Today we were all looking at the floor plan of the building where I nominally work. I’ve been to the building, coincidentally, but I haven’t been within miles of the place since the day I was hired. I don’t have a security badge and there is no computer on my desk. I might not even have a chair - I don’t actually know.
My name is on the map, though. Might as well take this as a sign that the world is going to be more or less back to normal in the near future.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. I know a few happily retired people whose lifestyles haven’t changed much at all since the pandemic. I also know several people who have driven to work every morning without a hitch, the only differences being the masks, the sanitizing, and the distancing requirements.
Statistics show, though, that only 34% of people can now claim they never work from home, and 44% are working from home all the time now.
That means a lot of us are going to need to shift gears pretty radically when we start going back in to the office.
Predictably, there are probably going to be a lot of long lines and wait lists for things like haircuts.
(I’ve been fine cutting my own hair, and my big headphones are graciously covering a lot of… transition… in my hair coloring… but I would rather make my debut with one consistent shade than a giant ledge in the middle of my head).
I know I won’t be going into the office in person for at least another four months. That might sound like a long time. If I think of it in terms of wearing the mask and being cooped up in our dinky apartment, it’s crazy-making. Then when I think of it in the context of everything I have to do, it sounds like the blink of an eye.
Time to start making a backlog.
Cut and color - I can do that in the same appointment. What else do I need to do in that end of town? (Haha, just kidding, I get my hair cut in the building next door).
Work clothes - alas! I can’t wear my beloved “work pajamas” to the office and I know I don’t fit in any of my office-type clothes from 3-4 years ago. This gives me four months to either put together a new capsule wardrobe or drop a few pounds, something I have been trying to do for the past year with little success.
Shoes - same. Whatever clothes I wind up wearing, coordinating shoes are on the same list.
Work bag - I can use what I have. Do I need to clean it out? What’s in there, anyway?
Lunches - I haven’t had to pack a lunch to take to work since 2009. What am I going to eat?? I don’t even know what this place has in terms of a break room. This brings back so many memories of having food stolen from the communal fridge, the reason I used to bring ugly melted containers for my leftovers.
The commute! - I haven’t had to commute in over a decade, either. How am I going to get there?? It is out of walking range and I’m not sure I will ever feel brave enough to board a public bus again. Last time, last summer, I wound up with bacterial pneumonia and I’m not sure whether that was a coincidence or an unfortunate consequence of sharing space with Other People. This is a non-trivial problem that I hope is resolved by the decision that everyone may continue merrily working from home.
But - just in case - plan I must.
I read that in the before-times, a lot of people worked from home at least occasionally. In those types of offices, it appears that the people who come into the office are the ones who get promoted. This is obviously a factor in this type of decision.
On my team, I also happen to live the closest to campus. If one of us were to be called upon to commute in, I would feel stingy if I kept wheedling or positioning myself so that Someone Else had to go in instead of me.
Thus I am facing the prospect of going in, working in person, and sitting at a desk with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, resignation, and of course a healthy dollop of mortal terror.
It turns out that we don’t have a legal basis for requiring people to get vaccinated before they can come to work.
What we have here is a raging case of Uncertainty, and being in the Place of Uncertainty is a phenomenally strong motivation to attempt more planning and preparedness exercises.
This is what I do. I visualize myself getting up, getting dressed, grabbing my lunch and my work bag, and making my way to work.
As opposed to putting on my “work pajamas” and wandering twenty feet to my desk, where I can work barefoot or bundled in a blanket and nobody even knows.
There are other things that we can all consider before the world goes back to normal. These are the things that Today Me has not felt like doing, but that Future Me is going to be too busy to do once that hour a day or more is lost to commuting.
Cleaning out the car?
Trying on work clothes and sorting out whether they fit, whether they need repairs, or whether they should get recycled
Sorting through all the various bottles, jars, and potions in the bathroom
Practicing all the hair and makeup styling tricks I have completely forgotten how to do
The stuff I wish everyone else would do, to wit, learning to write a decent email subject header and figure out when to reply-all or not
And, honestly, the stuff most of us are more likely to do once we realize that WFH is almost over and may never return:
Staying up as late as possible idly scrolling on our phones
Binge-watching a few last shows
Suddenly feeling premature nostalgia for this time that we all hated so much, until we realized it was almost gone.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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