Back to reality

work, office, flexible work, work from home
Photo: Unsplash

So… I’ve been back in the office.

The initial plan 18 months ago was to have a 2 team / 2 week approach and I felt lucky being in group 2 because it meant that I’d have a couple days up on those in group 1 – I had a feeling we’d all end up home together eventually and to be honest, I thought I’d maybe spend up until the summer of 2020 working from home. It’s how long I’d factored in holding out on getting my hair done, and breaking from the gym – those little first world luxuries.

Of course, as we all look back at what has just (kind of) passed, we know that what has transpired probably did not meet anyone’s expectations.

The bad part – well, most of it. However – the good thing is – it taught us all how to work from home efficiently and effectively, and let’s be honest, away from the snazzy/forward thinking guys working in tech, or super mum’s balancing work and their kids, most of us really weren’t doing this pre-pandemic or at least… weren’t doing it very well.

Hence, the initial “work from home announcement” for me personally was met with excitement and apprehension. Excitement because it meant no commute (even a 15 minute walk is 15 minutes that could have been replaced with my warm bed…), it meant working with my partner in the next room, it meant not needing to even get ready (you want to know how many conference calls I’ve taken in my bonnet and towel?!), it meant taking a break from the building I’d spend more time at than in my own home for 5 years. It was a life of ultimate flexibility – nipping to the gym and back in 45 minutes and it really only feeling like a blip in time; taking a break to cook and eat dinner with my partner and logging back in afterwards but this time from the comfort of my own couch. I hope we can all agree – working from home is bliss.

The apprehension was really just around the set up and the practicality of it. Working from home before (say on a weekend or evening) hadn’t felt super efficient. That said, we all very quickly learned to work around the apprehension and introduced more ergonomic and more Instagramable set ups. Our firms learned too – all the consistent log-in issues of March and April 2020 are definitely now a thing of the past.

To be honest, returning back to the office after such a long period off made me feel even more apprehensive. For me, it was also new role with new faces that I’d only even seen on Zoom and Webex – call it nerve wracking and exciting. However, what really made me apprehensive was quite honestly – the loss of the sheer flexibility. I’d become used to my new routine and quite frankly, I seriously liked it. So the change in my routine, and adding +1 hour to my morning alarm, brought the same pain of quickly ripping off a bandage.

I was a “work from home-er” and felt as strongly about this as a Brexiteer circa 2016. Whilst I understood the benefits of the office, to me, the upside of working from home far outstripped all of this. That all said, it was never going to last forever. I’ve been pleasantly surprised going back to the office, and actually sunk back into the routine to the point where it feels as though I’d never left.

The things I remembered minding – I don’t so much anymore. Earlier wake ups and a commute in will always be met with an internal groan… but I do appreciate the extra steps and extra calories burned from my walk to and form the station and around the city during my lunch breaks. Getting ready adds an extra 45 minutes to my day, but it actually doesn’t feel so bad getting dressed up and putting some makeup on more often. Lunches are a little more exciting as you ponder over what the City can deliver for you today. And of course, there is the social aspect of being back in an office.

I think this lands me firmly in the middle. The novelty of the office quickly wears off not when you’re there every day – but when you have no choice but to be there. Knowing there’s still 1 or 2 days a week to wake up a little later, roll out of bed and unleash my ultimate bummy-but-I’m-still-working self… it’s a nice balance to have and place to land.

I’m sure we can all agree that the pandemic has been pretty horrific, and for many of us, it feels as though at least a year of our life has zapped away (think Men in Black – memory erasers). However, if there’s anything positive we can take away from the experience, the introduction and acceptance of flexible working – no matter the seniority and without the clause of needing to have a child – has been a positive for me.


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