Call me square, but I love the office life. I regularly spend 12 hours a day with PushFar, the career mentoring start-up I co-founded in 2017, where I’m part of a team of six, most of them in their 20s. It is intense but rewarding work that has certainly bonded us as a group.
So when the government imposed another lockdown last week and I was forced to work from my London flat again, it was hard not to fall into solitude; I want company. Before the pandemic, I was usually so excited that I was known to arrive at the office at 5:30 a.m. Now it’s a struggle just to get out of bed. As a single person, I took great pleasure in having easy social relationships in my office in central London. Gathered around a table, we talked about everything from politics to TV to someone’s date the night before. We’re based in a coworking space, which meant I was also able to easily chat with employees from other industries and fields about whatever we liked.
Sometimes I would just walk around my office to watch my coworkers quietly typing on their keyboards, absorbed in their work.
I love being with other people when they are concentrating; it makes me feel like I’m part of something. That’s what made it so difficult when, like millions of others, I started working from home in March. Remotely, we do our best to replicate the spirit of the office, sending us links to fun online videos and checking out how people feel in virtual meetings. But it’s just not the same. I made a joke recently at a Zoom meeting and encountered a painful silence through my laptop speakers. I’m pretty sure I would have deserved at least a few laughs if I had made the same joke in the flesh.
Most of all, I miss those casual, spontaneous interactions that make up the work day: “How was your weekend,” “Have you ever seen porn movies on Netflix?” and “Would you like a cup of tea”.
It’s possible, of course, to discuss all of this by email – but it always ends up feeling terribly forced and awkward. During the summer, as the Covid-19 cases fell, I returned to the office a few days a week. It was nice to see colleagues in person for the first time in months – people I laughed and joked with every day. And in December, as London moved from one level to the next and it became illegal to see my friends or family inside, the office became practically my only human contact. It was sort of a lifeline.
I love my job, but instead of being energized by my workplace like I once was, I quickly lose motivation. I started having Zoom meetings for 7 a.m. to force myself, which works – for now. I only hope to be able to see my colleagues again – in person – soon.
As said to Luke Mintz
“ I’m afraid when this is all over, I won’t be able to leave the house anymore ”
Rose Guenther, 34