Working from home, without feeling alone

by Zoe Barnstone in Sep 28 2022

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, countless articles have been published about the challenges of remote work. A recent New York Times article recounts the tales of white-collar workers becoming disillusioned with their jobs due to the inability to form strong personal attachments with coworkers they’ve only ever met via Zoom. But many of these articles are rooted in a distinctly American notion that what you do for work is central to your identity. 

On April 9th, 2020 I found myself sobbing on the floor of my childhood bedroom. Like millions of other Americans, I had been laid off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was luckier than most. I had savings to fall back on, no children to take care of, my student loan payments had been (and continue to be) paused, and I was able to move back in with my parents. For the most part, I was fine. 

Why was I crying then? Two months prior to being laid off I had started a new job — the first salaried job I had that allowed me to sign a lease on my first apartment. Now I’d lost it all due to circumstances beyond my control. I was sobbing out of the shame of becoming unemployed and losing my financial independence. 

A little over a month after being laid off, I picked myself up and began applying for new jobs. Of course, at the height of the pandemic, no one seemed to be hiring. One day I was scrolling through LinkedIn and I saw a job posting for a Personal Assistant position at an orthodontic software company called SoftSmile. I applied and heard back quite quickly and within a week I had spoken to the CEO, Khamzat, and been hired. Granted, I knew nothing about orthodontics or software, but I felt incredibly fortunate to have found a new job despite the public health and economic crisis surrounding me.

Working From Home During Covid

I’ve now been working at SoftSmile for over a year. I’ve learned quite a bit about orthodontic treatment planning, the industry, and marketing. My title is now Marketing Manager. Yet for the entirety of my employment, I’ve only ever interacted with my boss and coworkers via WhatsApp or Zoom. 

I won’t lie and say my experience working remotely has not been alienating at times, or that I haven’t struggled with incentive. Yet as someone who is still early in their career, the experience has also taught me a great deal about taking initiative, learning self-motivation, and problem-solving. I’ve grown tremendously throughout my employment at SoftSmile and have managed to build good working relationships with my boss and coworkers. 

The relationships I have built with my boss and coworkers are strictly working relationships, especially because I don’t go into an office and see them every day. The article in The New York Times describes how the lack of personal attachments in remote working has led to people changing jobs more frequently. I suppose seeing my coworkers in person every workday would be less lonely and more motivating, but in my previous in-person jobs I saw dynamics between coworkers weren’t always positive. 

Working From Home During Covid

There was a toxic work environment at the job I lost due to Covid. There was no room for mistakes and people regarded each other with suspicion. I was overworked and underpaid. At the end of the workday, I had little energy or headspace to deal with the other aspects of my life. Working at SoftSmile has given me the time and space to learn new skills, take on new projects, and build new relationships. My boss and coworkers have consistently provided me support and encouragement despite not working together in person. I believe I’ve accomplished more as a remote worker than I ever did when I was in the office, and I know my boss and coworkers value me as part of the company. 

Some have argued that working from home quite literally breaks down the barrier between work and home life by having your work constantly in your living room or bedroom. But like any area of your house, each room is intended for a different purpose. In the life of work from home, your career is sequestered to your computer and you turn it off when you clock out. There is something to be said for being able to maintain such a clear delineation between your work and personal life, and between your job and who you are as a person.

It’s not that my work doesn’t matter to me or I don’t care about company and coworkers. I view my job as one of the many things I give my time and energy to on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. In any given week I do my job, go to the gym, cook meals, and take care of my plants. These are all things that I enjoy, that challenge me, but I don’t identify myself as a bodybuilder, chef, or horticulturalist. I have a job, but I am not solely defined by the job that I do. The flexibility and freedom of working for SoftSmile from home has opened the door for me to grow both as an employee and as an individual.

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