Co-living + Co-working

Why Working Remote was Always Going to Happen

Can you remember the first day of your first job?

I’m sure most can: that classic combination of first-day nerves, feeling overwhelmed by all the new information, eager to prove yourself, and letting the novelty of it all excite you.

Can you remember the eighth day of your first job? I’m willing to bet it felt a little different than the first. Like, “I checked the clock on my laptop 35 times” kind of different.This is exactly why we (along with millions of others) believed the workforce would one day go remote, and never go back.

It is also why setting up a remote workspace and coliving space in the gorgeous Himalayas only six months before the pandemic has been such a beautiful experience. We’ve gotten a really intimate look into the lives of those who visit us to stay & work, who for the first time in their post-graduate lives, are realizing that the workweek + weekend formula never needed to exist in the first place – and the results have been seriously transformative. But more on that in a minute.

Sunrise hike from Playground Manali.

Have you compared the memories of the first and eighth day of your first job yet? My first internship was in the marketing department of a special events center near my university, and that first day taught me (whether or not I realized it at the time), that a classic 9am to 5pm desk job was just not for me. After the office tour and introductions to my new coworkers finished, I sat at my desk, where I would now spend three days a week for eight hours a day.

My favorite part of those days became the 10 minute walk I made from my cubicle to the front of the building to pick up the sandwich I had ordered for lunch. Yay.

I realized that it wasn’t the work itself that was the problem – I loved the blog-writing, interviewing and social media strategizing. My co-workers and mentors were kind and helpful. It was the fact that there would always be a mandatory time and place attached to those things I loved to do, and that started to make me love them a little less.

I’m not the only one who felt or feels this way, especially the millennial generation, as I’m sure many of those reading this blog can confirm. In a recent study, over 70% of educated urban millennials in India said they prefer the remote work style for its flexibility, and 80% say they just want a job that leaves time for other things in life. These are not small numbers, and the preference is global.

Some of us co-living and co-working at Playground are a little more focused than others…

In the United States, over half of the current workforce prefers to work fully remote, Canadian millennials cite their top two reasons for quitting a job as poor work-life balance and a disconnect with their passion.

Back at my intern desk, 18 year-old me had her first mini existential crisis: “How am I going to do this 5 days a week until I’m 65? Why am I going to do this?” Then I walked to get my sandwich.

The rise of the digital nomad and work-from-home lifestyles hasn’t been sudden or quiet. For years, we’ve envied these polished influencer-type Instagram accounts posting with their laptops poolside in Bali, or selfies in pajamas with their dogs with the hashtag #WorkingFromHome.

We’d all give the post a double-tap, mumble to ourselves “I wish,” and scroll. Such an ideal lifestyle was a far stretch from the current reality of early morning alarms, requesting leave from work, hours of commuting and unsatisfying lunch breaks.

Nothing quite demonstrates the sheer ridiculousness of this schedule, in my opinion, than the popularity of hashtags like #FriYAY, #SundayScaries and #MondayBlues. Cumulatively used over 11.5 million times just on Instagram (and that’s not including all the variations of each, which all have at least several thousand, these hashtags map out how our society really approaches each week: lease out five of our days so that we can spend the remaining two taking care of ourselves, realize those two days have finished in the blink of an eye, and reluctantly admit it’s Monday all over again.

Cue a pandemic.

Grabbing a window seat for today’s workday.

Suddenly, everyone was working remote, companies announced the indefinite closing of their offices – and to be honest, the transition wasn’t as smooth as we always fantasized it would be.

Managers were scheduling too many Zoom meetings, work emails started coming in the middle of the night because no one knew how to draw work/life boundaries at all, people were definitely not in a hammock in Bali or #WorkingFromHills at a workstation in Manali like ours, but instead quarantining inside their apartment all day, co-worker camaraderie was missed – the list goes on.

But after the initial lockdowns began to relax, and the awkwardness of navigating a completely digital worklife was somewhat smoothed out, the real value of separating work from a physical space burst into full color, which we were fortunate enough to see first-hand through people’s WFH Manali experiences.

I always tell people that one of my favorite things about running our place is the change on people’s face between the day they check in, and their check-out day. When guests first walk through our door, you can see the “grind” in their faces. There’s a residual tension about them that comes from a whole collection of things – taking the same calls every day in their apartment, dealing with family who they’ve moved back in with, memories of commutes and crappy HR and rigid office timings.

As their stay here continues though, whether they’re here on a flexible plan or all in one go, that begins to fade away for many. They begin to realize the potential of a self-designed day. I’ll explain.Instead of someone else telling them how to structure their work style, they’re calling the shots now – starting with catching the morning sunlight with a hot chai on our back porch.

Gathering for a snowy breakfast on the balcony at Playground Manali.

This is where most of us spend our mornings at Playground, like a bunch of lizards basking in the sun, getting to know our house mates while smelling breakfast being prepared.

From there, how everyone spends their day during their long term stay in Manali is as good of a guess as any. Some people get right down to business with their conference calls from our hammock or our 24 hour co-working space, others set out for a guided hike into the valley behind our place, or curl up in our upstairs library workstation, go for quick swim in the nearby stream, chill with house mates in our movie room – the variations change, but the point stays the same – it’s the day that works best for them.

From there, we see all kinds of special changes starting to happen after working from the mountains. Guests say they’re starting to feel healthier and more energetic. They’re restructuring what the idea of “professionalism” means, and that it’s not really something connected to how fancy your clothes are.

They’re realizing that a “work week” can look about a million different ways, that you can take a vacation & continue your job at the same time, and that quality work can be done consistently outside of the office setting.

One of my favorite moments watching this realization set in with one of our long-term stays happened on a lazy afternoon. When he (we’ll call him Prateek for the story’s sake) had first come to Playground, he was quiet and very focused with daily work – the “grind” was on his face. Every day, he seemed more and more at ease, opening up a bit more, playing with our pup, starting to take advantage of the endless trails behind our place.

One of our favorite secret day hikes from Playground Manali.

This afternoon, he was pacing back and forth across our front porch, until he finally turned straight to me and said, somewhat cautiously, “I don’t know why, but I just really feel like hiking to the river with my laptop and working from there. I know it sounds weird.”

He looked so excited, but diverted his eye contact as if he was also a bit embarrassed at having just admitted this out loud.

“So, why don’t you go then?” I asked.

He looked at me, “wouldn’t it look weird?”

“Why does it matter?” I replied, watching a smile replace the embarrassed look on his face.

Something clicked. I heard him say, more to himself than me as he hiked off with his laptop, “It doesn’t.”

I could tell ten more stories along the same lines as this one that we’ve watched unfold over the past few months as our guests embark on their workation in Manali from our space, but you get the idea. So many of us can now be the architects of our own time, something that irreversibly changes how we are able to live our lives.

I’ll also take a moment here to address the fact that not every job can be remote, and that not everyone thrives in this type of lifestyle – but the point is that the choice should be there, as it is for so many now.

No matter how far off course we humans get sometimes with what’s best for us, sooner or later we find our way back to the place we need to be, which for countless people is nowhere near an office. And that is why working remote was always going to happen, and will continue to happen.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves more, this is just the beginning.

Want to know more about co-living and co-working at Playground? Take a look at our amenities and long term stay plans here, or give us a call at +91 98057 84277. See you outside!

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