On Friday March 13th, I grabbed my bag and walked out of my Alexandria, VA office. I haven’t been back since, and if we’re being honest, I don’t know if I ever want to. That’s not to say that I don’t want to keep working–not at all. In the time I’ve been working from home, I think I’ve been more productive than I have in years. In between developing six proposals over two months and submitting them all at once two weeks ago, I’ve had the blessing of being able to spend time with my baby daughter, wife, and dog and contributing more fully to my household, from cooking dinner more frequently to being able to accomplish small chores in between meetings. Overall, I’ve put in longer and harder hours at work, but also longer and better hours with my family, and I can directly attribute that to working from home.
In fact, I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned throughout this pandemic-created work-from-home necessity is that it’s very easy to work too much when your office is your home. It became a regular occurrence for me to slip back downstairs to my office after my wife and baby went to sleep at night, staying up late on calls and getting up early with the baby. Creating boundaries is something that has been expounded upon in many articles in the media over the last two months, but I think that proposal development is a unique animal in that creating boundaries has never really been something we’ve been good at as an industry. Our work is famously late nights and weekends, and when you don’t have a commute to an office, the sword cuts both ways. It becomes incredibly easy to get the late night and weekend work done more efficiently with family life, but it also makes it more difficult to disconnect. While I was more efficient and more productive, I was also more exhausted than usual. Setting boundaries is critical for mental and physical health when you’re working from home, and what I’ve found helps the most is prioritization. Stopping to ask before responding to the late night email “Is this critical to get done before the morning?” has been the single most helpful thing I’ve introduced into my mentality over the last two months. It’s allowed me the sleep required to deal with a 5:30 a.m. hungry infant and the brain power to develop more critical and well-thought-out answers to the problems our industry faces.
This has been a difficult time for our country, no question, and I’m fortunate that I can work remotely and that my family is safe. But I think the biggest professional takeaway that I’ve had is that remote work is definitely for me. I’ll be back in for meetings, of course, but otherwise I think I can safely pack up my office. You can reach me on my cell phone, I’ll always be available.