While some enjoy working from home, some say they can’t wait to return to the office
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
The pandemic is more than a year old. For Kathleen Hoffman, customer service representative and licensed agent with Oswego Valley Insurance Agency, it marks a year of working entirely at home instead of her office in Brewerton.
It was a big adjustment, but it has helped to have her work phone and computer moved to her home where it has remained since the pandemic began.
“I can answer anyone’s calls and transfer them just as if I were at the office,” she said.
So far, she has experienced no technical issues with the alternative set-up, which has made the transition easier. While she admits it is nice to not have to drive to work, sometimes her dogs bark when she’s on the phone, “which isn’t as professional,” she said.
Hoffman also misses the camaraderie at the office and seeing customers who would drop in occasionally.
“I do like working with the public, with the people,” she said. “I don’t get that anymore.”
Despite the challenges of working at home, “I’m appreciative of the owners, my bosses, allowing me to work at home,” Hoffman said.
Working at home is not practical for Canale Insurance and Accounting, according to owner Bill Symons. He is pleased to have his Oswego-based business stay put and not have employees working at home.
“It would be impossible to move home,” he said. “We need to be here because of all the pieces of paper that exist. The only way I could work at home is people would have to get information to us at home so I could do their tax returns. I’d need a printer and all kinds of things I don’t have at home. I don’t want to work at home.”
His small workforce has followed the usual precautions of masks and spacing. The strategy has so far worked for keeping employees healthy. The company website recommends calling with questions and anyone who comes to the office is required to wear masks and stay distanced.
Symons said that he enjoys speaking with his staff face-to-face.
“I guess I could talk them on the phone, but I don’t want to,” he said. “We try to be careful. Thank God I didn’t have work from home.”
For licensed real estate agent Kelly Loya, working from the office of MyTown Realty in Syracuse part of the time and from her home part of the time gives her the best of both options. As a mom of two young children, she enjoys being home to spend more time around her children instead of spending time on a commute.
“But I miss being in the office,” she said. “I get a more of a sense of professionalism in the office than when I’m at home. It’s quiet when I need it and the resources are there.”
Her home office lacks a few pieces of equipment such as a photocopy machine.
“I have a beautiful gym at my office that I really miss,” Loya said. “There are pros and cons. People need to understand that everyone’s different.”
The lack of socializing hits some people harder and can have more serious consequences than for others. While for some it is a slight drawback, it can be more important to those in recovery, according to Tracy Carmody, nationally certified licensed mental health counselor, who is also credentialed as an alcohol and substance abuse counselor. She is clinical director at Paths to Recovery in Baldwinsville and Syracuse.
“I have seen a lot of people who’ve struggled with anxiety, depression and addiction and more isolative tendencies,” she said. “Being in the office is survival. Being at home, no one will know if they’re using a substance. Those with depression who receive their socialization in that office space are struggling more. I know a few individuals who want to get back to the office as soon as possible because of that.”
Carmody has been working from her home in Baldwinsville since the pandemic began. While she enjoys extra time with her young children and saving on gas and lunches out, she also realizes that working at home has a few disadvantages, like the opportunity for self-care.
“It is harder shifting into different role, from therapist to mom,” she said. “There’s less time to shift gears and that has a lot to do with self-care.”
Ordinarily, she would drive 30 minutes from Syracuse to Baldwinsville at the end of the day. Lacking that time to process her day and shift gears can be challenging. Lack of self-care includes missing all the little things that brighten one’s day — those little hits of dopamine now missed while working at home, such as going out to lunch, hearing a favorite song on the radio, or seeing a pretty bird while commuting.
“The change of scenery activates the pleasure center of the brain,” Carmody said. “Why am I feeling so blah? It’s not one thing that is significant or heavy but many add up to feeling down.”
At home, it can become easy to settle into a rut of sameness, such as eating at the desk, looking through email while on a coffee break or remaining seated far too long. It can also be tough to separate work from family life, making parents feel they are not doing a good job at either.
“It doesn’t allow us to do each role uninterrupted,” Carmody said. “It can make it feel like you’re working all day. For self-care, it is important to have boundaries.”
She has observed that working at home is helping people develop a greater appreciation for the demands that others have outside of work—and extend some grace when the toddler cries, the dog barks or the spouse is working on the other side of the room.
“A lot of people have adapted to knowing there are roles colliding,” Carmody said. “People are more forgiving.”