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Working From Home: An Exercise in Personal Freedom

I've constructed my whole life so I can work from home. So it took me a minute to realize others struggle with it.

For extroverts, for those with kids confined to the house, and for those whose jobs depend on interacting in person with others, this time can be extremely inconvenient. It's not for everyone long-term, and I'm not here to convince you of that.

But it does provide an opportunity for us to upend our notions of what work needs to look like, and take back some of our personal sovereignty.

Work addiction is very real. We all know a workaholic, someone who can't bear to face her personal life so she throws herself into work. We have obvious examples. But there are more subtle ways the rest of us may use work and the appearance of being busy to avoid having to confront ourselves.

A forced quarantine is a good opportunity to face where you may have made the appearance of working hard your identity, and where you have pushed away opportunities for more freedom.

Consider the following ways to use this time to create more autonomy:

1) Realize how flexible time and space truly are. Isn't it strange that we think all jobs should be roughly nine to five? How is it that all of our work should fit neatly into the same time frames? Think about all the time you spend at the office not on work. Complaining to coworkers, or switching tabs, or on Twitter. You may have meetings that take up more time than this, but I challenge you to consider whether you can get the solo work you need to get done every day in two hours or less. Through focus and consolidation, you can get more done in those two hours than you ever have on an average workday.

2) Let yourself feel a little loneliness and boredom. You've likely felt these things all along, but you had distractions to push them away. These feelings, and the anxiety that comes along with, are telling you something. Yes, there are very real anxieties on a macro level right now. But after you've gotten all your work done in a consolidated time frame, you have a free moment to sit with yourself and get real about whether or not you're happy with the way you've been conducting your life. Do you procrastinate, or let work projects take way longer than they should,because you keep jumping from task to task, as a way to avoid the reality that you aren't happy with your work? Or your relationships? Or your lack of creativity? The answers come in solitude. Use this time wisely, and you'll have a much clearer picture of what you want out of life when this is all over.

3) Think about why it's so important to you to give off the impression you're always working or are "so busy". Now is the perfect time for our society to drop that phrase forever. If you feel like you have to be on your computer so your office chat will show you're online, you have completely given your power and dignity away. This is so common as to seem normal, but that doesn't make it healthy. If you are excelling in your job, the work will speak for itself. If it doesn't, your time is better spent improving your performance, or finding a company with a more mature culture (you may have to create this company yourself).

It's not that anyone who works in an office is some kind of indentured servant. There are real benefits for those who are wired to work in community to gather with coworkers. It's that we have a chance to use the concept of working from home as a metaphor for ways we can create flexibility and personal liberty in our own minds. We can start to make choices based on our own needs and desires, and not because of what someone else thinks.

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