Returning to the Office - Surprising Things that I Miss
My normal weekend routine is to get up early and make a large coffee. Then I crawl back into bed with my iPad and start writing. In addition to this blog, I’m also working on two novels, so I rather enjoy the peace and quiet of weekend mornings to hammer out as many words as I can on my various projects. However, as a writer, I’m also an expert procrastinator (comes part and parcel with the job title) and my procrastination tool of choice this morning, was sleeping in late followed by a McDonalds!
You see, I’ve been struggling with a topic idea for this 'Returning to the Office' blog series for over a week now but I haven’t been able to find the hook to make it work. I know that, to the uninitiated, procrastinating looks like work avoidance but it is actually a method for generating ideas for stories. At least it is for me! This morning, while sitting at a set of traffic lights on my journey home, Bacon & Egg McMuffin warming the seat next to me and filling the car with its enticing aroma, I found the hook I needed. The hook was: I really miss driving.
…I know, not what I was expecting either! Considering the subject, I’ve had in my head is “the pros and cons of working from home.” As I was sitting at the traffic lights watching the cars go through the intersection, awaiting my turn, I realised I feel really comfortable being on the road.
I used to do software training and would easily drive 30,000 miles per year, travelling up and down the UK, visiting customer sites. I got through so many audiobooks that I had two Audible accounts. Driving is also a great place for me to think and is where I often hash out story ideas before sitting down at a keyboard, like I did this morning. Many times in this past year, when I’ve had to make a trip to the store or pop out for some other approved reason, I would drive the longest way home that I could, just so I could stay in the car a little longer. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping in a store on the opposite side of the city, just so I could be behind the wheel for a longer period. It was in that moment this morning when I realised what I miss most about working from the office: the commute. I know…I know, we are programmed to hate the commute to work, but at times I actually find it beneficial.
My current job had a relatively short commute before Covid hit, thirty minutes door-to-door. It was just enough time to get through one podcast a day plus some thinking time or maybe a chapter in an audiobook. I also found this travel time helped me make that mental transition from being at home to being at work and vice versa.
Don’t get me wrong, I also really enjoy my five seconds commute from my bedroom to my desk. I enjoy not paying for parking, fuel and the general wear & tear on my car, to say nothing of bad traffic and road works. While working from home, coffee is virtually on tap and the food is also much cheaper, prepared just the way I like it.
Socialising and brain-storming meetings aren’t what they used to be and it can often be more formal than fluid. Even I, a seasoned introvert, am starting to loathe social distancing rules. But on the flip side, our interaction between work and home life has become more fluid and less formal.
We might take an hour or two out of our day to help our kids with schoolwork and discover our bosses are totally fine with that. For lunch, we might go for a run, have a shower and fix a sandwich before our first afternoon meeting, during which time we’ll eat our sandwich. If I’m up early, I might do an hour’s prep for the day, then have breakfast and a shower, maybe an early morning walk before I formally start work.
Work/life balance used to be modelled on the concept of allocating x amount of hours for work per week, plus commute time and then whatever was leftover, you were allowed to have for your life. However, the concept of punching a clock and being accountable for every minute of your day is slowly becoming a thing of the past (at least for those of us who are able to work from home. I do appreciate this isn’t a reality for every job role out there).
Work is becoming more about delivering results than punching a clock. Like I said in the first part of my 'Returning to the Office' series, work should be something you do, not someplace you go.
When it actually comes down to brass tacks of doing the day job, not much has changed for me. In fact, I enjoy the lack of distraction when working on a project that demands my full attention. I’m sure there are a few exemptions but you shouldn’t have to physically be in the office to carry out tasks like software testing or development. It might even be better to do some testing from home, such as UAT especially if you’re simulating a user accessing the system from home.
I think, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to be flexible in our approach to work and life in general. It has taught us about what is really important and things we used to think were important, really aren’t anymore. We can adapt to situations beyond our control, we can rise to new challenges and successfully overcome them. Sure, we might miss some things we used to enjoy, like listening to podcasts on our commute to work but we can find ways to fit them into our new way of living.