Rewind to early 2020, 3.4% of the United States workforce was working from home. As a result of COVID-19, we know that this number has substantially increased, as employers have been forced to adapt to the current state of the world in order to keep their organizations and companies in operation. Research shows that under typical circumstances, only 7% of employers in the United States offer work from home flexibility, but among businesses that do, 85% confirm that their company productivity has increased due to the greater flexibility. Data gathered from FlexJobs reports that 80% of individuals who work remotely experience less job stress, and 65% of respondents report that they are more productive working at home than in a traditional workplace.
Fast forward to current day, and we have been catapulted into an unprecedented time, where stay-at-home orders and the closure of non-essential businesses have record-breaking numbers of the U.S. workforce either unemployed or working from home. Now, I would argue that outside of the economic hit that businesses are facing due to unemployment rates and the physical quarantine, many companies are doing just fine allowing their employees to work from home. Businesses have been forced to become flexible and innovative, using new technologies such as WebEx and Zoom for conference calls and meetings and streamlining the work and communication, ultimately giving their employees more freedom to complete the necessary work in a time and manner that works for them.
Now whether you are still working, working from home, or not working, quarantine and stay-at-home orders have ALL OF US cooped up at home more than usual – well, if you are (and I greatly hope that you are) following the directions and guidelines of our healthcare professionals. So what does this mean? This means that you do, indeed, have more free time right now by way of quarantine removing many of the typical distractions. In no way am I saying that for some of you, the hours of your day are not filled with work or pressing matters that you must handle during this time, but I am referring to the extra time that you would have been filling with things like going for lunch or dinner, attending parties or gatherings, etc. Being that we are physically unable to do many of those things during this time, that time is now yours.
While I am certain that no one could have predicted that a global pandemic would be the cause of this much needed time, here we are. I believe that this is a very telling time that we are living in. If you are strategic, you will use this time wisely. Now what exactly you do with this time is up to you – whether it be to finally start that business you have been talking about, to create new content, to work on a skill or enjoy your hobbies, or to use this time for introspection and reflection. With whatever you choose to do with your time, there is one question that I would like for you to ponder now and then again when quarantine is over: What is this time teaching me?
It is said that hindsight is 20/20, meaning that clear understanding of past events often comes after the event is over, and only then can we appreciate the meaning or lesson in the experience. Knowing this, try to actively think right now about what this time could possibly be teaching you. In the future, what will you possibly be saying that you learned from this time? Keeping this in mind may help you to actively engage in discovering an answer with depth. Of course, you can use this time to just relax for these weeks to months, and that is great if that is what you need. But try to dig deeper. Why did you need to relax? Why did it require quarantine for you to take this time if it was that desperately needed? Are you overcommitted with other obligations and thus putting self-care on the backburner? What are the ways in which you do “self-care?”
Find the depth. Answer one question and follow that question with a follow up question. Whether you lay on the couch for the next few weeks, spend much needed quality time with your family, or have the most productive time of your life, I want you to find the depth. Find a why. A how. A reason. A purpose. Most importantly, find yourself. As human beings, we are constantly evolving as we age, experience more of life, and acquire knowledge and wisdom. You are probably not the same person that you were 5 or 10 years ago. For this reason, introspection needs to be done continuously in order to keep up with the constant evolution of self. This quarantine may be the perfect time to reflect and self-explore. It is often in times of quiet, uninterrupted solitude that you can discover the deepest parts of yourself. Used wisely, this time can be the most enlightening and introspective experience of your life, offering you with the time that you need to dig into yourself, lift up the rug that you have swept your insecurities, flaws, and demons under, address issues that you have been putting off, explore your growth, build up your confidence and self-esteem, or simply to reflect on where you are and where it is that you are headed.
My most life changing time of introspection came two years ago, when I spent 35 days on a deserted island, giving me a rare opportunity of uninterrupted me time. I filled that time with active self-reflection, and boy, did I learn a lot. During those days, I realized that I had lived 25 great years of life. I unfortunately (but fortunately) had to face and finally deal with baggage that had been weighing me down for years, explored the best and worst of myself, and set new goals for the life that I wanted. In addition to those newfound discoveries and resolutions, the best part of the whole experience was that I finally learned how to be introspective – how to sit with myself in silence, free of social media and distraction, and truly learned what it requires to tap into the headspace that allows me to reach a deeper level of self-exploration.
What does it require for you to tap into a headspace that allows you to reach deeper levels of self-exploration? This is a key point that should not be overlooked. If you aren’t following me, let me give you an example. Before my lifechanging experience, I would lay in bed at night and think about an event or experience and think to myself “Why did that happen?” “What could I have done differently?” “Why did I react that way?” but before I knew it… the day is over, the next day of work and distraction was upon me, and I would just settle on an answer that satisfies the questions enough to mark them complete in my mental notes so that I can resume my life without the questions plaguing my mind. I did not realize that my thinking was very superficial in nature. I wasn’t truly getting to the deeper levels of exploration that I needed to find the appropriate answers to questions because I had not removed myself enough from the distractions of my life that were causing me to settle on quick answers to begin with.
My time on that deserted island taught me how to recognize true introspection so that I can create an environment that allows for it. Whether it is lying in bed at night but thinking deeper and not settling on quick answers, taking much needed social media breaks, or putting my phone on Do Not Disturb for the day, I have found small ways that give me opportunities and time to be free of distraction. Through meditation, self-care, or just you time, knowing what you need and the environment that you require to engage in deep introspection is critical. When you find that, keep it in mind always. When you feel yourself in need of some reflection, make time for it. Create that space and regroup with yourself. Realistically, we do NOT live in a world free of distraction so be flexible if needed. Quick check ins with yourself frequently are better than nothing.
While we are under unprecedented circumstances that may be giving you much needed time at home, I encourage you to ask yourself: What is this time teaching me? This may be a great time to engage in deep introspection and reflection, regroup with yourself, and possibly find a meaning for this time that transcends “working from home.” I wish you and your family great health and wellness during this time. Be safe. Be well.
Peace & Blessings.