I’m looking forward to going back to the office

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: my family is incredibly fortunate that neither I nor my wife have lost our jobs because of COVID-19. The virus has spiked unemployment; more than one in ten Americans who want to work currently lack a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bureau of Labor Statistics chart, retrieved 30 July 2020.

Therefore, I know I’m considerably privileged to say that working from home is getting old. I now look forward to it being safe to return to the office.

I very much enjoy some benefits of being home all the time. Yesterday, for example, I put a pork shoulder roast into the oven early in the afternoon — well marinated and then roasted low and slow, baby, mmhmm! — and dinner was ready when everybody got home, with little fuss. When I work in the office, either my wife or I have to figure out dinner after we get home, no earlier than 6, when frankly the last thing we want to do is more work. And then we eat so late, and then the day is over. It’s nice to be off that treadmill

Also, I’m riding my bike a lot during my lunch hour or, when the day will be too hot, in the morning. Not today; it’s raining. I’m writing this post instead. But I’m riding 5 to 7 miles three or four days a week. Once in a while I’m able to arrange my day so I can take a longer lunch, or start work later in the morning, and ride 10 miles or more. I haven’t gotten so much exercise in at least 15 years. I love to ride my bike! I so enjoy feeling the wind on my face and exploring the streets and roads around my home. I’ve been out of shape for years and this is starting to change that. But when I return to the office, these wonderful rides will end.

I also have more time for my personal projects because I’m not commuting. I’m writing more, making more photographs, developing and scanning more film. I’ll have less time for this when I return to the office.

A scene from my bike ride yesterday morning.

So why do I want to go back?

Because I miss the people I work with. I see my teams on Zoom all the time. But it’s not the same as seeing them in person, being able to go to lunch with them, or being able to laugh over something that came up randomly at our desks. Also, there are people on other teams that don’t report to me, people I enjoy, who I haven’t seen since our office shut down in March.

Because I miss the informal conversations I had with key players. I used them to build influence, move my own initiatives forward, and get the straight dope on what was going on. I’ve yet to find a good substitute.

Because I miss being Downtown. I really enjoy working in Downtown Indianapolis! The city energizes me. I love being able to walk everywhere I want to go. I miss all the options for lunch! And I miss being able to meet my brother at one of the dozens of great watering holes for an after-work drink.

Because our home doesn’t have space for me to have a private office. We didn’t buy our home with working from home in mind; there’s no spare bedroom for me to work in. So my desk is in our living room. I’m happy enough with the arrangement, but the rest of the family needs to be quiet from 8 to 5 weekdays because I can hear pretty much everything in the house from here. They don’t get to fully live in the house while I’m working. We were all willing to accept that when we thought this would be short-term temporary. But now my company has announced we’ll work from home at least through year’s end.

Because my home workspace isn’t as ergonomic as my office workspace. I bought my desk and chair long before the pandemic, with frequent but short-duration use in mind. I intended to write my blog and process photos here for an hour or two a day. I’ve worked from home from here many times before, usually a day or two at a time, and it’s been fine. But after about six weeks of this, my lower back started to crab at me thanks to my chair’s poor lumbar support. I stuck a tiny pillow back there, which has helped. Also, twice since working from home I’ve managed to strain my wrist. I did it most recently last week. I think I haven’t found the optimal chair height and position yet that lets me use my mouse without strain. I’m wearing a wrist brace as I type this; it’s limiting my wrist’s mobility so it can heal. In the office, my workstation is more ergonomic — and I don’t sit at it all day, because I have meetings in person.

Many of these challenges will be hard to solve until COVID-19 is no longer a threat. I’m not setting foot into a bar or restaurant for the foreseeable future, for example. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find creative ways to partially meet these needs. On nice days when my wife or the kids have a day off from their jobs, I can work from the deck with my laptop to open up the house. I can set up Zoom happy hours with some of the colleagues I miss, or even with my brother.

One of these challenges is fully solvable. I can buy a fully ergonomic desk and chair, if I really need to.

But all of these things are best solved when I’m back to work as normal. I look forward to it.


19 responses to “I’m looking forward to going back to the office”

  1. N.S. Palmer Avatar

    I agree with most of your points. Being at home all the time gets tiresome in spite of its advantages. I’ve got an elliptical but I’ve been taking lots of walks outside because it’s pleasant and the elliptical gets boring.

