Back to the office

 Wed, 21 Feb 2024 06:27 UTC

Back to the office
Image: CC BY 4.0 by cybrkyd

My company issued a mandate in late 2023: we all needed to attend the office at least two days a week beginning in January 2024. This was dressed up in the spirit of encouraging more face-to-face interaction and collaboration as well as serving to remind staff that we actually worked on a hybrid model. Something that a lot of us apparently had forgotten about.

Previously, we were on a more flexible five-days-per-month setup and this suited almost everyone. Apart from the top brass, maybe, definitely. I work in financial services and these guys are all cut from the same cloth.

Late last year, the complaints from the top started floating around in what I would like to refer to as “planted” rumours shared via Teams, emails and Signal messages: not everyone was making the effort to come into the office for five days in a given month. Why “planted”? How else would rank-and-file get to find out what C-suite talk about all day? Yup, these were definitely planted rumours. Also…weird! Friend X who works elsewhere heard the same rumour at their firm and so did Friend Y. Same cloth!

So, here we are. I’m surrounded by - I’d say - 75% new faces I’ve never seen before. It’s like working in a library as no one seems to know who is sitting next to them on one of the hotdesks. Sometimes, the odd noisy chatter or giggle travels across the floor, a reminder that at least someone knows and is friendly with at least one other lonely soul. Not a lot of cross-team collaboration going on.

London is bad enough and has a wonderful reputation for being a cold, unfriendly city. And now, the outside is in - the city has moved into my office. Walking past “colleagues” is now equal to walking past that stranger on the underground; no eye contact, no “I’m just being polite” half-smile on their lips which is the usual acknowledgement that you exist in these parts. No one knows your name. No one dares ask and no one really cares.

My industry’s performance during Covid showed that productivity went up, up, up. I really do not feel very productive right now, sitting in this doom-and-gloom place, typing this out. Quite the opposite…I feel as if the life is slowly being sucked out of me. I’m losing the will to live, as the famous British saying goes!

I’ve noticed the slight productivity drop in my team as well. I try to pep them up with all that mindfulness nonsense but they know I’m as fake as their collaboration.

Kudos to the few smart colleagues who relocated far, far away from the office. As soon as the official announcement was made, they headed straight to HR to explain why they will not be able to partake in this new iteration of our experiment with hybrid working. From what I hear - and see - it looks like they managed to get that baked into their contracts as well. Good on ya, mate!

On a personal, positive note, I found the time - whilst in the office - to type in 500 words in-between doing something or other. I’m collaborating with my blog!