Do We Take the Offices For Granted?
I’m writing this from my makeshift office, in which the coffee table and couch in my apartment are functioning as my new desk and chair. My roommates set up shop on the kitchen table, which between the two of them is now home to 2 laptops, and 3 additional computer monitors.
Our apartment doubles as both an office and quarantine bunker - sweatpants are on, hands being washed 2-3x an hour, and we’re probably eating too much of our snack rations. We are however, getting A LOT of work done. Aside from the occasional chatter, whether it’s about a song we’re listening to, or random commentary on the volatile stock market, for the majority of the day our heads are down, airpods are in, and we work silently and diligently.
While the absence of commuting and pesky co-workers looking over our shoulders has been great, cabin fever is already starting to set in. It’s been days since we’ve interacted face-to-face with someone outside of ourselves, and the sudden decrease in social stimulation has created an itch that, at the moment, can't be scratched.
The outbreak of CoronaVirus has certainly created greater inconveniences, and sadly much worse for millions of people via health scares, stock market losses, travel restrictions, layoffs, etc. I express my sympathies for all of those who have been significantly impacted by this epidemic. For the lucky white collar office workers like myself however, CV’s greatest impact perhaps is that it’s forcing the largest experiment to date on the effectiveness of remote work.
Personally, I have found my productivity levels to be either the same, or at times far higher than in the office. To those in strong opposition of remote work as an efficient strategy, let it be known that much of the credit for the uptick in productivity goes to the mere fact that my apartment doesn't have 50 walking, talking distractions like the office does.
With that said though, I miss the office, including those 50 walking, talking distractions. I enjoy speaking with many of them, and hearing about the interesting things they are working on. I miss working on the couches near my desk for a change of scenery, joining in on random conversations at the nearby water cooler, and going out with my co-workers for happy hours.
I also miss getting into the office early, where I get to enjoy a cappuccino from our Xpresso Delight espresso machine, and start my day in peaceful silence before the office fills up. When the office does fill up, I usually grab a second coffee, where there is almost always someone else grabbing their favorite espresso based drink from the coffee service franchise’s premium machine.
As I’m currently reduced to drinking Keurig coffee from off-brand K-Cups in my apartment, I find myself craving the quality coffee that Xpresso Delight provides to my office, as well as the conversation that occurs with my co-workers while grabbing that coffee.
The conversation is sometimes nothing more than ordinary small talk. Other times though, the small talk has prompted storytelling, an exchange of laughs, or the sharing of innovative ideas. Ultimately, it’s these interactions that enable the seeds of creativity to be planted, and allow you to get to know your co-workers little by little, coffee by coffee.
While I certainly think that companies should offer flexibility in their employees' work schedule, and that working from home is a great option for new parents, those with disabilities, and others whom the office does not serve well, there is a missing element that cannot be re-created when you are working in solitude. Banter by the coffee machine may not be considered “productive,” but by entirely removing the opportunity to have these moments, we are left with an inability to express some of our most innate human emotions.
Millennials are known to be advocates for any technology that maximizes convenience, be it an app to hail a cab such as Uber, or communication mediums that make remote work possible such as Zoom, Slack, and more. Despite this to be true, all I’ve heard in my [text, email, Facetime] conversations with my millennial friends, is that they miss their offices too.
Surely, we’ll stay home as long as our bosses and health authorities advise, but surprisingly, we can’t wait to get back in the office.