How much of your identity depends on being at the office?

As feature magazine pieces hail a new era of working from home, I talk with writer and editor Sean Blanda about his contrarian take on why working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In the process, we examine not just how much of our identity is wrapped up in work, but how much of our identity is wrapped up in going to work — in inhabiting a shared physical workspace.

We discuss the psychic weight of working from home: the disciplined boundary-setting that’s required and the challenges of providing “evidence” that you’re doing your work, as well as the divide between the haves and have-nots that’s playing out behind the curtain of this shift to working from home.

Key takeaways from this conversation:

  • How working from home removes the space-specific context that gives our lives meaning
  • Why it’s harder to show you’re “being productive” for certain jobs when working remotely
  • How WFH erodes personal relationships and opportunities for mentorship
  • The benefits of 3-D, real-world interactions on your career, your luck, and your skillset
  • Why the COVID crisis and WFH could spark a renaissance of localism

Favorite Quotes

“I feel like when you exist in the same spot, it’s almost like your ghosts stack up. I have a hard time thinking of my home office as my workspace after a while. It’s just a place I’m existing, and I have trouble focusing. I resent how it turns happy places into work places. I have a tiny backyard here in the city, and I walk outside to take a break, and my backyard has stopped becoming the area where I barbecue and have fun, and now it’s like my break room.”

“I find that, when I’m reminded of the full weight of my identity, I have trouble working. When I’m in my home and I’m reminded of the ways in which I am a husband or a brother or, I’m the guy who fixes things around the house, or I’m the guy who’s responsible for cleaning those dishes, or I have to prepare for the dinner that I’m getting later that day. And, by the way, I’m trying to work and answer these work calls. When that constant reminder of all those things is weighing on me, I don’t work as well.”

“I see working from home as detachment. What community am I a part of? What is my relationship to those around me? This is why I’m such a believer in localism — in that I’m removing a possible community of people I could be a part of that live in the same area I do, that care about the same issues I do, whether that’s at work or in the town I live in, and we’re just splintering all across the country. The only thing we really have in common is that we all log into the same digital box every day and type things. It just feels like we’re losing a layer of community in a society where we’re already losing lots of layers of community.”


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