For the past six months, I have been working from home. Yesterday, our new office opened, and I had to go in to work.
Waking up early. Commuting to work. Remembering to wear pants.
This is the story of my waking nightmare.
When I moved to Denver last August, I already had a job lined up. The company was in the process of opening its Denver branch, so it didn’t yet have a building or offices. In the meantime, the dozens of people hired in the area worked from home, having been told that an office was being built in Denver. This was a lie.
The office was actually being built in Louisville (pronounced Lewis-ville, because why the hell not), about a 45-minute drive from my place in ideal conditions. This is like being told the Super Bowl is being held in New York and then finding out it’s in New Jersey, but only after you’ve traveled to New York and made all of your plans there.
This world of pain and deception is just the setting. Let’s work through the entire arc. This is my story. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
I had heard the negatives of working from home before. The inconsistent sleep schedules. The lack of productivity due to distractions. The loss of social skills. The complete deterioration of hygiene.
Most of those didn’t apply to me. I wasn’t working for myself, so I still had to have regular hours, and because we bill clients, I had to keep track of my time. I was always held accountable. Because of this, my sleep schedule and productivity didn’t really suffer.
Also, partly in connection to that schedule, I need a shower in the morning to wake up. If I made my own hours and could just roll out of bed whenever, I could probably go without it. As it is, that shower is more effective than caffeine at waking me up. And I already had a beard, so the complete lack of a reason to shave hardly affects me. So my hygiene is still pretty okay. Look, it’s never going to be great. But the level of “pretty okay” didn’t noticeably drop.
I did have much less contact with others, so my social skills might have declined. I don’t know and I don’t care. Less socializing is not what I call a bad thing.
Sure, at previous office jobs I have “made friends” that I then “enjoyed hanging out with.” But that seems like a freak occurrence. Not even worth discussing.
There have also been people in my company (which has a pretty lenient work-from-home policy) who talk about how working from home for extended lengths leads to not going outside and wearing pajamas just all day long. I have yet to figure out how they say it in a way where it sounds like a bad thing, but that is clearly the way they mean it.
The downfalls of working from home, then, have been of no concern to me. Let’s move and look at the downfall of working at an office.
First things first, holy crap, losing that extra sleep is terrible. I thought my alarm was joking when it went off. This does go back to the overly long drive–however long it takes you to commute to work is how much earlier you have to wake up.
And like I said, that was a long commute. There were multiple accidents on the way there and another one on the way back. I never got stuck in traffic due to an accident working from home. I’m fairly confident I never will.
Even before the commute though, I had to put on actual clothes. Socially acceptable ones! I usually wear a pair of work pants I got as a Christmas gift, which are Batman pajama pants. Thankfully, it’s a casual workplace, so I could wear jeans and a t-shirt.
Other people, including the VP heading this office, seemed to have trouble with this aspect as well. Wearing a hat was a quick substitute for combed hair, and scraggly beards littered the faces of my coworkers.
There are lots of small things too. The noise of other coworkers–chatter, typing, phone calls–is awful. Not having your own bathroom is uncomfortable. Being visible to others and thus unable to surf the less productive parts of the web makes everything boring.
But also: you have to be a decent person. At home, gases can escape at will. When you’re sharing an office with other people though, you can’t just let it fly. Oh, sure, you’re not going to just hold it in, but you have to be discreet. It is a ridiculous situation. The amount of mental energy it takes to keep from being a pariah after six months of no limitations means I’m being less productive. It’s just a bad business decision to have me be around other people, both for me and those around me. I think all of my coworkers–current and past–would agree with that.
I don’t actually work with anyone in the office either. There are a couple of people I’ve had tangential work contact with, but they work on other projects that have little to nothing to do with me. So, naturally, when I first heard about this Louisville office that is very distinctly not a Denver office, I complained about it. My boss heard about that complaining.
But my boss is great, so I still get to mostly work from home. However, one day a week I will still have to make this journey. Every week I will be reminded of the despair of cubicle life and all that it entails.