Isn’t Heart Where Home Is?

We are all aware of the popular saying, “Home is where, Heart is,” but if you read it the other way round it would be, “Heart is where Home is.” Don’t you think that’s true? Isn’t your heart always at home? Do you easily get tired in outings and always in a hurry to back home and rest? If you are a student, and when you go to school, don’t you miss your home, and in your mind, you start planning what you will do after going back home? Don’t you share stories of your home with your friends? If you are employed and go to the office, don’t you miss your home, and you start planning your routine for the pending housework?

Well, as a student, I do remember how I used to wait for the bell to ring for dispersal so that I reach home fast and watch my favorite show while having my lunch. And after that tiring day in school, I enjoyed taking a pleasing afternoon nap that night sleep can’t give. And by the time I wake up, it is time for my mom to come from her job, where I must be dying to meet her and share with her all the fun and exciting stories that happened in the school. That hour was supposed to be our time talking and sharing the moments of our day. And as soon as it is 6 pm, I could hear the horn of my dad’s car and me running to open the door and see what he has bought for the evening snacks. While he comes out all exhausted and directly jumps to his bed after the shower, he spends his time with us, talking about the world, our family and films, and what not. We all wait for this time, sitting near the balcony, having tea and snacks, discussing any random topic, leaving all our work stress for some time in our school and offices, and chatting all under the sky.

But all of a sudden, everything changed, from our lifestyle to our daily routines. Abruptly, everything came to a standstill; we all were confined in our homes, obviously because of the spread of novel coronavirus. Work was paused, schools were closed, everybody was sitting free in their homes. In the beginning, like others we all enjoyed this leisure time, this new change, as we got to spend more time with our family, we got some nice time from our ongoing busy schedule, to learn new things or say experiment things, which we were not able to. The world was in no hurry; nobody was running after money. The whole world was under lockdown, with everyone spending their free time to learn new skills and helping each other in household work. Social media was flooded with videos of celebrities and commoners showing their skills and how they are helping their families with house chores and cooking. But, as the lockdown kept getting extended, all such activities like house cleaning, cooking, and various creative learning like painting, dancing, and instrument playing started reducing. With time, everybody realized that the work couldn’t stop for so long. Everyone will be at a loss if they don’t work, and they need to pull up their socks and get things back to normal. All of a sudden, the break in everyone’s life resumed. From office works to education, everything went online.

Now, all the family members are in separate corners of the home, busy attending their online meetings and classes. Home is not home anymore, and it has become the new workplace, which we say now as WFH (Work From Home). The moment we wake up, everybody sits with their laptops. Nobody has time to meet and greet each other in the morning. Dads are in their room, busy in their meetings, mom is busy balancing household chores and her office meetings, children are busy attending their continuous online classes. Everyone has their separate time to eat and relax. When dad has a break, mom and child are busy in their meeting. If mom is free for an hour, she is busy cooking food for the family and managing to have her lunch simultaneously, whereas when the child gets a break, he or she is having lunch. This work from home life has complicated the life of every other individual. Now, we can’t literally meet our family in homes, as everyone is locked in their room with their online meetings or conference calls. Though they were adapting to working from home, it is causing an increased workload. There’s the temptation to work longer hours where back-to-back virtual meetings are emerging, and meetings can even be held on weekends.

By the time there is some free time in the evening, everyone is so tired of sitting long hours with their laptops that all go to their beds to take a power nap. It must be only in the night that family members sit together and see each other’s faces. All of them look so stressed thinking about their pending works and their forthcoming works. Earlier, we would leave our school and office stress at the school and offices and come home happy. But now, home is the place we are working, and we cannot easily switch between work activity and home environment. We are working in the same room, where we use to chill and relax, leading to a disorder in our minds. Our mind is always occupied by work-related stress. Besides, the working women are facing more pressures to keep a balance between the family and their office work. According to a McKinsey report from October 2020, women working from home were feeling more exhausted and burned out than men, resulting in more than one in four women in the US contemplating to downshift their careers or entirely leave the workforce. Thus, there is a need to give women enough support so they are able to balance work and family.

On the other hand, the less human interaction socially makes us miss our office and school environment. Meeting our colleagues and classmates virtually doesn’t give the same pleasure as it would when we meet them in person. With fewer opportunities for informal catch-ups, many workers are spending more time in these meetings. As well as being a time drain, these video meetings can trigger fatigue and leave participants feeling ironically disconnected. In a physical room, you can pick up on people’s reactions and see whether they are engaged in your talk. But when online, this isn’t possible, and it can be challenging to perform, which causes a sudden increase in your psychological and emotional workload. According to recent research, it was identified that more than 50 percent of respondents working from home due to the pandemic are feeling burnt out.

It is so weird that there was a time when our heart was always at home; we always look forward to reaching home and spend time with family and friends, relax and take sound sleep in our comfortable room. But this transition to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our emotions towards our home. This work-from-home situation has increased a burden in our life, and now our heart is not where our home is. Our heart is at the school, offices, or to some travel destinations, but certainly not at home. All of us are waiting for the situation to get normal so that they could go to their schools, colleges, offices, and their favorite destinations. It was revealed that around 78 percent of students are waiting for schools to reopen, as they miss meeting their classmates and teachers physically. Whereas, those who are working from home, aged between 41 and 60 years, revealed that they prefer doing two or three days a week from home. At the same time, the respondents aged over 60 most favored working remotely. The key reasons workers want to return to the office in a semi-permanent fashion were informal social interaction, formal collaboration to work more effectively in tight groups, and more distraction-free environments than home offices.

But until we recuperate and are given a new lease of life, we have to work from home, and even after the pandemic, remote working is bound stay for sometime. Hence, to overcome the workload stress, we have to plan a proper routine and balance work and home life. We need to prioritize our work and schedule time slots, including extra time in between to cater to our family. We should increase our social interactions with family and close ones to stave off loneliness and compensate for the lack of human contact. Try not to stay in your office gear once your work is done. Set aside your laptop, vacate your workspace, get into home clothes and be fully involved in your regular family chores and activities. Or instead, go out for a walk in complete precautions, change into an appropriate get-up, switch on the right music and let your hair down.

– Aishwarya Soman (Student of MA in Applied Economics at Christ University, Bengaluru)

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