SCENE + HEARD: Today's Read Workers and Employers Weigh Their Options: Back to the Office Grind or Work From Home? By Mary Kane Friday, July 30, 2021 8:30 AM Last week in our VMAIL newsletter we highlighted a story from Vox on what the pandemic has done to people’s views about working a five-day week. Titled The Five-Day Workweek Is Dead, Vox’s Anna North summed it all up by declaring that “it’s time for something better” for today’s workers. She wrote “more than 15 months into the pandemic, there’s a growing conversation about how American workers can take back more of their time. The trauma and disruption of the last year and a half have a lot of Americans re-evaluating their relationships to work, whether it’s restaurant servers tired of risking their safety for poverty-level wages or office workers quitting rather than giving up remote work. “And part of that re-evaluation is about the workweek, which many say is due for a reboot. Some employers are testing out four-day workweeks. A recent study of shorter workweeks in Iceland was wildly popular—it boosted worker well-being and even productivity. And workers themselves are pushing back against schedules that crowd out everything that isn’t work.”It would seem that The New York Times agrees with Vox’s assessment. In a story titled 8 Hours a Day, 5 Days a Week Is Not Working for Us, Bryce Covert is convinced that the push for workers to return to the office will not be automatic just because employers are requesting it. She writes, “With more than half of American adults fully vaccinated against Covid, employers and employees alike have turned their eyes back to the office. They’re locked in a conflict over when they’ll return and, when they do, what the return will look like. But we shouldn’t just be talking about the parameters of how we get work done in a post-pandemic world. We should be pushing to do less of it.In truth, the debate over the return to the office is fraught. Employers are used to being able to dictate when and where employees work, but we have now discovered that a lot of work can be done at odd hours between remote school lessons and from home offices or even the comfort of one’s bed.So now there’s a tense push and pull over when and how much people should start commuting and how much power over the question employees can exert. Everyone is focused on how we will make work work after such a severe shock to the system for how things used to get done. But the ultimate answer won’t be found in hybrid remote and in-person offices or even in letting employees shift their hours around. The way to make work work is to cut it back.”And the pressures surrounding the pandemic are not an equal opportunity equation—women, it seems, are feeling the stresses associated with COVID more so than men. Heightened workloads and household responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic are driving deep dissatisfaction among many women in the workforce, according to a recently released Deloitte Global report, “Women @ Work: A Global Outlook.” The report finds that these increased responsibilities are having devastating effects on working women as 51 percent of those surveyed are less optimistic about their career prospects today. Additionally, women surveyed reported a 35-point drop in mental health and a 29-point drop in motivation at work compared to before the pandemic.“The last year has been a ‘perfect storm’ for many women facing increased workloads and greater responsibilities at home, a blurring of the boundaries between the two, and continued experiences of non-inclusive behaviors at work,” says Emma Codd, Deloitte global inclusion leader. “While the adverse impact on women’s wellbeing, motivation, and engagement is obvious, our research also shows that some employers are getting it right: The women who work for these organizations are more engaged, productive, and satisfied with their careers. As we start to rebuild workplaces for the future, we have a golden opportunity to get gender equality and inclusion right and avoid setting back years of progress.”We here at Weekend thought it might be insightful to tell our readers how the pandemic has upended our work and personal lives. It’s been some 16 months since Jobsonites have been together in our newsroom on Hudson Street in New York City. Here’s how the pandemic has changed some of us at Jobson Medical Information along with what we think the future may hold for the office and our home life.Jennifer Waller is the Research Director for Jobson Medical Information.Pre-pandemic I went to the office 3 days per week and worked from home 2 days a week—a quiet home where I was all alone and did not have to join any video calls. In March 2020 working from home felt quite different. My home was filled with my working husband and my two small children who needed constant supervision. My husband and I split responsibilities, juggled scheduling work calls, tag-teamed to keep the kids and their mess out of view during video meetings, and worked some more when the kids went to bed.My story is not much different than other working parents. We were lucky that in September 2020 our kids were able to return to in-person school and daycare full time and we were able to return to more normal working hours. I now enjoy lunch-dates with my husband (whom I now jokingly refer to as my "coworker") and get more quality time with my kids without having to commute. I now video meet with my boss who lives in Florida pretty much daily, whereas before we would only communicate by phone and email. I am so grateful to have the flexibility to work from home and keep my family safe.Kevin Baker is Vision Monday’s Web Content Editor and he is one of VM’s newest employees. He joined the staff about 3 months ago.I began working at Vision Monday during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I have always been a remote worker. The main drawback to working remotely has been that I have never met with my team in person or collaborated with them in the same space. As a Web Content Editor, I often want to show one of my team members something I have done and ask their opinion, but, remotely, that means I have to send them the link or share the document. That being said, the pandemic has also found ways to change my work habits for the better and in unexpected ways. The other side of having to collaborate remotely is that I had to become an effective communicator very quickly. I had to learn how to describe individual components and situations so that the other person would know which part of a story I am talking about. I am certainly looking forward to working in the same space as my team for the first time, but the pandemic also made me pay attention to parts of the work I may not have noticed as quickly, otherwise.Gwendolyn Plummer is Vision Monday’s Senior Associate Editor. She covers the frames, sunwear and fashion accessories categories. She also manages Vision Monday’s social media platforms as well as VMAIL LaunchPad and the Independent