I’m Back in the Office for the First Time in 3 Months – Spoiler Alert – It’s Not That Different

As I write this, I’m sitting in the same seat I loved before, it’s just assigned to only me now. I’ve got my old essentials: laptop, mouse, keyboard and a Polar seltzer, and some new ones like my face mask and hand sanitizer.

From my socially distanced space, behind the new Acoufelt acoustic desk dividers, I can hear Zac Brown Band playing on Spotify in the common area. Co-workers look the same, but some are choosing to take up residence behind glass enclosures with their homemade haircuts, others refill automatic hand sanitizer stations in between meetings. In so many subtle ways things are dramatically different, but for the most part it’s what I expected.

Computer for Back to Work Blog Post

The beginning of the day had a new ritual before going in, filling out a wellness acknowledgement form in my email and submitting to our Operations Manager that I am Fit For WorkSM. As I drove to work, the commute was easy as a summer breeze. That may change soon. Our parking garage is only taking monthly users, so it is much less crowded. Walking into the lobby of our building I was met with more distance but likely a smile behind the mask of our friendly security guard. In common areas it’s masks on, and two people per elevator. A woman kindly let me ride solo this morning, or maybe she was doing it so she could have her own elevator. Either way, that was cool.

Then when I got to our space on the 17th floor, I noticed some more small changes. Similar to what I saw pop up in grocery stores last month, we now have reminders to social distance, and directional arrows to keep us from bumping into each other. Those will take some time to get used to.

Floor Arrow Signage

For the first time in months, our morning Marketing and Business Development meeting included just one person on video chat, the rest of us were here. The conversation was certainly easier in person. We are wired as humans to look for smiling faces and even blank stares. If you can read the room well, you can pivot. You can explain something further or drop it all together if it’s not sticking. It’s also easier to be aware of how much you’re talking, and listening. Of course that can also happen over video chat, there’s just something missing that’s hard to measure or put your finger on. On this particular day we are working on messaging for a launch of Infinity Group clear. Pun intended, the clarity we had on clear was made easier by some in person dynamics.

Is it the same? No. Is the office radically different? Also no. Being a deliberate creator of the new normal is one of the things we reminded our own team about before our careful re-opening today. Here’s an excerpt from our staff message: 

“As we begin re-opening, I hope that if there are good things that you started during this time, that you try to incorporate those positive pieces back into your personal and professional lives moving forward. If you made it to the dinner table more often with family, fit in a walk with your neighbor or partner, or unplugged from your phone and found a new hobby or project – don’t drop all of those things because you are returning to the office. Before all this, I’ve often heard from busy professionals that if only they had a little more quiet time, time at home, or if things slowed down, they would be happier. This spring, many of us got that time. Reality check – Did all of your stress vanish? Or did it add up during this time? – We can’t beat ourselves up about it either way. In fact, it’s a great lesson that no matter what is going on around us, we cannot control everything. It is, however, our personal responsibility to influence the things in our control for ourselves, our co-workers, and the clients we serve. Waiting for “something” to happen to find satisfaction is a losing game.”

So this morning, I got that walk in with my neighbor and I plan on making it home to the dinner table to talk and catch up about my day. Here’s to hoping that your return to the office is as uneventful as mine was today and that you find ways to savor and hang onto the good bits that the stay at home order brought to your life.