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Overcoming the Guilt of Enjoying Your Quarantine Work-Life

Holland Martini ,Chief Insights Officer @ GoodQues

The world is upside down. Societal fundamentals are changing. Health concerns are rampant. But you’re feeling… really happy about work? 

Is that even allowed?

Quarantine was a tough transition. You have to work from home, maybe with someone else right on top of you. But… the commute is gone. Your dog has gone on more walks than ever. You’re enjoying three-course lunches on the sourdough bread you made. 

You may feel guilty for loving your job right now, because everyone else is stressed with theirs, right? Wrong. On the contrary, most people are actually feeling happy with their jobs right now.

As co-founder of a consultancy built on empathy, we design human-centered strategies—day in and day out—for brands such as Amika, Bitstamp, and LVMH—and I can tell you: I’m listening to you, and I feel you.

We quantify the feelings in a GoodQues study, surveying over 1,000 Americans in the workforce, revealing 64% of people are outwardly happy with their job right now. And 29% even said their job is extremely enjoyable. 

Here’s how surprising that is: As I wrote that sentence, Google tried to pre-populate “enjoyable” with “stressful”. 

Even Google knows it is not the norm to say you’re “really loving work today”. In the old world if you asked a coworker how their day was, the average response would be: “Busy!” “Getting by!” The all-too-common, “Ugh, you know… living the dream.” Why? Because anything other than busy and stressed implies you’re being unproductive or don’t have enough work. 

We know everyone is busy now. We see it on Zoom and in emails. People juggling work with their kids, pets, partners, cooking, etc. But employees are happy for a variety of reasons: Flexibility, comfort of home, more time with family, healthier eating options, more time to sleep. The list goes on. 

Why should employers care about this? Because happy employees equals better work. Our study found that 85 percent of employees put more effort into their work when they are feeling passionate and happy about their jobs. 

So how do we maintain this happiness, as work attempts to revert and/or evolve in the new normal? Knowing the power of empathetic strategy, I can confidently say: to drive business it’s imperative that senior level leaders think about both being empathetic to their clients and their employees – turning emotional intelligence into business intelligence . 

As we slowly reintroduce elements of the old workplace, smart leaders will work to maintain the happiness people discovered in the WHF setting. 

Here’s the happiness-generating elements of the new work life that you should consciously work to carry over…

Balance of Family/Work Blending

Prior to quarantine, 9-to-5 (if you’re lucky) was devoted to work and the remaining hours were devoted to yourself and your loved ones. But with the absence of a physical workspace, the dividers between family and work have given way to overlap. While the initial shift may have overwhelmed, enjoyment slowly settled in. New routines have formed, and the overlap of time spent on work and family has rid the stress of “do I not have enough time for both?”

While many companies have alluded to a WFHF (work from home forever) policy, many people will return to their place of work. How can employers help bring this newfound joy into the new workplace? A few companies have already realized the importance of an office to focus, yet the comfort of home being critical. One model we have seen in the works is to downsize shared office space, without assigned desks. They allow space for brainstorms and work as needed, allowing employees to come and go as they please. 

Unprecedented Flexibility

Need to get that pulled pork in the oven 5 hours before it’s ready? Before quarantine, this was a weekend only dish. But now, you can get up to pop something in the oven in-between Zoom calls. We are experiencing unprecedented flexibility, allowing workers to do more of what we want and need, when we want and need to do it. 

One easy thing an employer can do to maintain this flexibility: simply allow employees to be more flexible with their time. By not putting boundaries on the workday, people are actually becoming MORE productive. One company reported an 86% increase in productivity since the onset of covid-19. Trust your people, and they’ll accomplish more.

Community Support

Prior to the pandemic, personal challenges were kept private at work. Maybe with the exception of awareness by a manager or team member, you presented a smile but held stress inside. For the first time, we are experiencing a crisis that is impacting everyone around us – no exceptions. And everyone knows their coworkers are experiencing it too. So we check in on each other more often.  We see inside colleagues’ homes. We “meet” their kids. We discuss “crisis plans.” We must carry these behaviors forward into normalcy.

We don’t need a pandemic to instill a sense of support at the workplace. Take audit of the leaders in your organization. Are they checking in on their teams? Are they asking how you are, regardless of what is going on at work? 

Empathy drives profit. It’s been proven time and time again. Take care of your people and their real needs, and everyone wins. 

But the ability to embrace this new, unexpected happiness will be a conscious decision on the part of leaders who say, “We see you, and it’s OK.” We’re allowed to preserve the good from the bad.