Working from home

Workplaces have had to adjust to the new reality.

In March 2020, when our country went into lockdown, we began to learn that we could do all sorts of jobs without going into the office. Not every job that traditionally requiring in-person meetings really needed that feature.

Now, in August 2021, as workplaces begin to open in-person again, we may discover that the temporary office at home has become permanent, replacing the daily commute. 

Some workers, untethered from their workplace, have seized the opportunity to move away from Detroit, and others have moved here, attracted by what this area has to offer. 

Deena Englard
Deena Englard

Deena Englard lived — and worked — in a cramped apartment with her husband and children in Queens, N.Y. Englard is art director at 14 Minds, a firm that designs campaigns for nonprofit organizations in the Jewish community. When she and her family decided to move to Oak Park, her boss was totally on board with the move. “Just tell me your address so I can mail you whatever has to go by mail.” 

In Queens, whenever the virtual background on Zoom failed, clients could see that she was working from her bedroom, “an unprofessional look.” With the printer in one room, the computer in another and natural light hard to come by, getting anything done required dashing all over the apartment. At her new home in Oak Park, in a room dedicated as her home office, with natural light, the printer next to her desk, the desktop computer (with a bigger hard drive) and big screen monitor, she can work much more efficiently.

Englard adds that this year her husband’s uncle has also moved to Oak Park — from California. A software engineer, he was working remotely at a firm in Silicon Valley. Now he has a new job, coincidentally at a Detroit firm, but he works in an office in his new home. He has not seen the inside of the firm’s office building.

Freedom to Move

Other workers have arranged to keep the working at their jobs in the Detroit area even after moving away. Daniel Jacobovitz kept working, helping customers use his employer’s manufacturing statistics software, as he moved his family from Oak Park to Efrat, Israel. He still works Eastern time business hours, from early evening to deep night local time in Israel. 

Sometimes that falls through: In one distressing situation, a local professional committed to moving his family to Israel on the assurance that he could keep working at his post remotely. Then his employer withdrew the offer. 

Micha Zwick
Micha Zwick

Micha Zwick of Huntington Woods owns Inherit More, a private investigation firm that specializes in helping those who have lost loved ones to find and receive their inheritance. Working remotely, with his wife also working virtually, enabled the Zwick family “to skip a Michigan winter and spend it in Florida instead.”

Some of the personal advantages of working at home are obvious. Deena Englard lists a few: “No commute: More time at home.” She adds, “If I need to drop off the kids in the morning, or pick them up in the afternoon, or hop out on some errand, I can do what I need to and get back to work right away.” 

Michael Zwick agrees: “Since our kids first did remote school and then switched to homeschooling, it’s been great that I can be available to help them.” 

Gail Berkove
Gail Berkove

Gail Berkove is a psychotherapist in private practice in Southfield, with many years of experience providing counselling to clients. “With the outbreak of COVID-19, the companies have enabled us to provide therapy remotely,” she says. Since the lockdown, she has “been doing counseling exclusively by telephone.” She has been surprised by “how completely successful the outcomes have been.” 

She elaborates, “Even without the important visual cues that you get meeting face-to-face, my clients are still able to move ahead successfully on resolving the problems or issues they are working on during a phone session.” 

Berkove has even developed new clients since the outbreak of COVID. “They don’t know what I look like, and I don’t know what they look like.” 

Berkove notes an advantage of telephone therapy sessions for older and disabled clients, “who often have trouble getting to a therapist’s office. Some of them need help with transportation, and that can introduce complications. The commute is much easier when they just have to pick up the telephone: it is reliable, fast and convenient.”

Workplaces Adjust

Workplaces have had to adjust to the new reality. Some believe informal collaboration does less well when everyone works remotely, and formal, deliberately planned collaboration becomes more important.

Englard notes that her company has grown during the pandemic, and coworkers keep in touch with each other on Zoom all day.

But remote work has its drawbacks for the worker as it becomes harder to separate from work. There is no barrier to hopping back on the computer at any moment for a little task, and one could wind up going back to work fully at any time.

Daniel Jacobovitz and family
Daniel Jacobovitz and family

Zwick says, “The flip side of being in the same house as my kids all the time is the being on call at all times. It’s really been a challenge when trying to record audio for an e-learning platform we will launch soon and having noise interruptions from the kids and/or dogs.

“As a business owner, I’ve always been on 24/6 but my true work hours tended to be when I was at the office,” he added. “Now, I might squeeze in an hour or two really early before anyone else in the house is awake, then take some time off in the middle of the day for family stuff, and then work again after the kids are in bed.”

As restrictions lift, tentatively, what can we anticipate? Will employers go back to demanding in-person work? Perhaps, if many people in the job market expect the opportunity to work remotely full or part time, that could become a norm.

Berkove says she “would really like to see remote psychotherapy sessions become an accepted option.” However, she notes, “That really depends on whether the insurance companies will cover it.” 

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