Claire Rausser

COVID takes on the 8-hour work day

Working from home? More like working from hell.

As an older member of Gen Z, I grew up assuming that everyone “had” to have a full-time, 8-hour day, 5 days a week, job. I was always asked throughout my childhood what I wanted to do when I grew up, which varied, but I always assumed it had to be in this “full-time, 8/5 role” box. While I knew there were variances — my mom has always been a homemaker — I wanted to partake in a job I would be excited to go to every day, and contribute in a positive way in order to represent my values.

But then I worked in a “full-time, 8/5 role”, and no offense, but it was f*cking awful, lol. Not the company or what they represented, but my immediate biome in which I was working. I started off as a ball of energy, bouncing off the walls with ideas I wanted to share. I was appreciated, at first. But I could tell over time that I was a non-essential. My manager stopped smiling around me, which gave me constant anxiety, and would leave notes on my desk when I wasn’t there in order to avoid speaking to me. I was distraught with a desperate need to impress the team, but I was just the “recent Berkeley grad”, which held gravity, but didn’t ultimately weigh enough to prove I made an impact. Or even viably represent me and who I was.

I left that position and for a few months convinced myself that “that’s how it is out there” and looked for similar roles. When I began working on web design projects, managing content, and ultimately curating my own website, I had started to look at the idea of a “job” differently. Yes, I was making significantly less money, but I got to choose my own hours and maintain connections with clients that left me feeling good about myself because my skill set was appreciated.

My vision of a full-time role was and still is transforming, slowly, but it’s ultimately working and I’m adapting to a self-imposed “alternative” lifestyle. (Newsflash — it’s not that “alternative”.) It takes time, and I still have a hard time sometimes because of my previous misconceptions, but I’m always working on it.

So now that COVID has caused everyone to lead a work-from-home lifestyle, I’ve been wondering a variation of these questions:

I know everyone has their own situation, but this question is a thought experiment to consider for those who work in a typical 9–5 day job.

Before this, were you commuting to work every morning and commuting home every evening? How long did it take you to complete the commuting experience? How did you feel when you had to sit in the car / train / shuttle for an extended period of time? Remember all that traffic?

If you had a quick or easy commute, you can f*ck off for a minute.

So now, assuming you haven’t been laid off, you work from home and don’t have to commute anywhere. How’s that like? Do you wake up, stretch, and roll out of bed directly onto your desk chair?

I wonder if people consider how much energy, time, money, carbon, stress they’re saving. I, personally, did not have an in-person (or even full-time) job before quarantine so I’m not really the sample population I’m looking for to answer this. But I have had jobs before, and I do know what it’s like to have to wake up at an UnGoDLy hour to get ready and hit the road. But even then, I wouldn’t have ever considered that there would be a time in my near future where there would be a default order to not go into my place of work.

Does anyone remember when Quarantine first began, almost entirely a year ago, and all of a sudden there were clear blue skies? Not figuratively, literally there was a significant lack of pollution that occurred on account of the nonexistent traffic. Everyone laughed in surprise, acting like they had no idea there would be a correlation. And nationally, pollution levels dipped lower than years prior. Take a look at the evidence. Was this a turning point where people started to consider how their seemingly mundane actions affected and left an impact on the planet?

There was finally at least somewhat of a mutual understanding, or at least appreciation, that stopping a seemingly innocuous behaviour could actually yield positive results.

Otherwise, the “traditional 8-hour work day”. Now that millions are at home with no need to commute, needlessly socialize, or even walk from building to building to make it to meetings… How many people have recognized how unnecessary it is to maintain an in-person presence at their place of work (despite benefits a silicon valley workplace may provide)?

And does anyone actually ever work 8 consecutive hours in a day? I personally enjoy taking diligent notes in my Google Calendar to (for future references) remind myself what tasks or activities I did on any given day. I’ve been more busy recently setting up my blog, working with Sustainability Champions, and maintaining my social life, but there still will be gaps in my schedule during the days. I usually take 15 minute lunch breaks to eat and get back to grinding out content or if I’m working on misc portfolio pieces in the morning, but I still can take time to go to Trader Joes during the day for a productive walk or scroll between Reddit and TikTok for forty-five minutes.

politely see yourself out

It just seems weird.

To expect so much out of an individual to commute to their place of work, and then on top of that, be chained to their desk for a specifically high minimum of hours per day. It’s undeniably weird. And I’m not referring to the techstars who studied computer science or data analytics and get paid $80 an hour or have a six digit salary. I live in San Francisco so I felt like I needed to make that clear. I’m talking about all the people who are working somewhere that’s not nearly as or entirely simulating, but it’s necessary to keep for some reason or another.

And if we’re on the topic… Why are school districts still using archaic teaching methods that intentionally leave out children with learning disabilities? Or teach courses that don’t elevate or encourage students to apply themselves? I am a prime example of a student failed by the educational system: I learned how to study (yes, study) school materials in an effective way when I was 17, a senior in high school. That was not cool.

We’re working off of an old, mostly useless, dinosaur-made system that doesn’t really function to serve anyone besides the CEOs or smaller scale business owners.

Consider the disparity between Boomers and Millennials: Boomers tend to work at a place for life, whereas millennials are more likely to move around about every 2–4 years.

This is a generational shift where people are starting to appreciate that work doesn’t have to be a draining duty, but more of an opportunity to shop around and find out which roles are suitable. Remember: it’s just as important to find out what you don’t like as what you do like.

And let us not forget: Boomer humor be like, “I hate my job and my b*tch wife”. So… what kind of role models are they to us, anyway?

just someone who cares a little about the sustainability of our inhabitance on this planet.