“Honey, I’ll be glad to stop by the store on the way home from work and pick that up for you.”
I am not able to say this right now. I probably will not say anything like it for quite some time. For the past few weeks, I have been working from home, like many others, due to the coronavirus.
Here, I will address some of the unique challenges I have faced since having been forced to telework on short notice due to social distancing as a result of this pandemic. Then, I will focus my thoughts on how my Christian faith is impacted by this new environment.
The Divine-Human Connection in Our Work
From a theological perspective, I have observed many impacts on work right away.
I have to go back to my foundational concept in my theology of work: Immanuel labor—God is present in our work. This divine-human connection is supported in Scripture in many places. Even though my work has changed significantly, this principle remains the same since God has not changed who He is.
I am grateful that God brought this to mind at 07:30 on Day 1. When I stepped into my temporary office from my kitchen, I recognized that I was standing on holy ground. God was present in my new workspace. By His grace, He would continue to work in me, with me, and through me, right here at my personal desk that now held my government computer, just as He always had done.
I still experience God’s presence while working alone. God freely gives me His peace, wisdom, and joy whether I am in the office or at home. However, the way that I bring the presence of God to others when I am not present with them is challenging for me. I have to rest that His presence is continuing to flow through me as I abide in Christ whenever I text, email, or have a video chat.
What Makes Work Hard
In addition to changes in how I experience God’s presence at work, another aspect that has been drastically different in this new environment of teleworking is its unique set of thorns and thistles.
I am referring to God’s curse that made work harder than necessary as a direct result of the sins of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:17-19), others I work for (above, below, and next to me), and myself.
Here are some of the things that I have discovered that make everyone’s job much harder:
- Uncertainty—None of us knows how long this “new normal” is going to last.
- Decision-making—It is more difficult to make hard decisions when the team is scattered.
- Stress—Never-ending time-sensitive requests for information, preparation for daily briefings, ever-changing requirements, long hours, and extremely high expectations.
- Learning curve—Having to learn how to do many things outside our usual comfort zone (i.e., learning new technologies to participate in virtual meetings, no playbook to go by).
However, I have learned that we cannot stay stuck just because work has been impacted by sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives me hope. It enables me to respond biblically to the thorns and thistles I see at work as trials that God uses to build my character into greater Christ-likeness. (See Rom. 5:3-5.)
Relating to Bosses and Employees
What clearly comes to mind is how the way in which I work has been impacted by teleworking, especially when it comes to how I relate to my employer and to my employees.
The first thing that comes to mind is the higher level of discipline that is required as I work from home. At the start of each day, I have to lay out what I anticipate will be my boss’ priorities for me and then press on towards completion, whether she is present or absent. My boss cannot just pop into my office to see how I am doing or to check on the status of a hot project. (However, she does seem to do that virtually at least once a day through our desktop video-conferencing application.)
Additionally, how I submit to my employer in a tangible way from a distance is a critical thing. Scripture tells me it is my number one duty; it is to my advantage that I do this. (See Heb. 13:17.) I also have to remember that Jesus is my ultimate boss. I work for His glory. (See Eph. 6:5-7.)
How has teleworking impacted my relationships with the soldiers that work for me? This is where I think that I have some growing to do. I am an “out of sight, out of mind” person. I always have been. Since I don’t see them here in my office, they tend to be forgotten. And that is sad.
Beforehand, I may have been tied up for a half an hour or so reading emails or updating slides, but I would come out of my office occasionally to get a drink of water or just to see how everyone is doing. For example, at 14:30 nearly every day, because of my unique sense of humor, I would announce to anyone around that it is time to see the dentist. Why? Because it is tooth-hurty (two-thirty)!
Working Faithfully from the Home Office
As the weeks of teleworking turn into months, I have to work harder to find ways to intentionally reconnect with my two noncommissioned officers who work for me. They deserve that. More importantly, that is what I am called to do, to love my neighbors at work, whether present or not.
In closing, I trust that this reflection on how my Christian faith intersects my work in this new teleworking environment shed some light on some of the challenges many of us are facing. I for one know that I need to spend more time praying that I will be just as faithful at the home office.
Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about being faithful at work? Our popular book, “How Then Should We Work,” also has a discussion guide that you can do with a group. Try it out with your co-workers or church group while you are working remotely!