Last week I returned to an office for the first time in 53 weeks. 53 weeks is a long time in which to build up new habits and new routines. 53 Mondays and the start to the week, 53 pressured Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 53 wind-down Fridays and the transition to the weekend in the same physical space as the rest of the week.
Similarly to a huge proportion of knowledge workers, my new working week is going to be a mix of home and office working. Some weeks I will go to the office for a day or two, other weeks I will max out with 3.5 days as the Friday morning will be in the office and the Friday afternoon will be a celebratory lunch with my PA!
Getting ready for my first day felt like my first day at high school. Packing my bag, getting a packed lunch ready, checking and re-checking to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
As I left the house for the car I returned 3 times for things I had left behind. I used to fly all over the world at a moments notice but lockdown has left me so out of practice I can’t leave the house with any sense of organisation.
Clothes are another nightmare. I hadn’t realised that my “work” clothes were such a well run routine until I had to rebuild this habit. Instead of just getting dressed I agonised over what to wear. The rules have changed. Things feel more informal and I have lost my confidence. Pulling together bag, shoes, jacket and jewellery left me mentally exhausted. I know change makes us feel consciously incompetent but do I really have to be this incompetent?!
I got to the office after taking a wrong turn and a 3 mile loop to get back onto the right road. I was met at the parking garage by the landlord with the garage remote control so I had to look like a professional, which meant I couldn’t put my head in my hands and cry which was my preferred option.
Once I was sat at my desk the shock of the new environment, and the number of new people I had met in 45 minutes left me mentally exhausted. Looking back, it was only about 5 people that I met, but compared to my Dad and my dog as my social circle, this was overcrowding!
For the first hour at my desk, there was a lot of staring at the wall and not much actual work, but things picked up as the day progressed. As I left, I felt the pleasure of packing up and formally ending the day. Tiring, but the start of something new.
When I arrived at my parking spot, I sat and cried, exhilarated by the miracle of leaving the house, finding my way and feeling a little like my old self. At lunch I sat outside with other hot deskers having a non domestic conversation. Working from home, lunch is dominated by domestic issues. Blocked sinks and running out of milk, but in the office the chat is about clients won, new opportunities and looming deadlines. It feels as if I am very slowly finding my tribe again.
Catch up with me for my diary of week 2….