At Long Last, I Returned to Work at the Office

Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Two years, one month later . . . I returned to the office. Albeit a different office for a different job in a different state. Still! The cubicle, the computer, the office background noise – it’s nice to be back.

Please note: I definitely did not want to go back to the office. I panicked every time it got brought up, and it was brought up often. I was told to return to the office about six different times over the course of a year before it actually panned out. I work for a very conscientious employer, so I appreciated that they tried to “return to normal”, but always made decisions to stay on the safer side of things. Once COVID-19 reports came down and stayed down consistently, they allowed us to return in April 2022.

Here are my thoughts after my first day:

I’ve realized a part of myself has been dormant, and it came back to life today. I love spreading my social butterfly coworker wings and making new friends through small talk, seeing people in their flesh, seeing the nuances of their eyes moving, their brow furrowing. I like when a random person I have never seen before walks past me and says, “Hello!” I appreciate that a conversation might ensue from that small gesture. It’s nice to be seen and have my presence acknowledged. It has been two years since I have felt seen and acknowledged by strangers; that is a long time. (This is not to say that I am not seen and acknowledged by my family. Rather, when I’m home all day, everyday, I start to blend in with the scenery, like a human houseplant.)  My attitude toward coworkers as friends has always been, “We have to be here anyway so we might as well Kumbaya the shit out of it!” 🙂 And, sometimes, you hit the coworker-friend jackpot and going to work can also be called “going to fun.”

These thoughts are surprising to me because I have spent the past two years thinking I was living the dream working from home, and I definitely did not want to go back to the office, and I absolutely did not think I could handle California traffic whatsoever. But I was wrong. And it was fine! It was better than fine. It was great.

I think that anxiety and complacency have a way of convincing us that change is too hard and an unworthy endeavor; that change is cumbersome and even detrimental. But then, when I finally did walk out the door and saw the light of day, saw people and smiling faces, I knew that this was the right thing for me to do.

I came home after that first day and engaged with my son in a way that I had not in a very, very long time (probably two years, one month ;). I finally understood the concept of “quality time over quantity.” Prior to today, I would have said that as a parent, I could achieve quality AND quantity in our time together. But . . . I was very wrong. I found that regular distance and separation can play a positive role in the overall health of the relationship. For me, giving my brain a true rest from home life, and then a true rest from work life is important. It is good to be away so that I can be excited to come home and see my people, and vice versa.

That evening, I only spent two hours with my son compared to five, and noticed this enormous difference in both of our moods. When I work from home and my son is around, exasperation is always just around the corner. But on this day, there were no fights, there was no tension, and we didn’t nag each other to death. It was just a few fun moments where I was fully and gladly engaging with my little buddy that I hadn’t seen all day. It was beautiful and I was grateful.

A lot of what happened in my time working from home was very important, especially because I got my dog only because I knew I’d be home, and Ruca is awesome. Through working from home, I got to work and serve my family’s needs, which is lucky. Being home was also great for healing my inner introvert, and I am glad that my company has decided to move forward in a hybrid fashion so that I can tap into the best of both worlds.

I see now that there’s something about being in the house all day long, every single day, that makes me so complacent I’m practically a zombie. Through working in an office, I can gain a fresh view of the world daily. The sights and sounds are all new to me. I’m liking the view on this part of the journey. Here’s hoping that this joyful attitude hangs around awhile. ❤

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