How I Learned to Love the Lockdown
By Paul Harvey
Covid has, obviously, been bad. Nothing that we’ve gained has been worth even one of the lives lost to the disease that’s kept most of us in some level of social confinement for the past year. But there have been some silver linings. Mother Nature caught an unexpected break. Medical advances produced multiple viable vaccines with stunning speed. Working from home (WFH) became an actual thing for many of us. I don’t know about you but a year ago my “home office” was a sad room full of random junk and no working lights or electrical outlets. Today, it’s a functioning workspace and recording studio that kind of resembles a mini-NASA control center (shout out to Frank for pushing me to finish the massive rewiring project my Lyme-addled brain had started and abandoned a year prior).
COVID-induced WFH did get off to a rocky start for many of us. A year into the learning curve, however, it seems fairly certain that it’ll be sticking around. But leaving the house and “going to work” will assuredly become the norm once again (hang in there, office plants!). Let’s admit it: a lot of us have mixed emotions about that. There are many, many reasons to be excited about returning to our normal work routines. Way up high on the list is working with other human beings without a pair of masks or computer screens in between us. But there have been some unexpectedly nice things about lockdown work that I’ll miss.
That’s not a viewpoint many of us are comfortable acknowledging but, statistically speaking, it’s probably true for at least half of you reading this. Per Laura Vanderkam:
It’s no wonder polling shows that nearly half of U.S. workers want to keep working from home even after restrictions lift: There’s so much more flexibility. Without a commute, hours are less set. Without an office, everyone is less subject to the group norms that have night owls trying to look alert at 8 a.m., and that makes people self-conscious about leaving the building for any reason.
Valid points, but it’s that last bit that I think makes a return to normalcy more bittersweet than many will admit:
Without an office, everyone is less subject to the group norms…
It’s more socially acceptable to say: “Well, I will miss the lack of a commute!” Then it is to say: “Geez, I’ll kind of miss getting to be myself all day…” But don’t feel bad if that second statement hits closer to home for you. (I promise that wasn’t a really bad attempt at a pun. It just came out that way and I’m too lazy to reword it.) It varies by job, company, industry, location, etc., but, by and large, the culture of work has evolved to fit a very narrow set of personality traits.
If you’re an extraverted, “Type A” sort of person, you might be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Actually, you probably stopped reading a few paragraphs back, this whole thing sounding vaguely blasphemous to you. So why am I directly addressing people who aren’t reading this? I…don’t have a good answer for that. Regardless, your personality is more or less the personality of work. Bonus points if you’re also a morning person, highly self-confident, detail-oriented, and so on.
Interestingly, even though our personalities don’t change past an early age, there is a time in our lives when nearly all of us fit that description to a T: when we’re interviewing for a job.
Introverts sit down at the interview table and perform their very best impression of an extravert, benefits of introversion be damned. And even though very few people actually possess the semi-arbitrary collection of traits we lump together and call “Type A” personalities, you wouldn’t know it to observe the average workplace.
Do you know where the idea of “Type A” personalities came from? It was an attempt by doctors in the 1950s to figure out why some people had more heart attacks than others. They were trying to identify all of the things outside of diet, exercise, and genetics that were common among people whose tickers exploded. Things like consistently high levels of ambition, impatience, and competitiveness. They called these high-risk people “Type A’s.” Fast forward a few decades and the notion of Type A has evolved from “a list of behavioral traits that are likely to kill you” into “exactly the type of go-getter we need on the team!” When you think of it like that, it doesn’t seem so weird that many of us have rather enjoyed this WFH experience.
We all want to want to put Covid in the rearview. But for the contemplative, easy-going, introverted, people of the world, there’s no shame in enjoying working conditions that fit our style while we still can. We’ll be trading in our Covid masks for our Type-A Extravert masks soon enough. Let us know your feelings about WFH and the prospect of returning to the workplace. We might (with your permission) include your comments in a future episode of The Busyness Paradox!