It's called "The Great Resignation,” and it’s affecting the North American workplace. For many American knowledge workers, the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown showed us we could fulfill 100% of our work responsibilities without leaving the comfort of our dens.In December 2021, 4.3 million American workers resigned from their jobs. Yes, some of those are due to freeloaders who choose to get a “government check,” and others result from people leaving their jobs due to vaccine mandates. However, many of these resignations result from people seeking remote opportunities that better fit their lives.
CBS' Sixty Minutes recently reported that remote work has gone from 1 of 67 jobs to 1 of 7. One author shares, "We are rapidly moving toward the time when only 50% of the American workforce will be 'employees.' The rest will be independent contractors, temps, consultants, contingency workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and more."
For three years, I drove 500+ miles a week commuting to and from my office job. Writing for a large organization, I enjoyed my creative co-workers and the excitement of working for a multi-million dollar institution. Though I admired the organization, I greatly disliked being tied to a cubicle. I found the cubicle environment to be terribly draining rather than life-giving. For the first time in my working career, someone else told me when to sign in and sign out (which inevitably means telling me when to get up and go to bed), how many weeks to take off a year, and faithfulness to the job was at least in part tied being paid for time and not just productivity.
Our organization sent us home during 2020 for a couple of months. I lost weight, ate healthier, slept more, enjoyed face-to-face time with my family, and got all of my work done for my fulltime job. No commute. No eating out. No cubicle.
About a year ago, I intentionally began investigating, analyzing, and delving into remote job possibilities. I absorbed podcasts, articles, and books from career coaches like Dan Miller and the Ziglar Corporation. I read Freelance to Freedom by Vincent Pugliese, Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute?, and other motivational positive materials. Many of those materials helped me begin thinking differently about work, shifting from a traditional view of work to a modern one. Actually, modern job writers like Seth Godin argue that our "traditional" view of work did not come into being until Henry Ford and the Ford motor company. What we are seeing today, a return to being paid for productivity, not time, is a return to a real "traditional" work model.
I thought and prayed a lot, and I created a plan. That plan included creating several streams of income and learning to think very non-traditionally about work, employment, and income.
In January, I made the leap with the full support of my wife, resigned from my “secure” position and came home, leaving my cubicle and moving into my private office at home. In the past six weeks, here are benefits I am experiencing:
1. Enjoying lunches with my 16-year-old son. I can text my son, “You want to grab lunch?” and run out for a face-to-face meal. We’ve done it five or six times since I came home. We are currently reading Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love together.
2. Sleeping 7-8 hours every night. Sometimes more! Waking up without an alarm clock. Marvelous.
3. No traffic stress. Commute is less than 0.1 miles. Sometimes I even walk! Ha.
4. A private office with a door that closes. I wholeheartedly agree with writer mentors like Stephen King and Eva Shaw, who say the most important tool a writer needs to succeed is an office with a door that closes. Writing in a cubicle with people walking back and forth regularly and engaging in conversations all around me was a stressful way for me to work. My mind is much clearer and more productive in an isolated, quiet space.
5. I can have a creative space to work that I create. I enjoy color and lots of mementos around me reminding me of things I like. My first two days of independent working, I created a great working space in my church office, complete with an electric desk that I can raise to stand or lower to sit, lots of pictures, wall hangings, and memorabilia, and plenty of books lining the walls.
6. Not worn out at night/weekends. The commuting life left me exhausted by 5pm Friday and worn out most of the weekend. Now, I’m enjoying much more energy and alertness over the weekend.
7. Eating healthier and losing weight. I said goodbye to fast food breakfasts eaten in the car and big lunches, which were often a stress release. Working from home, I’m able to eat healthier with smaller portions several times a day. So far, in six weeks I’ve lost five pounds.
8. Exercising 3-4 times a week. It’s easy working from home to incorporate a brisk 20-minute walk inside or outside or a push-up and sit-up routine in the middle of my day.
9. Able to be more present with my wife. Priceless.10. Can work, stop, and restart as I choose. I can work best at my natural cycles of productivity. And I can break during the in-betweens. That means I can use that time to run to the post office, pick up groceries, take a walk through the woods, do a house chore, or go get some gas for the car.
11. Uninterrupted time with the Lord and positive input at the rudder of the day. I can spend unhurried time in prayer and Bible meditation as the day begins. And I'm taking career coach Dan Miller’s advice: “Years ago I made it a practice to spend at least two hours daily listening to, or reading, positive materials. That practice has given me access to the greatest thinkers in the world and an ongoing education that is current, practical, and profitable.”
12. Spending less money on gas and eating out. Not commuting and eating out daily, according to gas prices in 2021, saves me between $4000-$5000 a year.
13. More mental energy to focus, plan, and set goals. I purchased the Ziglar Corporation’s Performance Planner and spent about fifteen hours the first two weeks I came home thinking through life goals. I recorded forty-eight short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals and am using the planner to help me stay on track. I’ve already completed three of them, including finally submitting my completed first book manuscript to a publisher.
14. Time for productivity. Since coming home, I’ve completed my own book, was almost immediately hired by another organization as their part-time, remote, writer, have begun work on two different book projects as a ghost, and am talking with another party about a completely different book editing project. I'm also working on redoing my own freelance writing and ghostwriting promotional materials. And I’m just getting started.
15. More time for education and instruction. I’ve completed one copywriting online class, started another one, and started a ghostwriting one in the past six weeks.
16. Am able to take days or vacation time off when needed, not according to a benefits scale. Entering my last job at age 46, I received two weeks off the first two years. With three teenagers and one in college, only taking two weeks off a year was quite challenging. Now, I can take off what I need and want, assuming that I’m hustling enough when I am working to make the income we need. This also offers more time to visit my now two children in college and my octogenarian mother. And it puts me in the driver's seat.17. I’m learning to plan my life first and then my work to fit that life. I wish someone had drilled that into my head thirty years ago. The traditional American concept of work is to choose your work and then plan your life. However, modern wisdom shares, “To have real success you must understand yourself and plan your life first, then plan your work to embrace the life you want” (Miller).
18. In essence, and somewhat as a summary benefit, I’m much better able to order my world from the inside-out rather than playing catchup from the outside in.
Gordon MacDonald, in his excellent book Ordering Your Private World (which I am re-reading for the sixth time since 2002), writes, "Those who brought their lives into discipline or . . . intentionality would, more than likely, go on to long-term lives of fruitfulness, and their best years would be in the last half of their lives when discipline and depth paid off. . . . The ordering of my private world is an inside-out matter, not an outside-in matter."
Wayne Muller writes, “The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.”
And Dan Miller writes, “Henry Ford once said he didn’t want executives who had to work all the time. He insisted that those who were always in a flurry of activity at their desks were not being the most productive. He wanted people who could clear their desks, prop their feet up and dream some fresh dreams. His philosophy was that only he who has the luxury of time can originate a creative thought.
Wow! When was the last time your boss told you to quit working and do more dreaming? Unfortunately, our culture glamorizes being under time pressure. Having too much to do with little time is a badge of ‘success.’ Or is it? . . .
Andrew Carnegie would go into an empty room for hours at a time – not allowing any interruptions – as he was ‘sitting for ideas.’ Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line – with no bait – and then watch the bobber for an hour until he was ready to think for the day. . . .
If you are feeling stuck, your solution may not be in doing more, but in taking a break from the ‘busyness’ of life. Want to be more productive – try doing less. Go ‘sit’ somewhere for a while!”
Today's changing landscape presents multiple opportunities for those who will seize them.
Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.