I have quite a few reasons for not wanting to return to the office. Some I share with everyone, and some are perhaps unique to me.
The universal ones are:
- Commuting time. It’s two to three hours out of my day even when things go well. But if I miss a connection I can arrive at work needing another shave. It costs a ludicrous amount of money, too
- Other people’s music. It’s not that their choice might be awful, it’s just that I can’t skip to the next track or turn the volume down or get them to play Bonobo instead. Noise-cancelling headphones help, but it’s not a good idea to wear those all the time
- People eating crisps. Or apples. Or cooking a bloody fish in the microwave. Or whispering to each other. Or moving away from their desk in order to take a call but instead standing right next to yours. You know, it’s possible that at heart I’m not a people person
- Interruptions. I can ignore an email for a while, but not some bugger who turns up at my desk waving bits of paper. Writing needs continuity of thought
- Getting a proper coffee. My aeropress makes the perfect cup in six or seven minutes, tops. At one place where I’ve worked it involves going on a mighty journey, joining a long queue then returning empty-handed because you forgot you needed to bring your own mug. Plus you have to pay for it!
- Lunch. Same as above. At home I can make my own food, support my local shops or even have the odd pub lunch without raising eyebrows
- Losing your stuff. Some offices give you a locker, and although it’s a right faff retrieving all your kit in the morning and packing it away again at night, leaving anything out would guarantee it got stolen by the next day
- Productivity. I estimate I get around 40% more stuff done when I’m working at home.
Reasons that are more specific to me:
- A return to the place where I’m working now would mean IT issuing me with a laptop and sorting out a whole bunch of passwords. (I use my own Mac at home.) It would take ages
- I’d probably have to go through the rigmarole of being set up with a new security pass
- Others might be able to work sitting cross-legged on a beanbag or swinging from a hammock, but I need a proper height-adjustable chair. Some top agencies have absolutely awful seating. In one place I was told to work on a bench in the kitchen, next to the bin. Even work-experience teams shouldn’t have to put up with that
- I’d need a laptop stand and a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The IT department would ‘raise a ticket’ and I’d be lucky to see anything before Christmas 2030. Plus, it’s just more paraphernalia to remember to lock away every night
- Contrary to received wisdom, I feel I can build relationships with people over Teams and email just as well as I can face to face. It seems more natural – and more neutral
- Speaking of faces, I look out of place in any office these days. Come on, all those fit youngsters dashing about and acting cool? I look like I’ve come to fix the photocopier.
So what about the reasons FOR a return to the office? Well, employers always trot out the line about how the office is a place where people can catch up over a coffee, have a laugh, forge friendships, find romance and so on. All well and good, but in reality these are precisely the things most employers would rather didn’t happen at all. People chatting with other people? Next thing you know they’ll be in little cliques, plotting breakaways. Bosses want to see bums on seats.
That being said, I know that it’s different for young people. I’ve had more fun in offices than is fair for one lifetime and met loads of friends that way. If you work in a team, particularly if you’re exactly one half of that team, you do need to be together at least some of the time. For shipping clerks that might mean the local Nero. But for ad bods, the office is infinitely better. A good agency will literally ooze with energy and creativity. And if there’s a decent boozer nearby, well, that’s pretty much all you need.
For me, though, home is where the work is.