The 4 Stages of WFH

October 20, 2020

Isn’t it funny that Work from Home (WFH), now has its own notable and familiar acronym? What we thought would be a week, has evolved into a year. Can you believe 2020 is almost over? WFH is even tipping into a permanent solution for many people and businesses. It’s almost as if we have been experiencing this unusual year in emotional stages like denial, confusion, hope and acceptance.

2020 has forced us into perpetual and pivotal change (some bad, some good). For many, it’s been a painful, horrendous year but it is my biggest wish that we turn 2020 into a year that moves us into a truly meaningful time and a new era of focusing on what makes life good. For me, it is being home. WFH has been transformative. I think this might be a silver lining to 2020.

 

One of the biggest changes in my life has been the forced arrival of WFH. Last February, I was dashing through airports and joining meetings all over the country. It was exhausting and expensive. In total transparency, I was growing weary of it. I love the collaboration with smart people everywhere, but is there a better way? Little did I know, I was about to find out.

I dream up special spaces for a living and I’m still figuring out this whole WFH thing. Part of the challenge here is embracing that WFH is here to stay. Life has changed. There is no “back to normal”. We are here. In the new normal…

WFH has been an evolution of what I’ll call, “The 4 Stages of WFH”. You know? Those emotional stages you go through when something suddenly changes, and you experience a broad range of emotions. We have all been there but now we are experiencing these changes in our professional lives and looking for solutions at home.  The way I see it, we have almost made it through the 3rd stage (see below). Stage 4 is on the horizon (Hello 2021! Cannot wait for that party!).  I am excited about what we have learned and how we can use these learnings to make WFH more enjoyable, more efficient, and more productive. We can and we will.

Let’s look:

The 4 Stages of WFH (as illustrated by my toddler)

 

WFH Stage 1: March – May 2020

The We Can Do This Stage: These months were also embraced as the Extended Spring Break stage. Laptops and phones were all we needed. “We got this” was the mantra in my house. Distance learning married WFH.  I personally loved this stage, even found it to be magical (#MakeHomeMagical). This is also that, we can all work around the dining table stage. The we can all be together stage. Also loved for the wear your pajamas to work or bring your dog to work stage. WFH was still temporary.

WFH Stage 1: We Can (totally) Do this Stage…

WFH Stage 2: June-August 2020

The What Are We Doing Stage: I’m still a little traumatized by these months. These are the…OMG…this is for real stage. The I need my desk and some actual office supplies to do my job stage. And who are these kids and where is the lunch lady (oh…that’s still me) stage? Your spouse, partner, significant other? Seriously…WHAT IS UP with the pencil chewing or loud typing? You are worse than the loud talker at the copier stage. The this has got to stop stage. Zoom happy hour? No thanks but I’ll be in the corner with a bottle of something stage. This is the our summer vacation IS the backyard stage. This is the time to do some epic work (tie that arm behind your back) stage.

WFH Stage 2: WHAT are We Doing?!

 

WFH Stage 3: September-Today

The We Could be on to Something Good Here Stage

And here we are. Does anyone else’s desk look like this?

The new normal. I work from home, and so do my kids (LearnFH). We are figuring it out. I now laugh at the home office I designed for us years ago. It’s a beautiful, large partner desk with 2 smaller desks for the kids (side note…there are now 3 kids). It also includes several large bookshelves to hold, well…books.  Who could have ever guessed bookshelves would be obsolete, replaced by “digital books”? In 2020, bookshelves become old school and WFH takes on a different meaning. The “every now and then I work from home” designs no longer work. A partner desk is kind of laughable, with multiple zooms / conference calls. No way my big kids want to do homework with me nearby and they can’t sit at the kitchen table “learning” forever.  Silver lining to those old school bookshelves? They are now a display of my favorite family photos and beloved “art” the kids made when they actually went to school. This will play an important part in Stage 4. “Love your space and share it” is my new mantra.

During this “stage 3”, we are learning we need space, it doesn’t have to be an entire room with a big fancy built in desk but everyone needs a special place to think, be creative and/or analytical with some quiet time. I say we all need the playground and a nap, but let’s keep focused on how we forge ahead with WFH. In Stage 3, we are learning. We are adapting. We are growing and become stronger than we have ever been.

 

WFH Stage 3: The We Could be on to Something Good Here Stage

And now the future….

 

WFH Stage 4: From this point forward…

The This Is It Stage

Here is some good news. In my humble opinion, WFH is the beginning of a new kind of personal professionalism. A new kind of networking. The future of WFH becomes known as a place of connection. Think about it. You no longer need to dress up or impress. We just need to show up in our own space and share it. We become real. Haven’t you enjoyed meeting the family dog or laughing at the unknowing streaker? Don’t you feel a little more connected to the professionals in your life as a result? A coworker even recently shared his new air fryer excitement as we got off a 5pm call and started getting family dinners ready. I now have that same air fryer (game changer people…go get you one). We have just discovered that we are all human. I think there could be better business as an outcome. Somehow, with just a small peek into someone’s home, we learn more about them and THIS is how relationships are forged, even professional relationships.  Boardrooms will soon become like my bookshelves…old school. We just personalized work with WFH.

WFH Stage 4: The This is It Stage

This is it. Welcome to the new normal.  Despite adversity, we are connecting. Our professional lives merge with our personal lives. Don’t cover your personal space. Don’t hide. We need to share…let people in. This is the future. Home is a beautiful place.

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