Sunday, October 31, 2021

COVID-19: Returning to The Office

Since July 1, I have been working at my desk in my company's office building, just like before my company's work-from-home mandate (back in March 2020). I work at a high-tech company doing software, and as I've described before, I can just as easily do my job from a beach resort or a coffee shop. I only need a laptop and the Internet (and maybe some headphones).

However, when the company announced that vaccinated workers could return to the office voluntarily starting in July, I welcomed it. I was eager and ready to return to my nicely appointed work environment, my office amenities, and the work and social chatter that marks a busy office. Primarily, I welcomed the normal separation between work space and home space.

There weren't a lot of people who shared my enthusiasm to return to the office. I'm sure commuting distance is a large factor in deciding to come in. Roughly 50-100 people make it into the office with any regularity. (I go in three days a week.) Since not everyone comes in, I still wear headphones and participate in Zoom meetings daily, talking to co-workers wherever they are.

There are moments when I walk to the coffee machine, and I am dazed at how empty the floor is compared to "the before times." There are mornings when I walk into my cubicle area, and the motion-detector ceiling lights turn on, signalling that I'm the first person to arrive. I sit on an office floor that is nearly a half-acre in total size, and many times I won't see a single person.

The company has instituted a Wednesday catered lunch, which helps draw people in. The parking lot seems more full on Wednesdays. Certain groups have made this the "work from the office" day, and I seek them out in the cafeteria at lunch. It has become the social highlight of the week for me. One time a co-worker yelled out to me "Greetings human!" and I laughed.

It's a strange work world, and I'm sure the company's leadership is trying to figure out how to navigate a future in which such a large office space isn't a requirement to get work done. Lots of high-tech companies are thinking about this. For now I have the best of both worlds: I come and go as I please, I can get a parking spot near the front door, and there's never a line at the coffee machine.

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