Sipping my coffee at an airport café, I saw a woman hooked to her laptop, her face covered with a mask and her eyes moving quickly as she probably typed emails while checking if it was the boarding time yet.

I could tell that she had deadlines to meet, she probably was on her laptop in the cab en route to the airport. I looked away, trying not to stare too long, although I think she was hardly aware of my presence. But something about her kept reclaiming my attention.

Maybe, it was the relatability as it reminded me of the times I have taken calls, replied to e-mails, finished a document to meet a deadline at the strangest places at ungodly hours.

Or maybe it was the realization that the ability to work from anywhere isn’t as rosy as people think it is. It obviously looks like a privilege to a child brought up in a bureaucratic office-going household, the pandemic just made this privilege more apparent.

I feel the “working systems” of the world haven’t adapted well to the idea of WFA. If I may coin a term to describe this, I would call it “Remote bureaucracy.”

Ability and willingness are two very different things. The idea of living your life around your job doesn’t suit everyone. A work culture insensitive to people’s boundaries and hooked to 24*7 availability is like a slow poison. It will corrode the well-being of its people while wearing an N95 mask of – “You are privileged to be working from anywhere.”

I finished my coffee just in time for my boarding and before I left the café, I walked up to this woman and wished her a happy journey. Her tensed forehead softened a bit as she looked away from her screen to reciprocate my gesture. I walked out smiling beneath my mask for making her give her work a few seconds of break.