COVID-19

People are adjusting to working from home for the long haul

Meghan McCarty Carino May 22, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

Which states are reopening?

Many states have started to relax the restrictions put in place in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although social-distancing measures still hold virtually everywhere in the country, more than half of states have started to phase out stay-at-home orders and phase in business reopenings. Others, like New York, are on slower timelines.

Is it worth applying for a job right now?

It never hurts to look, but as unemployment reaches levels last seen during the Great Depression and most available jobs are in places that carry risks like the supermarket or warehouses, it isn’t a bad idea to sit tight either, if you can.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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