Working from home (WFH) is now the new normal. Some people are either at home full-time or only required to go into the office 2-3 times a week. Organizations across the world have come to realize that there are many benefits that come with having your employees work from home. For Black women employees, however, WFH is actually a bigger deal than most people think–for the first time ever, we’re receiving the opportunity to work full-time, and approach “work” from our own safe space.
Historically, the microagressions, small-talk, and expectations of predominantly white work environments require SO much of us: code-switching, “appropriate” hairstyles, small-talk, and in some cases, doing everything in our power to shrink ourselves, and blend in.
For us, working from home means more than just being able to wear your pajamas on a zoom call, or be around family, it is one of the purest forms of privilege Black people now have access to. I still work at a job where I have to be in the office 5 days straight. However, after hearing the shared experiences of my Black sisters who now work from home, I see why working from home might be one of the best things to happen to us.
Your workspace…Your rules
For centuries, Black people never had much of a say when it comes to who they worked for, including where, and when. Rather the decision was made based on what job would be willing to hire us. Fast forward to 2021, we are getting the first hand experience of what it feels like to be in control of not only who we work for, but how we want our work experience to be. Being able to control your office set-up, location, and even your own schedule is a privilege that now anyone, no matter your title, can redeem. Tired of your room or too much distraction in the house? Well you can simply get up and go somewhere else. If you haven’t already, try to find a coffee shop, library, and/or rent out a local office space at little to no cost. Being able to set our own tone and vibration of our workspace, is a new territory that we can all finally cross.
Turn that Camera back on, but only when you’re Ready
The bathroom used to be our escape, now it’s the turn camera off button. Being that I still work in the office, I can’t tell you how many times I have to “use” the bathroom during the middle of uncomfortable events and meetings. It is the only place where I can breathe and expel all the tension I’ve been holding onto in those spaces where I am surrounded by toxic masculine energy and small–yet loud innuendos that fully remind me that I am the only Black person here.
Whatever the case may be, there are only so many mental and physical jabs I can take before getting labeled with one of the many stereotypes Black women hold when they finally lose their shit—rightfully so. However, that is where the beauty of working from home comes into play. You don’t have to leave the meeting early (all though you can), or force that smile, rather turn your camera off for a couple of minutes and rejoin when you are good. Most likely people won’t notice you are gone because they are doing the same thing…The only difference is that Black people do it because we have to for our own self-care and mental health.
“Dress to impress”…No, I’m good
I’ve been dressing to impress my entire life and quite frankly I’m tired. Working from home 3 out of 5 times a week allows us to take that needed break we always wanted. No need to try to make your hair as straight as it can be, no need to disguise your hips, curves, and all that glory. Obviously dont jump on the camera looking like someone who hasn’t changed out of their pajamas in days, but this time you don’t have to overthink what everyone else has to say about how you look and what you decide to wear. You don’t have to worry that your look will impact your work. For the first time in the workspace environment, we are getting a free pass to come as we are!
WFH is healing all of us but in different ways
While some people would love to go back to the office, the majority would not. WFH is healing some of us from things that we never realized we needed healing from. While it’s doing this, we still can get a paycheck at the end of the day and not feel like we have to pause our entire life to find ourselves, our power, and regain our motivation back. And while we are healing and grinding all at the same time, we can do so with others, side by side through this new age of work post-pandemic.This comradery gives space for people to take a break without explanation. If you see your coworker turn that camera off, you don’t even need to know the reason, ask any questions, or need a fancy email explaining their absence. Despite race, class, sex, and gender, we all just know that person needs a second.
With all this being said, working from home still isn’t easy. Some battle with loneliness, lack of motivation, and have difficulty with time management skills since no one is breathing down their neck every second. But this all comes with being in a new territory that we just have to learn how to navigate. However, once you find your rhythm and find what works for you, your work experience won’t define you, you will define it.
Thessiana Shama Mesilus merges the art of storytelling and psychology throughout her content. She founded Shama Works that serves as a creative platform to help individuals lead, grow, and heal from within or wherever there is a story to be heard.