5 things I learned about work from working remote

September 7, 2020

For most of my career, I’ve gone to the office. There is something to the ritual of getting dressed up, leaving the house, and reporting to work. My father didn’t do white-collar work, so I never saw him grab a briefcase, but I did hear him stir in the early morning hours before hearing the garage open and his work van pull out of the driveway. I’m glad my kids were accustomed to seeing me leave to go and do what we are created to do: work, create, and innovate.

But this pandemic has forced us into new rhythms, hasn’t it? In the last few years I’ve spent more time working from home as my employers have given me that flexibility, but one day a week working at the kitchen table turned into five days a week in a newly-created office space as COVID-19 initiated a massive exodus from corporate spaces.

I’ve had mixed feelings about working from home all these months. On the one hand, I miss the camaraderie of an office, the casual drop-in conversations that often spark new ideas, and the seemingly idle banter that shapes the culture of an office environment and builds friendships. 

And yet, I’ve enjoyed working from home in many ways. Though I’m focused on my work, my wife and kids are always nearby. We’ve gotten closer as a family in these many months together, enjoying meals and walks and conversations, some intentional, some impromptu. I also don’t hate dressing less casual, with sweatpants as the new workwear.

Most of all, God has helped me see work in new ways. I’d like to share five of them here.

1. I’ve learned to be grateful for my work.

Working from home is an adjustment, but I’m reminded as I read the headlines and talk to friends and family that I’m working while many are not. I’m fortunate to have steady work that is in demand. So even on the most frustrating days, where the thorns and thistles of a fallen world choke out the joy of our labors, if we are working and that paycheck is dropping into the bank account, we should praise the Lord for his provision and pray for those who are jobless.

2. I’ve learned to be flexible in my work.

Flexibility isn’t a word you will find in the Bible, but it is definitely implied. 2020 has produced so much upheaval. Many of the regular rhythms we were used to—our commutes, lunches out with colleagues, travel—have been upended. Kids are at home when they should be at school. And for those marginalized by shutdowns and the virus, their entire economic situation has been turned upside down. Business owners have lost everything, workers are unable to find employment, and people are sick and dying from the coronavirus.

We are having to learn trust alongside gratitude. Flexibility means having an open-handedness and the willingness to regularly rely on God’s sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty.

3. I’ve learned to appreciate the value of the work itself.

There is something about being in the place where you live all the time that makes a job seem less like a job. And I often have to remind my children that I’m actually working and not just hanging out. Yet, ironically, the blurring of lines makes me better value the actual work for its worth.

Work is not an office or a construction site or a studio, though these are arenas for what we do with our hands and minds. Work is the labor we do, resulting in something meaningful. It glorifies God when we create and innovate and serve. We often see a job as a means to an end, when we need to recognize the work itself as a way we image our working God.

4. I’ve learned to create better margins.

One of the dangers of working from home is the creeping way that work becomes all-consuming. Even in normal times, it is hard to put the phone down or close the laptop, but when your desk is in the living room, it’s harder to tell yourself that it’s closing time. It’s easy to eat through lunch at your desk.

Early on in the pandemic, we made a decision to convert a part of our downstairs into an office instead of me taking over the dining room table. This has helped me create margin. My work is there in that spot, and when I leave it, I’m not at work (unless I’m pacing the neighborhood on a phone call or radio interview). I still struggle with unplugging and unwinding, but these months home have helped me create cleaner lines.

5. I’ve learned to appreciate the preciousness of embodied relationships.

Thankfully, we live in an era where technological innovations have allowed us to do meaningful work from home. Technology can be problematic in a fallen world and have perverse incentives, but innovation is actually fulfilling the Genesis mandate, fashioning advances from the raw materials of God’s good creation.

And yet, as wonderful as it is to be able to do video calls, to host conferences and gatherings virtually, and to be able to call and text and email, none of this can come close to replacing actual embodied human interaction. Screens only get us so far. We were made and fashioned by God for community and meaningful interaction. 

I suspect that while work from home will be a permanent option for a good number of organizations, this lesson might be the most profound for all of us. For many, there will be a growing desire to see and enjoy the people we work alongside and to form those bonds that can last a lifetime. And while COVID-19 has interrupted these things for a season, we can go about our work knowing that, whether at home or in a building, whatever God has given us to do is a gift. Our faithfulness in and out of season is what he requires and what brings him pleasure.

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is the Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a columnist for World Magazine and a contributor to USA Today. Dan is a bestselling author of several books including, The Dignity Revolution, A Way With Words, and The Characters of … Read More