Working from home works for me. I have been fortunate to find a rhythm that allows me to ignore the discomfort of working from my dining table with zero accessories. I am aware that there are many who do not have the luxuries I do. Living alone brings with it the benefits of not having to flex to another’s schedule. I have no kids nor pets to distract me. While many have experienced a drop in productivity and peace of mind, I have been able to find balance. Yet, I do not enjoy working from home especially during this period. Here are four reasons why I will head back to office the moment I am allowed to:
- Lost sense of boundaries: The single most annoying part of the entire world being stuck at home is that everyone has forgotten the concept of working hours. I now get calls throughout the day. When I do not respond to 10pm calls, I am immediately pinged on the office messenger and when that fails to grab my attention, people have taken to dropping messages on WhatsApp. If these were urgent and important calls, I would understand. However, they rarely are. Needless to say, the practice of blocking calendars for meetings has vanished into this air. The pandemic seems to have wiped basic work discipline off people’s minds.
- Call Fatigue: At work, meetings were a good mix of in-person conversations and calls. At this point, everything is over a call and my head hurts. I cannot recall the last time I spent as much time talking virtually to people (almost never) as now. It ceases being fun extremely quickly. I have a strong preference to in-person meetings and I do not know how people who work from home cope with this.
- Informal conversations: I have seen a massive fall in meandering conversations. 90% of all conversations are transactional and shorter. I miss being able to walk up to my leaders for an informal chat and in bargain, learn a lot of valuable information. In-person conversations without an agenda often lead to discussing topics that you may not discuss if you interacted only via calls and formal meetings. This phase of being at home has been a crash course in realizing just how valuable those conversations were. I feel like I am losing a wealth of information sitting at home. Also, is it just me or does speaking to people in person get things done faster?
- Collaboration: This past year, my cabin glass walls were more often than not, transformed into whiteboards. My colleagues and I have spent endless hours debating, scribbling and erasing. Almost always we ran out of space on whiteboards and ended up filling up the glass panes with work flows and action plans. This does not translate well on virtual white boards. No one is squealing in joy on discovering the way out or giving high-fives on scratching something off a to-do list. Conversations are not as seamless and brainstorming now needs effort. It is not just harder to collaborate; it has adversely impacted collective ideation. I would rush back to work just for the sake of collective innovation.
There are of course, a number of other factors aiding the need to return to working from an office. A proper work setup, human interaction and watercooler conversations being just a few. Yet, if the ones above translated well into a work-from-home situation, I may not be as averse to working from home. Especially since HR will likely be the last function to be admitted back into office.