I miss the peace of my home office
The world is your oyster when we graduate. However, many of us found our pearls much closer to home when the pandemic hit. Our homes became our new workspace, where we had greater autonomy over the choice of temperature, lighting, furniture, and who we shared the space with. While most of us don’t usually get to design our workspace, we now have a clearer idea of what we like and what helps us work and stay focused.
Many people have reported greater job satisfaction during the pandemic, with some feeling like they had an opportunity to shine. You can focus on giving your best when your energy doesn’t have to mask your true emotions or worries. After getting a taste of that, gaining recognition for those talents, and being appreciated for your contributions, it can seem difficult to maintain that high output while engaging in office banter.
Returning to the traditional workplace allows us to refocus on how we can ensure all staff members, current and future, have a space to excel. The agility of businesses to move online also allows us to consider the purpose of returning to the office. We used to go to the office, but now we know it’s not always necessary. If our work is separate and independent from the work created by colleagues, then perhaps it is not essential to be in the office. If so, it may be beneficial to have a clarifying conversation with your manager so that you understand why it is necessary to have staff members in the office on certain days.
Most of us do work that to some degree depends on others. The degree of interdependence of our work will indicate the importance of these relationships.
If work can be done by individuals but in a particular order, it is transactional. Transactional relationships can be quite limited and may not have such an impact on your emotional or sensory system. Managers could facilitate this work with scheduled schedules to negotiate deadlines and agree on parameters for each step. If this describes your job, you may be able to be accommodated and come into the office as needed. A conversation with your manager will hopefully clarify whether this meets the organization’s goals. However, if your work is more collaborative, it requires a deeper relationship.
One way to conceptualize these different ways of doing your job is to consider the difference between a solo singer, a singer and her first part, and an orchestra.
If your job is more relational, it requires a higher level of trust, consistent knowledge, and opportunities to brainstorm together. Such work will require you to spend more time with your colleagues. Leaders believed that all you had to do was assign a project to several people and they would magically collaborate. We now know that the true collaboration required to produce quality results requires a strong working alliance between team members.
If this is true for you in your role, I suggest defining office days as essential for building those collaborative relationships rather than focusing on tasks that can be more easily accomplished during your work-from-home days. Organize your week to make the most of different spaces for different purposes. This shift in focus for your days at the office may take some getting used to, and some old patterns of behavior may persist.
Companies may also have old models lying around well past their expiration date. Some have reopened without taking into account new learnings that might be worth remembering. Some unfortunately did not take the opportunity to abandon redundant pre-pandemic practices and returned without giving their jobs a second thought. You are probably not the only person to wonder about the purpose or the usefulness of meeting at the office.
Critical conversations must take place to ensure fairness. Recent research suggests that those who work the hardest in the office are more likely to be rewarded for being close to the boss, which could put women and people with atypical abilities at a disadvantage.
While you’re in the office and need to focus on tasks, there are several strategies you can use to reduce sensory load. If you have a lighted ceiling light, you can ask if a bulb can be removed or replaced with a softer tone. You can use noise canceling headphones to eliminate distracting noises. If you choose to use music, it’s best to download a playlist of very familiar songs so they don’t become a distraction. You may also consider bringing some comforts from home, such as a pillow or blanket. Bring them home regularly and wash them so they retain the familiar smell of your home. Consider using a slideshow of soothing images as your screensaver. If you can, suggest walking meetings to reduce the number of face-to-face interactions.
The pearl, remember, started out as an irritant in the system.
Take care of yourself.
- If you have a question for Caroline, please send it to [email protected]