I confess. Others are having a tough time adjusting; but working from home has not been a big problem for me. #StayHome feels remarkably like a typical day in the Gig Economy prior to becoming a real estate broker. Rather than a major interruption, for millions of people this is normal: working from home with uncertain income, no benefits – and no dress code, no boss on site, and no barriers between work and wine. Pardon me as I switch from sipping from a mug to sipping from stemware. It’s after 6PM. Time to take on one more task or two.
It seems like a decade ago, but less than two years ago I was still working nine gigs a day. That may sound profitable, but in the Gig Economy work does not equal pay, and sometimes pay seems to have nothing to do with work. The problem is, it’s hard to know which gigs are worth dropping. As long as there’s time, there’s a chance some more work might pay some more bills.
Now, my work life is different. My main gig is as a real estate broker (with Coldwell Banker 360 Team on Whidbey Island.) The tasks are remarkably the same: contacting prospective clients, learning what they want to get done, then helping them do it. The stereotype is for the broker to spend the days driving around looking at and showing properties; but that world is vanishing. Helping sellers get ready to sell hasn’t changed as much; but buyers are frequently self-directed. I send them listings, but they’re also likely to research properties from access I can provide, or they dive into real estate sites like zillow, redfin, estately, trulia, etc. The result? A lot of time working via the computer that can sit in my lap or on my desk. Much less driving around. Much less need to go to the office.
The coronavirus has upset more than work schedules. I’m not as affected by school closures, restricted retail operations, and the need to tend family members. I feel sorry for people whose careers are on hold or have to be maintained while also handing a younger generation, an older generation – and then somehow find supplies. Eight people in one house? That could be several jobs, several school grades, and little hope of quiet.
Amidst the various offers of help with masks, toilet paper, and errands, I realized there are experts out there that may not realize the help they can provide. Folks who’ve lived in the Gig Economy for several years have developed skills that are particularly useful now.
When does a home office make sense, and when does it make more sense to not get that picky? I purposely use several sites around the house – and my house is under 900 square feet. I have three main stations: dining table, comfy living room chair, office chair at an office desk. Work doesn’t seem as confining or monotonous when there are different views and ergonomics to work with.
There are a lot more dishes to wash, but that’s because there’s more cooking going on. I like that. It is a good time for slow roasts, stews, soups, and things like slow-cooked ribs. The aromas can’t be replicated in an office. They’re too distracting. Meals become much cheaper and healthier when they’re made at home; that is if they’re made well-enough. But, hey! That’s what all of those cookbooks are for. (If you wrote a cookbook, you’re welcome to mention it in the Comments. Hint.)
Stay Home does not mean never go out. Stay Home does not mean stop exercising. Working from home makes it easier to work out. The gym may be closed, but exercising at home avoids the locker room scene and worrying about what you’re wearing and how you look. You decide on the hours. There’s no charge for the opportunity to sweat. And you can space out the exercises throughout the day. For me, pushups after the first task is done. Chinup(s) after the second. Early or late I’ll get in a walk (distancing, of course), or a mid-afternoon bicycle ride if the weather is right. Making a cup of coffee or tea? You’ve already stood up to get into the kitchen. Do some stretches. Going back to work sweaty may be frowned upon in the office, but not at home as much.
The true masters of the Gig Economy, and the folks for whom Stay Home is nothing new, are those gig workers who were already home schooling, tending parents, juggling their gigs and their spouse’s gigs. These are the pros, the experts, the people who can commiserate with you about how tough it is, while also supplying answers that make most sense to you.
The Gig Economy isn’t a panacea. The corona crisis has seen coworks close, too many businesses retreat, and millions be perplexed by worrying about something that has no symptoms until it has too many.
There’s a different way to live. You probably know someone who has been living it for years. They may be willing to help.
We won’t go back to normal – as if there ever was a normal. Remote working is being tested on a grand scale. It will work for more than before, and obviously won’t work for many others. Parents will find either a new appreciation for teachers and schools, or confidence that they can home school. Xenophobia will be redefined as people from one region fear people from another one; or simply are startled by anyone who coughs or sneezes. Masks and gloves are probably coming back in style. Forget the utilitarian ones. Fashion is already jumping at the chance to play with something fresh (or very very retro, as in medieval retro.) Essential services aren’t abstract now. We know which ones mattered to each of us. Hopefully society shifts to reflect our appreciation and to improve their compensation.
Because some regions have delayed their response, and science denial continues to be proudly popular, we’ll be dealing with this or other global crises for a long time. Reinfections will happen. For those who can, this is the opportunity to stay home, work from home, rethink old lifestyles, and think of new lifestyles.
One hint: remember to talk to someone once a day, and get out of the house about once a week. It is too easy to forget how to talk to people and too easy to forget things like manners. Eventually, we’ll start socializing again. There’s going to be a lot of pent-up demand for dances and parties. You deserve it. We deserve it.