5 things I’ve learnt from being back in the office full-time

After 18 months of working from home, I changed jobs and found myself back in the office full-time.

Here’s some of what it taught me:

I don’t need to be there
After working from home full-time for around 18 months, it’s clear that being in an office full-time doesn’t need to be mandatory for a lot of jobs.

Talking is easier than Teams
It’s much easier to walk over to someone’s desk and have a 2 minute conversation than it is to message them and wait for a reply which in one instance took 2 days.

It’s easier to switch off
When I log off, close my laptop and leave it in the office at 5pm before heading home it creates a good sense of separation. When I close my laptop at home and then sit at the same dining table to have dinner. There’s no clear separation between work and home.

Some days I don’t want to talk
It’s nice to be in the office and talk to people but some days I’m quite happy sitting alone, not interacting, typing away and reading documents. Being in the office when I don’t want to interact or talk isn’t ideal because it’s a social environment.

I like having the option for both
Being in the office means I get dedicated writing time on my bus journey and it’s easier to switch off. However, being at home gives me more flexibility in how I structure my day.

I think all of these things depend on the working environment. If you don’t like your job or your colleagues, it’s no wonder you wouldn’t want to be there at all. But if you do like what you you do and the people you get to work with then office is probably a great place to be.

5 minutes more

When working from home, the getting ready process from bed to desk is much less time consuming.

Instead of waking up, getting breakfast, showering and brushing your teeth, getting ready, leaving out and travelling to the office. You might just wake up, get a coffee and start work. Then perhaps it’s later in the morning that you shower and get ready in-between tasks.

If you’re staying home, the time you get up is pretty flexible because you can choose how much you do before work begins. If you wake up one morning and bed feels cosy, you have the option for 5 minutes more.

On the flipside, if you’re going into the office there’s not much you can bypass and so choosing to sleep for a little bit longer means you have to rush or else you might end up being late.

A fresh start is a mindset not an action

When you think of a fresh start, what comes to mind?

A new city, a new stage in education, a new country, a new relationship, a new job, a promotion or a new home.

As much as those things are the beginning of new chapters in our lives, they don’t necessarily mark a fresh start. I think what matters so much more is the mindset. Sometimes people find that they move to a new city and get a new job but everything they wanted to escape from stays with them. They find themselves in a new city with the same old problems.

It’s possible to change your mindset, stay in the exact same place and still get the effects of a fresh start. Things like moving to a new city, changing your hair or getting a new job all serves as visual signifiers for ourselves and also to the outside world that something has changed.

Which dreams are worth pursuing?

When you’re creating your dream life, you might think of things such as where you’ll live, what sort of home you’d like, how you’ll earn an income, how you’ll spend your free time and so on. But when there is equal appeal for conflicting choices, how do you decide?

Essentially it requires you to let some dreams go, perhaps not permanently but at least for a little while. But even when you know that is what needs to be done, you still have to choose what to put first. It could be the choice between living in apartment right in the heart of a the city and a cottage in the countryside.

Whatever choice you make you have to also remember that you might not get to go back and do the other thing in the way that you originally wanted. For example, if you choose the apartment in the city you may end up with a terraced house in the suburbs later on rather than the country cottage.

Most of the time when it comes to the dream life, I focus on the fantasy or romanticising the possibilities of life. I do that because it’s fun and I think it’s vital to engage with those ways of thinking. However, it’s important to be practical too. It’s not possible to do everything so you do have to choose. You have to decide which dreams are worth pursing.

Separating work from home

If you’ve found yourself working from home over the past 16 months, chances are that at some point the lines have blurred.

This happens when you don’t create clear boundaries. As much as working from home gives you more freedom and flexibility, you’re still working.

And so being curled up on the sofa with a blanket and ginger tea might seem like a good idea but in reality it’s not really the suitable space for writing up a report.

2 kinds of value

If you had to leave your home and could only take 10 things with you, what would you take?

Turns out the things we value in our day to day lives aren’t the same things we value in an emergency.

In our day to day life we’re more materialistic, we care more about perception. It’s not that we don’t value the things we need to survive but that they are a given rather than something we need to think about.

In an emergency we place value on safety and survival. There’s not much point valuing your green faux croc handbag when you are without food and water.

And sometimes people choose to live their day to day lives valuing only the essentials even when they don’t have to.

What do you gain when working from home?

For a large group of people they’ve spent most at least 4 months of the year working from home. They’ve had to adjust and adapt to a new environment whilst still maintaining the same work output that would be delivered in the office.

Despite the difficulties I think everyone gains something working from home. For some people those gains actually outweigh the losses.

The main thing is that you have more control over how you spend your time.

It could be starting early and finishing early or starting and finishing late.

Spending your morning working on personal projects.

Organising your work time to give you a few hours of leisure in the late morning to early afternoon.

Perhaps it’s being able to dress however you want and cook meals instead of just buying something or heating something up in the microwave.

Maybe, you’ve gained more time to spend with the people you love because you no longer have to commute.

As much as it might be difficult, challenging and inconvenient to work from home, it’s worth acknowledging the good bits.

Don’t believe you’re missing out

You’ve probably had the experience of feeling totally fine but as soon as you see or hear about what other people are doing (or have done) suddenly you feel a sense of lack.

It’s like if you spend your Friday night at home watching a movie and painting your nails but the next week everyone is talking about this amazing party they went to saying things like ‘it was so good’ or ‘you should have been there’ you might end up believing it.

That’s an example of the mind almost playing tricks because at the same time we’ve all been somewhere and known that we’d have been just as content (and in some cases happier) staying at home.

I guess sometimes it feels good to do what everyone else is doing, it brings of sense of belonging and as humans that is something we all seek.

But it’s so important to consider how you enjoy spending your time.

If planting flowers, cooking and writing poetry is time well spent for you, it shouldn’t matter what other people are doing.

The last thing you want is to find yourself belonging in a space where you aren’t even being yourself or doing things enjoy simply to avoid ‘missing out‘.

If I had more time…

Have you ever found yourself wishing that you had more time? If so, what circumstance did you think would arise to give you more time?

Was it quitting your job, winning the lottery or an inheritance from a great aunt?

Now that you have more free time than you used to, are you doing all the things you said you would do if you had more time?

Granted a pandemic is not the ideal scenario but there is no denying that you now have the time you once wished for.

In a few months or years things will be back to some kind of normal and you’ll have less free time to be bored. You might even look back on this time and wish you’d taken advantage of the opportunity to do the things you’d been putting off.

Breaking up the day

If you”re working on a laptop from 9-5 and spend your evenings scrolling social media, watching youtube and binging the latest fantasy thriller series, you’ll have spent most of your day staring at a screen.

You aren’t going out to restaurants, going for drinks, visiting museums, catching up with friends in a local cafe or going dancing like you used.

When you’re spending your days staring at a screen, it’s no wonder the days will start to blur into one.

Obviously you can’t eliminate the 8 working hours from your day but being at home means you have some level of flexibility when it comes to how you choose to structure your day.

What are you doing in-between work, emails, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook, Netflix etc?

What are you doing to break up your day?

Now might be the perfect time to find some offline hobbies that you can easily do from home, things that don’t require a screen.

It could be hand embroidery, baking, gardening, reading, drawing, making body butter, mixing essential oils, writing in a notebook or sewing on a machine.

It’s not about ditching your screens but instead acknowledging that you might get more fulfillment from an hour of baking in the afternoon instead of an extra hour on social media.