    My office re-opened in June, so I’ve been going there a few times a week. People are slowly trickling back, albeit with a lot of “social distancing” and re-arranged desks. It’s good to go somplace where the only goal is to work, without the distractions of being at home.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      At least I have company here, in the form of some of my family. I think I’d be stir crazy if I lived alone, even though I’m a pretty committed introvert.

  2. M.B. Henry Avatar

    I certainly get missing being around people. That’s been the hardest part about this for me! I do love the picture from your bike ride though, and nothing beats a slow roast :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The bike ride was a tonic! I went 17 miles.

  3. analogphotobug Avatar

    Yep, working from home is getting very old. But my office probably won’t reopen before January 2021.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Mine either. :-(

  4. brandib1977 Avatar

    I completely understand and agree but I’m not ready to go back yet. Unfortunately for me, I go back Monday so I need to get ready! Haha.

    I miss my two big monitors as I’m just working with a laptop now but I’m so much more productive and smarter and home. My quality of life is better and I’m happy in my fortress of solitude. Monday will require a real
    attitude adjustment. And while I’m not worried about me getting sick, I do worry about dragging home germs to my parents who have health issues. They live next door and I’m an only child so they expect me to visit.

    But we have to live in the world we wake up in so I’ll smile and go and be grateful for my job.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oooooof. I wonder what the rush to return to the office is all about? As cases climb again? It doesn’t make much sense to order you back if you can be productive at home.

      But yes, all you can do is live in your reality.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Nobody consulted me. We were supposed to go back two weeks ago and they changed it. I was hoping to at least get past this current surge but it’s not happening.

        I bought some really good moisture and hand soap to take with me. When I came home to work in March my hands were so dry from all the washing they were starting to bleed so I’m really not looking forward to that again.

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    Actually I never stopped going into my office ever since the beginning of the shutdown on March 16th. I could be there to handle emergencies which usually started with a phone call. My hours cut to 11-3 from 10-6. Saw my usual postman, courier guy, USP guy and people who came in weekly for emergencies. Orders were placed over the phone that had to be dealt with. All in all I was in verbal contact if not physical contact with people all who followed my office protocols as laid out by me.

    So in the end not much changed for me except the working hours. Still off Wednesday and Sunday. Still on the USS Hornet on Saturday. Worked on some cars. Restored two bikes and rode with my son. Well, one thing changed and that is I haven’t paid myself since March 1st as emergencies don’t cover everything.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Not bad. My wife never stopped going to her workplace; it’s an in-person kind of job. Me, I can work anywhere there’s Wi-Fi, and so I do.

  6. Michael Avatar

    Looking at your pros/cons, I think your nuts! :) Quality of life is way more important to me than a job will ever be thanks to my workaholic parents. Most of your pro-work points can be fixed – moreso once Covid has settled down. Maybe you should compromise with a hybrid schedule. ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m no workaholic, but I like to work. I like being in the office!

  7. SilverFox Avatar

    Like you Jim, my wife and I are lucky enough to be fully employed during this time and particularly for my wife busier than ever. She has no breaks where before she would walk between meetings and casual drive-by desk chats now have to be scheduled; I barely see her from 8 till 6. For me my work is very customer focused and in person meetings to discuss issues and work plans. All of that is now remote and less effective but manageable. Our biggest challenge has been childcare for our 1 year old while both of us try to work; doing enough to keep her fed and whatnot is okay but she is missing out on teh kinds of stimulation to help her develop particularly mixing with other kids where communication is learned best. We now have a close friend come in in the afternoons to take care of her and give her proper learning opportunities. Unfortunately we will lose her soon and need to work out how we fill that gap until work (and professional childcare) can resume.
    Still we are very fortunate that the effects of this crisis have been minimal on us from a work and income point of view and I can’t imagine how we would have coped had that been different; so many families have been decimated by this.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I feel fortunate that our children are older and don’t require care during the day. They still do add some stress as left to their own devices they are willing to put themselves in situations we consider risky, and we keep having to talk to them about that. But at least while I’m working, I’m free to just work.

  8. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    It is going to be quite a while I think!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Unfortunately, you appear to be right.

  9. J P Avatar

    My office has put off reopening until after labor day, the most recent of a series of monthly extensions of our at-home work. I, however, have made arrangements to start going back now. I have found that my at-home productivity compares poorly with my in-office productivity, probably for reasons that are mostly mental. And I have to do something about that.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There have been a few days where I would have welcomed a change of venue. Our office is largely deserted and working there I would have encountered nobody. But they’ve outright disallowed us from working there. Some days I’d welcome working from a coffee shop! But no dice, not during COVID.

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