Work Yes! Office No!!

While riding in the elevator today, a woman out of the blue said, “I really don’t want to come back to this place five days a week!” The only thing I could say was, “Agreed.” She then said she wasn’t sure what they were thinking since, “there is a hiring crisis, where places are paying more, and will let us work from home.” She wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t already been thinking.

For me it comes down to data. If an employer has data which emphatically shows those of us who have been working from home have been less productive, our workplace happiness scale was at rock bottom, and innovation was truly stagnant, then yes, bring us back. It would be hard evidence working from home was not good for the bottom line, workplace morale, and ingenuity, as those are hard arguments to overcome, if based on cold hard data.

But, we all can pretty much figure out, the data has not been collected, the big bosses didn’t ask us how we felt about coming back (and when they did, ignored the data completely), and have no evidence our creativity (and collaboration) was down while working in our home offices.

In reality, and for transparency as this is just my anecdotal evidence from talking to people within my small orbit of the universe, no data is showing working from home is detrimental to anyone. What is detrimental is the politics of it, the old white men still not getting that the workforce has changed (and exponentially due to the pandemic), and innovation/collaboration can happen, and possibly more effectively, from the comfort of our own homes.

Speaking for myself, I have come to fully feel the dread of going back into an office setting. Where I don’t have true privacy. Where anyone standing up can see over into my, or anyone else’s space. Where people think it is okay to talk on their speakerphone at full volume with the door open. Where I don’t have a window. Where I can’t have lunch with my husband. Where I can’t walk my dog at lunchtime. Where I can’t even pet my dog for a little pick-me-up throughout the day. Where I can’t watch birds at my feeders when I need a quick look away from my screens. Where I can’t sit in the comfort of my patio reading before I have to report to work. Where I have to worry about what to take for lunch. Where I have to get up 30-45 minutes earlier than I have been so I can drive to work. Where I have to drive to and from work no matter the weather. Where I have poor fluorescent lighting. Where I am usually freezing because they keep the office so cold. Where I’m never warm in the winter because they keep the heat so low.

Well, I think you kind of get the picture.

There is only one upside I have to being at the office. The one thing is not having to keep a log of what I do all day. One positive of returning to the office amid so many negatives.

I will work my best and hardest as I always do. But, my workplace satisfaction is going to be at an all-time low. My productivity will suffer, not because I am slowing down, but because of the interruptions and disruptions of being in an open office environment where human needs are considered counterproductive and of less consequence than employer needs. Which, if you think about it is a bit backwards, because if the human needs are better met, the more productive an employee becomes, which translates to a better bottom line for the organization.

So, I have to make some decisions about what I can and can’t live with anymore. I have to decide if, after getting a promotion I am excited about and a pretty good salary, is worth having to deal with all the things mentioned above. I have to decide if I want to push back to be able to work two days at the office and three days at home, seeing if I am of value to my employer. I have to decide if it is time to seek employment elsewhere that will allow me to work from home, albeit possibly for less money. Many things to mull over.

What I have learned, or come to decide upon, is knowing my value, and knowing what is important after surviving a pandemic and a year plus of sheltering-in-place.

I just wish employers would come to their senses, a realization, an awakening and read the writing on the wall. They need to accept most of us workers are not willing to go backwards to how it was pre-pandemic after experiencing how it could be working from home.

The question is, will they realize and act upon this sea change before it hurts their organizations in irreparable ways?

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