COVID-19

People are adjusting to working from home for the long haul

Meghan McCarty Carino May 22, 2020
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After two months of working remotely, people are adjusting to the idea of working from home long-term. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

People are adjusting to working from home for the long haul

Meghan McCarty Carino May 22, 2020
After two months of working remotely, people are adjusting to the idea of working from home long-term. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Share Now on:
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It’s been more than two months since stay-at-home orders sent millions of workers home, with kids and partners crowding houses and folks trying to manage scattered teams under challenging conditions. Marketplace has been telling workers’ stories since the early days of quarantine, and we checked back in this week to see how things have changed.

We first talked to Eric Ciesielski in mid-March, when the account executive for a software company in Cleveland was working from a card table in the basement playroom, the screams of his children frequently in the background.

Not much has changed since then. He still doesn’t have a desk, even though he’s probably going to work from home permanently. His company is doing OK, but it’s giving up some of its office space, which could make things tricky for a long time.

“The kids are much less respecting of my space,” he said — especially his 1-year-old.

“I think she just sees it as ‘Daddy’s home, Daddy’s not going back to work,'” he said. “She kind of just thinks of it as a big vacation.”

In Berkeley, California, freelance writer Allison Landa was chafing at her crowded workspace after just the first week of quarantine. Her husband, who works in quality assurance at Bayer, and her 4-year-old son were both packed into their small two-bedroom apartment and at each other’s throats.

“We haven’t killed each other yet, which is wonderful,” she said. In fact, things have gotten much better. The chaos has forced her to become more Zen about interruptions, like her barking dogs or occasional video conference intrusions by a pantsless child.

“I used to be much more uptight about stuff like that,” she said. “Now I just sort of laugh, and I’m like, ‘Well, meet my son.’”

She enjoys having lunches and going on midday walks with her family — time together they never really had before.

And the normal rhythms of work are starting to return for Eric Reddy and his sales team at human resource software company Reward Gateway in Boston.

Back in April, they struggled being sequestered at home, with the prospect of making sales pitches during a pandemic not too appealing.

“That’s an interesting place to put a salesperson to say, ‘Hey, don’t sell for a little bit,'” he said. But business has picked up since then.

“I’ve definitely noticed improvement in the engagement and the morale of the team,” he said, “because they’re able to have more conversations, people are picking up the phones when they’re giving them a call.”

The situation has forced him to become a better communicator, and he said he feels more connected to his team as they’ve gone through some hard times together. He said three employees had to take time off because they came down with COVID-19. They’ve all recovered and are back at work now … from home, that is.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Will the federal government extend the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s still unclear. Congress and President Donald Trump are deciding whether to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits workers are getting because of the pandemic. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia believes the program should not be extended, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the additional money is disincentivizing some workers from returning to their jobs. Democrats want to keep providing the money until January.

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too. Some people have started to make exceptions for visiting restaurants, if only for outdoor dining. Some are only going to places they trust are being extra cautious. But no one we’ve talked to has really gone back to normal. People just aren’t quite there yet.

Will surges in COVID-19 cases mean a return to lockdowns?

In many areas where businesses are reopening, cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, causing some to ask if the lockdowns were lifted too soon, and if residents and businesses might have to go through it all again. So, how likely is another lockdown, of some sort? The answer depends on who you ask. Many local officials are now bullish about keeping businesses open to salvage their economies. Health experts, though, are concerned.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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