Staying home out of necessity
Over the past year or more most of us have spent a lot of time at home. Initially, this was not by choice as many businesses, eateries, recreational venues, and other places we typically visited were closed. Largely we remained at home although some essential services search as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores (including gas), and medical facilities remained open with different rules and adjusted hours. Additionally, some food establishments allowed take-out or used a delivery service.
After weeks, and in some cases months, of learning how to stay at home and conduct business online – conferencing, attending meetings, and connecting with associates and clients remotely rather than in person – many of us found that this was a pleasant alternative to the hectic pace that had characterized us previously.
Had we been given a choice in early 2020 as to whether we wanted to work from home as if it were our primary office location or if we wanted to continue traveling to the office or visiting with existing and potential clients, how many of us would have chosen to continue what we were doing rather than adapting to the new status quo?
Some people were working from home anyway and traveling to the office just a few days a month – telecommuting or video conferencing the rest of the time.
What we learned
While all of us are always aging in place in our present homes, most people didn’t think of their lifestyle in these terms. Their homes were fine and they enjoyed coming back to them after being away at the office (or school) or on a business trip or while volunteering, but they had not considered the possibilities or living in their homes full-time without leaving them in the customary ways for employment or activities.
Not many of us would not have selected to make a serious change or adjustment in the way we conducted business or attended school by remaining at home and participating in all of our external interactions over the Internet and telephone, but we found the new paradigm to have many benefits for us and our families.
There developed a closeness in a renewed bond between family members and pets that we had not anticipated or expected. Without the pressure or demands of leaving home every day to go to the office or school, we had additional time to conduct business at home and still attend to the personal needs of those in our home. We had time to get to know each other better, to find out more about each other’s needs and interests, and to actually spend quality time with each other. After all, what else was pulling us away from our time together with our family? Certainly, it was not going to work, school, or shopping, as these places were mostly inaccessible.
Adjusting to the new normal
While many people are resuming so-called normal or traditional activities such as going out to shop or returning to the office, there seems to have been a significant paradigm shift. People realize that they don’t need to visit the office every day. Some can essentially skip it altogether. We have had a year to demonstrate this reality to ourselves, our companies, our clients, and our colleagues.
Even when going to the office on a regular basis is something that people are doing on a regular basis, don’t expect that things will return to the way they were pre-virus. People soon appreciated that the commuting time they saved could be devoted to other activities – such as spending a little more time with the family. We became far more tolerant of each other. On a video call, if it was interrupted by a child, pet, or spouse walking through the room or appearing next to us on camera, people accepted it. We found that we didn’t need to be so rigid.
Showing up at a staff meeting or training session with a snack or something to drink other than water was not the thing to do in most cases pre-virus. Now, people literally are eating at their desks and conducting business at the same time – more productivity and less downtime for breaks.
Some companies and individuals already were promoting remote, work-from-home situations for the right situation. Look for this to expand and continue as people are going to look for more ways to continue doing what they have found to their liking over the past several months. Obviously, retail and many service occupations require a presence at the place of business, but many others are more lenient. As long as the work product is accomplished and the clients are served, does the physical location of where the work occurs matter so much?
Relating to aging in place
Now that we have spent extended amounts of time living in and working from home, and being in close proximity to the others sharing our home with us (people and pets), it’s rather easy to envision doing this same thing even when our current careers are finished. We may transition into a cottage industry or consulting from our homes, but the key ingredient here is the home base. We are comfortable with our home and find no reason to change it. This is aging in place in the truest sense, and it has taken on a new meaning for us. Some of us have discovered this concept for the first time. Those who were not familiar with the aging in place concept before, have lived it now and generally like it.