Why you hate the idea of going back to the office
Whether we’ve been looking forward to returning to the office for the past two years or desperately hoping that working from home is here to stay, one thing is clear: the elusive “return” isn’t what we’ve been given. promised. The commutes still suck, the conference rooms are still overbooked, and the water fountain cat just doesn’t have the shine it did a few years ago.
Why? A mismatch of expectations is likely to cause a sense of disappointment, and for many of us, even if the “before times” weren’t so impressive, at least they were predictable. The reality is that after such a long hiatus from the status quo, there is no way things will go back to the same.
Problem 1: Our relationship to time has changed
My first day back in the office, I happily hopped into the kitchen to make a fresh coffee, then rushed to my first meeting, eager to have some time with a colleague IRL. After the meeting, I opened my calendar to see when I had my next meeting and gasped, in three hours? ! What am I supposed to do until then? Well, my friends, before the pandemic the answer would have been “work”, like literally doing your job, but that’s not the conclusion we’re coming to anymore.
For many of us working from home, the pandemic has changed our relationship with time, allowing us to try to balance work, life, daycare and dating, ping- pong on each with more skill than Forrest Gump. When we revert to having to do things for long periods of time, without controlling that time, we become anxious.
Solution 1: Time management
Think like a project manager and plan your weeks to maximize your time in each location. Are there ways to group meetings into the office in the morning or afternoon to save commuting time by driving outside of working hours? Experiment with a few different plans for the week over the course of a month to see what works best, knowing that your goal is to figure out what your new relationship looks like over time.
Problem 2: Context switching is overwhelming
Before the pandemic, we went from work weekends to Friday happy hour. The arc of the week was clear and predictable. Now, with the hybrid, we go from weekend work from home to commuting and back home, being forced to remember what is needed at each moment.
“It’s the change of context that appeals to me,” said a tech worker who had worked from home for the past few years and recently returned to work in the office three days a week. “There are too many things to remember now: what time to leave the house for my first meeting, where my laptop charger is, what meetings to schedule on days when I’m in the office or at home. It’s too much.”
Solution 2: Change of perspective
Regardless of location, the five days we clock in are all work days, and compartmentalizing them as different things can create too much cognitive load to figure out how to prepare for each one. With time management under your belt, consider the perspective of what you need to be successful all week, then plan accordingly. Yes, there may be different meetings that we have each day, but it’s still the same work week with probably a finite set of goals and things to accomplish.
Problem 3: Our relationship with our work has changed
For many of us, the past two years have opened our eyes to all the other things we care about outside of our jobs, from our early interest in baking sourdough bread to starting a side hustle , and the day job doesn’t have the same appeal it used to have.
“Before, I cared about every email, every meeting, every conversation,” said an account manager at a design agency. “I lost sleep when something went wrong with me. It’s weird to say, but actually I don’t care. . . on any of these things. There’s just more to life than what happens in a frustrating meeting.
Solution 3: Adopt it
It’s actually a good thing. Having interests outside of work can give us more resilience in the face of frustrations, setbacks, and struggles in the workplace, as we find that our work is not the most important thing in our lives. This gives us more confidence in our day-to-day work, as we have multiple outlets to gain validation and affirmation of our value and worth.
Perhaps the greatest solution that will allow us to succeed through all these problems is to reframe our expectations. Thinking that everything is going to be the same, or that everything is going to be predictable is a recipe for unmet expectations. Because the truth is, we have no idea what the future of the workplace will look like. By accepting that we are in a period of transition and that what we are going through right now will inevitably not be what things will look like six to twelve months from now, we can be more open-minded about what works and what does not work. t.
While you may never see yourself returning to the desktop long-term, by experimenting with these solutions and keeping an open mind about your expectations, you’ll likely discover new things about the desktop that you never enjoyed before.