Last weekend, I went camping with a couple of friends after a long period of lockdown and a confirmed downward spiral of mental exhaustion. Working from home (WFH FTW) is obviously a privilege a lot of us don't have and I am glad that my company took the WFH route.
But besides all the benefits of WFH, I can't shake off the feeling that it has a bigger potential of burning out workers and do so more quickly.
Work-From-Home = Instant Pot
Okay, what I mean by that is that you hit the ceiling faster when you are working from home. The line between work life and personal life gets more blurry and unless you are a very disciplined individual, the line just keeps on getting blurred. So here you are, bouncing between the four walls of your house and trying to balance work-life style. On top of that, there's this feedback loop of the companies getting scared that workers might slack off when they are working from home. So they give the workers more projects, more tighter deadlines, and less breathing room. As a result, workers tend to do more errors. It's just statistics - more work increases the chances of more errors. And now since there are more errors, companies conclude that employees are causing more errors because they are working from home. Confirmation bias - confirmed.
Went off on a tangent...
...good thing we didn't go off on a tangent during our trip! While we were setting up the campsite and getting the grill ready, we already started planning for the next day cause we were supposed to be mountain biking through the trails. It felt like everyone shared that fear of the long weekend coming to end and thus were rushing and trying to do as much as we can. It's a bit like getting anxious on Friday night cause we know the dreaded Sunday evening is not too far away.
Maybe it was the BBQ (it definitely was the BBQ), but after we ate, I felt very relaxed just sitting on the lawn chair doing...well, nothing. That sudden feeling of boredom excited me. I looked around and saw some of my friends getting a fire started while some others were looking for rocks to skip on the lake. It's hard to put in words but you recognize this shared feeling of calmness in everyone.
If you know me even a little bit, you will quickly realize that I love walking. Especially when walking with someone or a group of people. So naturally I suggested my friends if they wanted to go on a walk in the forest trail. Now, being it in the dead of the night, I kind of expected them to say no and just head to bed. On the contrary, every single of my friends seemed genuinely excited to go "hiking" in the trail with me (I wasn't going to go all by myself anyway). We were contemplating on bringing a knife or not with us in case we meet an unexpected guest. In the end, we just brought a pocket knife that a friend had with him and we decided it was good enough - we were most likely going to outnumber whatever we would have met.
It's pitch black and in the middle of the night and we agreed upon not turning on any flashlights or cellphone to preserve the thrill of the hike. It was interesting to see how all of our eyes adjusted to the darkness almost around the same time and everyone became better at navigating the trail. You could slowly smell the ground that's been soaked maybe a day or two before from the rain. The bitter but somehow soothing smell of forest flowers floating in the light breeze that followed us. And as if hinted by the wind, we all simultaneously looked up to the sky and watched in awe the millions of stars twinkling in the sky. Somewhere along the line between watching our steps and looking out for animals, our eyes gracefully adapted to pickup even the faintest of light.
Suddenly you can feel the quietness amid the whole group. As if everyone understood that we each needed a time to take in the gorgeous surrounding. No rush from anyone to keep on moving forward but to just take in the experience, one second at a time. To be frank, the peace was disturbed by the eerie call of a loon bird. Now, this was the first time anyone of us have heard the loon, except a friend who used to visit the Native American reserves and is well versed in hiking and scouting.
No rush from anyone to keep on moving forward but to just take in the experience, one second at a time
The hike made me realize one thing; that is, the current society runs on the idea that we have to keep on moving forward and that's the only way we can experience more. Sure, we get to see more things but do we really absorb the experience? It's a bit like driving down a road versus walking down the same road. You observe so many minute details about a place when you walk - the small sticker somebody placed on the glassdoor, or the handprints of kids left on the sidewalk when the cement was still wet, or the mixed smell of coffee and what I always thought of as "skunk".
The tech-laden society is eventually what it is - a society more catered towards computers than humans.
If you want to experience more, just take it slow.