they mandated that all public sector workers who possibly could WFH should do so. They completely removed any previous managerial discretion not to permit remote work for superfluous butts-in-seats reasons. We have pretty decent internet infrastructure, so that wasn’t an issue. At my particular organization, WFH had been possible even before, although I rarely took the opportunity because I didn’t have my home office set up the way I do now.

      My husband’s been WFH as well, although he hasn’t been able to avoid going to the office as completely as I have.

    2. James*

      During 90% of the pandemic I was working at a jobsite. When I’m not on the jobsite, I’m doing paperwork for the job–report writing, analyzing data, negotiating with stakeholders, that sort of thing. The EPA doesn’t care if I make my phone call from my office or my house; they call me on my cell phone anyway.

      I also know modelers–folks who build digital models of contamination plumes in groundwater. As long as they have their computer and access to our servers, they can work from anywhere. It’s important work–millions of dollars and the health of a few thousand people rely on it–but it’s not tied to any location.

      Then there’s my sister, the forensic accountant. As long as she has access to the company’s books, she can work from anywhere. Frankly, given her personality, sometimes her not working in the office is a good thing. She’s a bit of a firebrand, and you’d be astonished how much the accountants can learn about your activities from your timesheets.

  52. Mongrel*

    One of the unforeseen benefits for me has been how I can cope with my intermittent insomnia.
    I have occasional nights where I wake up at stupid O’Clock and am unable to get back to sleep, so at the office it’d either be a sick day or try and work on 2-3 hours of sleep

    Given that I work on data and have very little required contact with co-workers I can now start my day at 4AM and finish at midday.

  53. FiveWheels*

    Covid gave me my work life balance back.

    I no longer have a commute and my lunch hour is at home. Work used to be 10 hours of my day, always waking too early to be rested. Now it’s seven hours a day with good sleep.

    Being able to do everything at home means if I do need to work late I can do it on my own time, in my own house, in comfortable surroundings, perhaps after eating dinner I cooked myself and relaxing with TV.

    There are no circumstances in which I ever want to return to working in an on site office. None.

    Based on friends’ experiences, this is true for a lot of people, and especially ones with disabilities, medical issues, and caring responsibilities.

  54. cncx*

    I work IT helpdesk and it has hurt my work-life balance because I have coworkers who think I should work on their schedule. Like because it’s a problem for them at 6am or 9pm or whatever, it’s an IT emergency. Real emergencies are one thing, emergencies due to their lack of planning- they make those my problem now.

    A few weeks ago a coworker had a problem that she knew about for at least a month that she brought to my attention at 4:45pm by phone call (her first mistake) which i start shutting down at 5:30. Fine, 45 minutes is 45 minutes but i told her i had been online since seven am and could we look at it tomorrow? She said no, tomorrow was the deadline (so why did you wait until close of play the day before?!!) and i said, ok, but then i need screenshots from you and for you to to a b and c asap because i need to sign off because overtime.

    She didn’t write me back until, presumably, after dinner and kids about 7:45pm and she was snotty about it (“why are you asking this I already told you on the phone”….telling me on the phone doesn’t make a ticket or help me to escalate…) AND didn’t answer my questions and cced her boss. I was FURIOUS. To add insult to injury, she only looped me in and expected me to fix it because she didn’t want to manually count something that would have taken her a half hour (there was an issue of her making with voting buttons and filters in outlook, she wanted me to wave my magic wand and fix the voting buttons rather than manually count 80 responses, and the email with the vote was a month old, this wasn’t something she should have only just then caught).

    Overtime isn’t paid at my company (yes I know, not paying IT overtime doesn’t end well, there are other problems), you better believe i made a point of taking the comp time that Friday and telling the CEO why. Respecting people’s schedules goes both ways- if she wants to work at 9pm fine, but whenever i stagger like that i make sure the work i am doing i don’t need other people for (i have one late night a week and i do admin). The story would have been totally different had she handed it to me at any point in the month she knew it was a problem during regular business hours. But no, i’m the bad guy who isn’t a team player because i don’t want to do overtime.

  55. Spicy Tuna*

    I’ve always worked in finance, which has zero work-life balance, but I’ve noticed it’s gotten particularly out of control during the pandemic WFH. I’m getting emails from people 24/7. It’s like people have given up sleeping.

  56. lilsheba*

    Oh no work life balance is better than ever! I work from home and have no problem disconnecting from work at the end of the day. No problem at all. And since I’m home I gain so much time back!! It’s been amazing. I don’t want it any other way.

  57. Workerbee*

    Before COVID, I put into practice NOT checking email after hours or on weekends, because it never is just checking on one thing. Suddenly, an hour has passed!

    So with WFH over the past year plus being more confined to my house than usual, at the end of my work day I very deliberately shut down, unplug, and store the work laptop in a drawer. I have a single big monitor that I hook up to it via HDMI (I don’t have a docking station and that’s fine), so after work, I just hook up my personal laptop if I know I’ll be using it and would prefer a larger screen.

    I am working out of a converted bedroom that I turned into my office, though it also holds some books, crafts, important paperwork, etc. Every so often I do feel like I spend too much time in that room, but it’s easy enough to walk out of it, and I can bring my laptop with me if I need to. The feeling passes soon enough!

    I much prefer the freedom of WFH, of not having eyeballs on me all the time, of taking therapeutic breaks (even if it’s just to stretch in extravagant ways), of doing other things around my work. For I am much more efficient without the constant interruptions of the office life that awaits.

  58. Anonymoose*

    I enjoy working from home but I’m having the opposite issue of home life invading work life in that I’m so much more tempted to do fun stuff than work stuff. Answer those emails or maybe I read a little bit of my book? Run a little late back from lunch? This could be due to my inability to focus, my mismatch with my current job or that my job was not designed for WFH so processes were created in a scramble last March.
    I also recognize that this type of WFH would probably be different than a normal WFH situation because there are no outside activities or interactions to have and that would probably help/change the loneliness/isolation factor.
    I think I would like to WFH in the future in a job that was designed for it but also offered going into the office maybe once a week for a meeting or something. This would also mean that I would have a home office set up that was designed for WFH too. And maybe this job would offer flexible work hours and/or maybe be exempt.

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