Back to the office

Back to the office

Four words that fill me with dread. Just the thought of it makes me feel sick to my stomach.

As we pass the one year mark of the greatest shakeup to society, rumours have started circulating that "everything is going back to normal soon", "we'll be back in the office before long", and I have to ask myself.. why?

I understand that some people may not be comfortable working at home - kids running around, working off their laptop crouched in the corner of the bathroom - but I am.  I've already heavily invested in a comfortable desk area at home - working at the computer is basically my hobby as well as my job.

I also get that some people are missing the social contact with people in the office. I'm not. I don't go to work to socialise. I go to work to make money, so that I can socialise outside of work. Don't get me wrong, I like the people I work with - but I don't need to sit in the same room as them for 8 hours a day "just because".

My desk at the office is shit. My chair at the office is shit. My monitors at the office are shit. There are no windows at the office - so no natural light and no fresh air (unless I got outside, but then I'm not working).

I don't miss getting interrupted every 10 minutes with a tap on the shoulder, pulling me away from what I was working on, breaking my concentration and effectively throwing me off for the rest of the day. Oftentimes, I would stay in the office for a few hours after everyone else had gone home - just to work in peace with no interruptions.

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Interrupt a Programmer - The Slightly Disgruntled Scientist
Since @kevin_rudds_cat suggested it, I also made a two-column A4 sized PDF version. Update: So after being retweeted several hundred times and being …
I always thought this was an XKCD comic, turns out I was wrong.

I've still had as many questions since we've been WFH, but I get to them in my own time. The great thing about someone popping you a quick question on Google Chat is that it's asynchronous. You don't have to respond straight away! I generally don't even read a message until I have a break in what I'm doing. I will always see that I've got a notification - and I'll get to it when I'm ready. Same with emails. I'll keep half an eye on who's sent it, and read the subject line - but I won't open it until I'm not working on something else.

No Hello
Don’t Just Say “Hello” in Chat.
More people should read this

There are two modes at my office - deathly silent, or distractingly loud. For both of these modes, if I'm working on something, I've got my headphones on. I can't concentrate when people are having conversations around me, and I have no desire to sit in a silent room with no windows for 8 hours a day. That I have to drive up to an hour (depending on traffic) to and from. What is the point?

At home - I have a comfortable desk. I have natural light and fresh air without going outside. I can get "in the zone" and get on with what I need to do without getting tapped on the shoulder every 10 minutes. I sleep better. I don't have to sit in traffic during the school run. I can wear what I want. I can make my lunch fresh every day. I see and spend more time with my wife than ever before.

Talking of the "ol' ball and chain"... It's just me and my wife at home. We're lucky enough to have the space to have separate desk areas, in separate rooms. There is a door between us that we can close if either of us need to jump on a call. We respect each other's boundaries enough to not interrupt each other for something inane (most of the time).

None of this is to say I don't understand that there can be some benefit in going into the office and having face time with folk. Sometimes there is stuff that just cannot be done remotely, or conversations you have that just flow better in a meeting room. But if the last year has taught us anything about how we work, that needs to be the exception, and not the rule. (While we're at it, how about a 4 day working week?)

My mental health has never been better, and I genuinely feel more productive. Why would I want to go back to "normal"?

PS

I asked my wife to proof-read this before I hit publish - and her feedback was that it feels a bit like a thinly-veiled open letter to my boss/company. Rest assured there is no ulterior motive to this post.  I've already had this conversation with my boss in my annual review, and he's already aware of how I feel on the subject (👋 Hullo Boss)

But that still doesn't take away from the anxiety that I feel when thinking about it, and I don't like to feel anxious.

If anything, this is more of an open letter to my own mind - and to anyone else who may be feeling a similar way.

The motivation for writing this post was, in part, down to my ongoing quest to be more mindful, to be aware of the things that make me feel certain ways. I hope that by formulating my thoughts into words (albeit more a stream of consciousness than anything poetic) I can better understand why I spend more time that I ought to worrying about everything, and nothing.

I didn't really have a plan when I started. I just felt anxious - and started drafting. I feel better for having structured my thoughts, rather than sitting here spiralling out of control. So I guess that's something.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