Beware of the work trap!

Have you seen posters of people working on their laptops with a Zen smile on their face? Add to the ambience, it’s not an office space they are working from but a beach or a mountain in the backdrop? The new term workation is sold to millennial workers as some kind of ultimate solution to their aches and pains at work. As if coding from the mountains or entering data from the sea beach would make their jobs more interesting and meaningful. As if that is the ultimate professional enabling they are looking for. Also work from anywhere is sold as part of your salary package. So that you are ready to take pay cuts in order to avail this benefit.

One of the reasons why millennial and Gen Z workers fall for this trap is that they want to pack everything in a day’s time. They don’t want to miss out on anything. Flexi work allows us to work from anywhere. So, what does it matter if even in the mountains all we do after work is binge-watch Netflix shows. We want to be able to make some money while keeping our Insta feed busy with pictures of us dipping our toes in cold spring or working in casual wear while lying in a hammock, under the shade of a tree.

The exposure to nature is obviously mood-lifting. Many writers move to the mountains for inspiration. But not all of us are writing novels or movie scripts. We are doing just daily work, with a specific deadline. Zoom meetings, long to-do lists, and endless phone calls… that’s what our workday looks like. Not inner contemplation that would lead to two sentences of profound poetry. That’s not what’s paying our bills. Not to say that when you have a regular day job, you don’t have a creative side or a need for creative recreations.

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a trip to a pristine location for cognitive dissonance to take over — to work or to connect with nature and our loved ones. Modern work has enabled us to visit our long-distance friends, stay with them and still continue working. I was recently in Bangalore, working remotely from a friend’s place. I ended up fighting with the friend more often because he felt I didn’t pay enough attention to him. The week I chose to be with him proved to be much more hectic than I had anticipated. I was given a new project to handle and had to immerse myself in fresh research. I couldn’t think of anything else other than taking on this new challenge on the work front, while my friend’s hope of showing me around, and taking me to the best eateries crashed. Eventually, we did make peace after I allowed myself a day off just to be with him and there was a happy ending to the story, but neither of us really could recreate the magic of older times, when we talked about everything under sun without clocking hours.

A real vacation, real contemplation, real commitment to our artistic-creative lives is necessary. A genuine commitment to our long-distance friends and relationships is needed. Only a token visit in the garb of work from home takes away from the power of full presence. By combining our work days with our recreation and holiday we do justice to neither. Meeting a deadline is still going to be anxiety inducing while being surrounded by mountains or living in a small cottage in a village.

I can’t bring myself to work, if it starts raining and the weather gets remotely romantic even in the middle of a busy city like Mumbai, Bangalore or Pune. Those are the days for looking out of the window, sipping copious amounts of chai, reading and writing poetry. I have no clue how people get anything done, when mountains are waiting to be trekked upon, trees are waiting to wrap you up in their shade, and wildflowers are overwhelming your visual senses. How do you look away from this wonder and look at your laptop?

Sometimes, as Naina (played by Deepika Padukone) tells Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) in Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani, “Zindagi kuch kuch na to chutega hi”. We need to make peace with the part that we will miss out on. That’s what adulting is all about. Self-soothing, and sitting at one place, and doing what is important in the here and now. Not trying to escape our reality. Our commitment to our employers and deadlines too need to be performed in the isolation of our work-cabins. To not do so is disrespecting something that pays our bills. And disregarding people who trusted us with getting something done. Bashing of a toxic work culture doesn’t allow for an indifferent attitude towards work ethics. We still have to be thorough professionals.

If staying and working amid nature is essential for your well-being and propels you towards goals in your life, please go ahead and do it. But don’t look at it as some kind of an automatic goal, an aspiration, a must have modern lifestyle. We often end up mistaking the trend as the real goal, instead of working on what we truly need from life, and what our current circumstances need out of us. In fact, if something is a trend, be rest assured that it’s not your goal. It has market interests and you are being manipulated into succumbing to it.

Before you sign up for the FOMO-ridden workation, ask yourself why you must have a deadline on looking at a flower or listening to the sweet song of birds, or the gurgling sound of the nearby spring? Why must I be torn apart by the anxiety of going back to my laptop and the natural urge to keep walking barefoot on green grass, and taking long breaths of mountain air? Why must we live on crumbs of presence, bliss and happiness? Why not demand more from us and our employers who are equally responsible for our mental well being instead of cramming too much into too little space?

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Published on: Sunday, April 10, 2022, 07:00 AM IST

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