By Emmy Serviss / Boston
A story went viral recently, about how the CEO from Better.com laid off over 900 employees during a Zoom call. I wish I could say that I was shocked to hear the news. But since it has been almost two years since I was laid off in a group phone call at the very beginning of the pandemic – I was not surprised.
It’s hard to properly explain how overwhelming that phone call was, and how emotional that day was. I had never been laid off before, and even though I knew the layoffs were due to Covid – I had an intense feeling of shame. I felt like it was my fault I was getting laid off. Maybe if I had worked harder or been involved in more projects, I would have been worth keeping.
But almost worse than the feeling of shame, was the fact that because it was a group phone conference where we were all on mute –we had no opportunity to ask questions or get details or have an actual conversation. Much like that Zoom call at Better.com, (an ironic name, to be sure), the phone conference lasted about three minutes. And that was it.
I spent the next year searching for a job.
It was awful.
I’ve been jobless before, but in those instances it was because I had moved across the country and was job searching in a new city. And in those instances, I was still able to pick up a gig here or there, so I had a little bit of extra income. This was entirely different. There was no income, and for the first time in my life, I had to file for unemployment. (cue more shame).
The one thing about being laid off due to Covid that was sort of comforting was that I could find reassurance that if we WEREN’T in the middle of a global pandemic, I would still be gainfully employed. But on the flip side, because SO MANY people were let go due to Covid, the job market was absolutely flooded with people looking for new jobs.
I was one tiny drop in an ocean of unemployed.
I sent out resume after resume after resume. I filed for unemployment week after week after week. And I cried tear after tear after tear after tear. I got maybe one phone interview every couple of months, and they never panned out. Months went by and I felt utterly worthless.
I FINALLY got a break in September, when a friend reached out and asked if I was still job searching. I gave her an enthusiastic “YES!” and sent her my resume. I quickly got a phone interview, then a Zoom interview, and then another phone interview. Within five days I had a new job as project coordinator. I was SO THANKFUL to be working again, and yet now I was faced with a brand new situation.
Working 100% remote.
At my two previous jobs, we were given the option of working from home once or twice a week, so it wasn’t an entirely new scenario. But starting a new job without ever setting foot in an office was strange. I didn’t meet new coworkers, I didn’t get assigned a desk, I didn’t have to figure out a new coffeemaker. (ok that last one was pretty nice).
Boxes upon boxes were shipped to my house and I set up my new laptop, monitor and computer accessories in my dining room aka my new office. It was weird and nice at the same time. All my onboarding and training was on Zoom, which was again, weird and nice. For a year I heard people joke about “business on top and pajamas on the bottom” and I thought it was just a joke. I quickly learned that is 100% accurate. I have no more use for hard pants!
Being completely remote has its perks. The biggest one being that I don’t have to deal with commuting anymore. I live in a city where public transportation is available, but I also have some anxiety, so stuffing myself into a packed train in the morning was stressful enough BEFORE Covid. Getting to avoid that nightmare all together is a blessing that I am oh-so-thankful for. Not to mention the fact that no morning commute means I can sleep later and then roll out of bed and start my day leisurely.
Working from home is also nice if I need to do chores between meetings, run a couple errands during my lunch break, and give my pets some extra attention between 9-5. So there are plenty of reasons to love working remotely. (and believe me, I do).
However, you do lose some things when you work remotely.
When starting a new job, there’s always a learning curve while you adapt to new skills or work processes. It can be challenging to learn over Zoom, when you don’t have the luxury of looking over someone’s shoulder, or having a coworker look over your shoulder. Screen sharing is adequate, but not quite the same. Plus there’s the inevitable lag of real-time interactions, or not being able to see EXACTLY what is happening on the other computer.
The other major hardship is trying to get to know new co-workers. There’s no built-in office comradery or water cooler chitchat. There aren’t instances in which you can just “run into” someone and start up a conversation. Sure, it’s still possible to get to know someone over Zoom, you just have to be much more intentional about it. Which is hit or miss.
It’s only been a few months, but so far it seems like the cons of working remotely, pale in comparison to the pros. As we crawl towards a world where Covid is simply a minor inconvenience instead of a global pandemic, maybe companies will return to having staff in the office all or some of the time.
Personally, I’ll stick with my pajama bottoms and Zoom calls.
Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.