Bell market sound; The office is dead. The real office is in your head.
This is what I call myself when working from home becomes very strange, very stale, very impossible. By now, many of you know what I’m talking about. Our situation may vary in different ways, but the results are the same: working from home is great, but, some small, secret parts of us yearn for office. Why is that?
The answer will be different for everyone. Maybe you are a social butterfly who misses face time and familiar voices. Maybe you just appreciate the physical separation between work and home life. If you’re lucky, the choice to go to the office right now is yours, and if not, we need to consider whether you are looking for a new job. It’s 2022, we’re still in an epidemic, and of course you haven’t heard of this, this and other multinational dumpster fires yet. Isn’t it time to prioritize work output over office in our livelihood?
No wonder, some big companies agree with me. Elon recently ordered that ‘remote work is no longer acceptable’, and those who want to work remotely can do so as a reward after serving a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office. Apple tried to implement three appearances a week until they received an open letter with 1,000+ signatures.
More than office space
Why would companies want to enforce the presence of unnecessary people? I think that as the epidemic drags on, all the real estate that sits empty is expensive and looks bad for them financially. But then not having a large physical presence or several medium-sized presence scattered around makes them look socially bad. Well, maybe not BadBut the attitude of working from strong to low, precisely because when and where is still evolving.
Another reason I believe is power. The office is a playground of work, a platform where a caste system of executives, middle managers and underlings can be implemented. This is a normal extension of the school, for which we all get up in the morning and suffer every day for a while before dinner and homework until we do what we want.
The grass turns green when sunlight hits it
I worked in an office for about 20 years, fresh from an electronics trade school. I started at NOC 24/7/365 where I transferred work with two to twelve weekends once a month. For a telecommunications company, NOC staff are office overseers – people who regularly visit the place. These are the necessary staff who are fixing the IP network problem on Christmas morning and watching the dull hours in the afternoon. Die hard On one of the big screens. The shift work is interesting because if you work in the second or third shift you can theoretically get things done during the day, but you are trying to sleep when the world is awake and it can really bother you.
After a few years at NOC, I moved into the engineering department and everything changed. I was transformed into one of them, a regular 9-5 office worker. Instead of pulling my binder out of a breadbox-sized locker in a small break room and sitting on a long console of computers and phones, I had a cube with a name plate. I had my own phone. My own tissue box, accordion-style pad of sticky notes and a chair that only needs to be adjusted once. And instead of working in a cave in the light of the monitor, amber terminal and surveillance screen, I was across the corridor from a cube with a window.
And of course, I thought it would change my feelings about work. We Americans do too much of it in the name of continuous growth, and this includes this side-rush culture that can turn our leisure hobbies into entrepreneurial nightmares. In the office, like in school, there are many rules that are difficult to navigate, especially since the office tends to be intergenerational. I grew up in that office, and it holds a special place in my heart.
Work is a four-letter word
But that was my old job. Towards the end of 2019, I started here full-time as a staff writer at Hackaday. Talk about the difference! Almost nothing seemed the same, I was working and someone was paying me in return and I would still use a computer all day. All of a sudden, I started working under a cold draft and fluorescent light, working on a cubicle door wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted and whatever clothes I was comfortable with. It was all very free, and from Monday to Friday I was dragging my whole life suddenly looking like a pile of objects and fasteners that I had to make myself into the shelter of unscrupulousness.
Most days, I don’t want to do what I want to do at any given time (thanks, ADHD!), But I admit that I; Improving within a structure Unfortunately, it works best when that structure is pushed by someone else.
And that’s what I miss most about the office, about going Out To work: The whole structure of the thing. You’re enterprising, maybe you’re a little late, maybe it’s time to get a latte. You go there and see familiar faces with stories that distract you from your own life. You work for a few hours, making sure everyone around you is working and often working towards a common goal. Then at lunchtime, and another change of scenery be it a fast food place, a break room or your car for eating, or, depending on the day, a restroom on the other floor for some crying. Then before we get back to work for a while we all get excited to go back home with our things that have been sitting alone for nine hours, day or night.
But at home, it can be like that endless, densely cloudy day where you can’t say 4PM to 10AM. Many days I miss going to the office – somewhere else. Not just because of the change of scenery, but because it allows the workplace to be a scapegoat. Everyone complains about the office, doesn’t it? But if you work from home, what are you going to do? Hating your home is a difficult thing, especially when you have all the power to create what you want. So for me, it translates to having a highly-equipped office, which can certainly be an endless source of confusion if I let it do so. But I believe that being around all these objects feeds my creativity, most of which have a story behind them.
See through the door.
Some input of interest and a crocheted keycap 7 made by a friend
Sometimes I use whiteboards, sometimes I don’t.
Everyone needs a megadesk.
I have to block a bunch of art with a picture of Mom with Neil Armstrong.
There is a radio collection somewhere behind Pikachu.
Having said that, I don’t think I can go to work right now, at least not in a computer-based job. With loud, fun keyboards, foot pedals, expensive chairs and a standard desk height of 21,, I set my ergonomic way too. But hey, anyone who thought they’d never have a computer again because of repetitive stress injuries, I’m doing pretty well.
Another thing, my work is completely different now. While it is true that in my engineering job I needed to think, what I do now is best described by any other writer who is bleeding from the forehead while sitting. At least here at home, no one would come up behind me and start talking, or call my name from the wall. My biggest hurdle is usually cat-based. I can wear whatever I want, change as needed and I can’t be expected to have any shoes. In other words, I’m quite happy working from home, and I bet I’m not alone.