Eye newsletter.I think it has become a sort of general belief that my generation (which is the one straddling Millennial and Gen Z, whatever that is. I was born in 1995, and am sometimes listed as Millennial and other times as Gen Z) has had the easiest time with the work from home transition, and I think there’s some truth to that. I haven’t really had trouble with the transition, other than the occasional Wi-Fi meltdown, and, for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed working from home. I work well at home: I can work in the living room with my roommates when I want some company, or alone at my desk in my room when I need silence.I also love that I can move around my apartment in general—to the kitchen, or maybe another roommate’s desk, if they’re okay with it—whenever I need to change things up to jog my brain. At home, I structure my day identically to how I did in the office, but I do feel that I rush less at home than I used to. If something is taking me more time than expected, I don’t mind staying at my laptop a little longer to finish it, whereas in the office I would be worried about leaving on time to catch the train, for example. In fact, removing the daily commute is more life changing than I expected, and probably the best thing about working from home. I am so much less tired without spending two hours each day jammed up on the subway—although I have noticed myself reading a little less, because I often spent subway time reading books.I recognize that there are social and community aspects to working in the office that we’ve lost, but I think there are ways to make up for them, or at least to adapt around them. I still feel like I’m just as in touch with the VM team as always—I know I can reach out to anyone at any time throughout the work day in a million different ways, from emailing to texting to calling to video chatting, and I know that they’ll pick up when I do.I also think it’s fun to learn snippets about everyone’s lives—to briefly meet pets and kids on video calls, or to chat a little before a meeting begins about the art hanging behind someone’s chair. I still feel like I’m connecting with my team, just in a different way than I did before. I even think that working from home has actually helped me connect more with some coworkers, like the VM sales team, who I speak to more often now than I did in the office.Overall, I feel more confident and independent in my work in a good way. I've taken on some tasks which, in the past, I might have hesitated with, or asked for help with, on my own, and they've turned out well. I have learned how to structure my day and prioritize my tasks in a way that works for me and maximizes what I get done. And, believe it or not, I actually get distracted less at home than I do in the office.I stayed in New York City throughout 2020, and spending more time in my Brooklyn apartment has really allowed me to appreciate my space and my neighborhood. The apartment, which I share with three friends I went to college with, is full of gorgeous plants now, and my roommates and I get to spend time together cooking, baking and sometimes taking a quick lunchtime walk, or even just enjoying our meals together. Living in the city is expensive, so it’s actually really nice to know that you’re getting to spend a lot of time in the apartment you pay a lot of money for each month.Finally, I really do appreciate the safety of working from home. To me, it still feels like things are constantly changing, like one day the threat is minimal and the next a new variant has shaken things up yet again. I still don’t feel comfortable with many things that some officials have said are okay, like indoor dining or going to a bar, so I appreciate that I can still stay within my comfort boundaries at work, too.Moving forward, I hope work from home is something that stays, maybe in a hybrid option. It allows for a better work-life balance overall, makes us all more adept at our jobs, and, I think, benefits everyone in the long run. (And the extra hour of sleep I get each morning as a result of not having to commute isn’t half bad either.)Jonathan Klemstine is the design director for Vision Monday.Working from home makes time management more important than ever. In 2020, I quickly realized that the hours I spent commuting were now available for productivity. As soon as I was able to restructure those extra hours with focus and intention, I saw improvements in both my work life and family life. Today, I see real value in both working from home and working in the office. There are new skill sets I've learned at home that will only improve my life in the office. My big takeaway from 2020 was that, "Time is a gift. If you dedicate your time and stay focused, you won't be wasting your time." I am hopeful that 2021 will bring many opportunities, and with those opportunities will be room for growth and change. James DeMatteis is the Director of Digital Products and a Regional Sales Manager for Jobson Medical Information. The best way for me to begin to illustrate my experience is with a piece of honest self-knowledge: I am NOT good at multitasking. If given the choice, I much prefer to focus on one task at a time, methodically working toward goals that have been carefully planned over time. Living through the pandemic did not provide that luxury, to put it mildly.Throughout my career as a salesperson at Jobson, I have always enjoyed the flexibility and variability that comes with traveling for work: I learned how to be efficient and effective while working out of rental cars, airports, hotels, and many different Starbucks locations throughout this great country of ours. Because of this, the quick change to working 100 percent virtually beginning in March, 2020 was challenging.The greatest challenge throughout the pandemic was trying to juggle all of the additional responsibilities that came along with having my entire family at home at the same time in our small, suburban New Jersey home. Working hand-in-hand each day from our "war room" (the kitchen), my wife and I would attempt to balance our traditional workloads while trying to assist our 10-year old daughter with virtual schooling and trying to keep our two-year old happy and content at the same time. This is not an ideal situation for someone who admittedly is not good at multitasking. Having said that, being able to spend so much additional time with my family and being able to keep working throughout this time is an absolute blessing that I am 100 percent grateful for.The aspect that I have had the most difficulty with is missing the in-person connections that I might have taken for granted pre-COVID. Not only do we have a great team that I really enjoy collaborating with at Jobson, but I also miss being in a room with my clients working together to collaborate and create. As we continue to move forward, I am most excited about the prospect of getting back to making personal connections with the amazing people that I get to work with every day.