- Written by Bill Levine Bill Levine
My three closest former officemates from the 501 building and I recently met for our first get-together dinner meeting post-COVID. We have kept in touch, even though two of my friends retired in 2007, seven years before my final logoff.
We passed around the annals of the old office coffee club, which included fake bios for members emphasizing their java creds, mixed with real newspaper articles about the club’s charitable donations to Globe Santa.
To this pleasant memory above, I want to add stats from a March 2021 Society for Human Resource Management (shrm.org) piece that listed what remote employees missed most:
- 61% – In-person workplace conversations
- 42% – The regular and daily structure of reporting to a worksite
- 40% – Lunches and happy hours with colleagues
- 37% – Reduced interruptions by kids during the workday
These stats would indicate that rumors of the demise of the office are somewhat exaggerated, to abashedly paraphrase Mark Twain.
As an office desk jockey for most of my four decades, I am happy with the stats above. There are clearly advantages to office life over remote working; I say this as a “looked at both sides now” guy who did work remotely at times during my last few working years.
Despite the remote-work advantages of no commute and no “subsidized” garage fees of $200 a month, and not having to dress for success, I missed all of the pluses that the stats above spoke to about working in the office.
(I would add to the work-from-home negatives “interruptions by dog fights as my wife ran a doggy playgroup while I was remotely solving IT problems in my basement.”)
There was also the burden of supervising workers while I was home and sometimes multi-role playing as an IT professional and a cook. This sometimes didn’t work out well, as I became so engrossed in work that I forgot to attend to lambchops until the smoke detector went off.
My office at the 501 building was my workplace for 30 years. I figure I did about 5,000 daily stints there before being laid off. I got trapped in the elevator once and parked in the CEO’s spot once by mistake.
In the paternalistic years of the company, I bought stuff in the onsite company store. When we had a company cafeteria, I ate with colleagues and jointly discussed turkey bosses and turkey tetrazzini.
I participated in many baby showers and witnessed from my cubicle romances blossoming into marriages. I ate a bake shop’s worth of celebratory cake slices. I made friends for life.
But I also saw email addresses change back to maiden names and vibrant bachelorettes end up 30 years later still unattached.
I listened to my cancer-ridden colleague say in my cubicle in November that he was only staying at work because of the health benefits, and then I found myself offering condolences to his wife the following March.
Our office had a second-home vibe as we commented on: cars bought, movies seen, vacations taken, kids’ successes, kids’ heartbreaks, sports heartbreaks, good bosses, crazy bosses, and good-but-crazy bosses.
This was the richness of face-to-face work encounters that accompanied my 9-to-5 existence for more than 30 years.
Even when heavy attrition came to IT department the last year of my career and my second floor was a ghost town of deserted cubicles, I preferred coming into the office.
Two or three team members were still working on site, so we could commiserate on our layoff dates, explore the newfangled smartphones, and curate whatever slice of office gossip was left.
Then, at around 5 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2013, the three of us literally turned off the lights and sadly left the office for the last time.
This meant for the last three months of my tenure with the 501 company in the winter of 2014, I had to work from home. I disengaged from my wife’s doggy play-group business by working in my basement office.
I could concentrate down there, but there were no sounds of clacking keyboards, inside-joke laughter, or coffee-break chatter, only the hum of my space heater and the periodic whoosh of the oil burner.
Bill Levine is a retired IT professional and active freelance writer. Bill aspires to be a humorist because it is easier to be pithy than funny. He may be reached at email@example.com.