There’s a lot I miss about being in the office…ergonomic furniture, free coffee, casual collaboration, having live in-person conversations with my colleagues, not having every single meeting interrupted by a pet or a child.
But it has been nice to have a little break from the more annoying aspects of working in an office. Here are five things I never have to deal with when working at home:
- The Drive-By Email Follow-Up
There’s always at least one person in every office who feels compelled to drop by and follow up on an email they sent five minutes ago.
“Did you see the email I sent you?” the Drive-By person will ask. Then when you say no, because you weren’t just sitting at your desk waiting for their email, they proceed to tell you everything that was in the email. This typically takes about 23 minutes longer than it would have taken me to just read and respond to the email.
Why? If you were going to talk to me live, why didn’t you just skip the email?
Then I always feel compelled to read the email anyway, just in case we missed something in the conversation, so it’s really double work.
Now that we’re working at home, this never happens. People send a message and eventually they get a response, even if it isn’t ten minutes after they sent it.
2. Stacks of Paper
Almost every meeting in real life involves the transfer of paper. The agenda. The project plan. The data report. Reams of paper. It’s pretty rare to leave a meeting empty-handed.
Despite about twenty years of hearing about how the modern office is going paperless, it took a pandemic to make it happen. Suddenly people who struggled to forward an email have learned how to create collaboration documents, share an excel file on the Zoom screen, and use an electronic agenda.
Aside from the waste, I’m finding it super handy to have the ability to change the font size when needed. My aging eyes appreciate that I no longer have to squint at papers with tiny fonts.
My own organization system has changed dramatically since we started working at home. After years of tracking my to-do lists and meeting notes in a notebook, now I’m using Trello and meeting notes in Microsoft teams to keep myself organized.
The best thing about getting rid of all that paper? I don’t have to sort through stacks of paper that accumulate on my desk waiting for a “file or recycle” decision. If I want it, I save it on the computer, if not, it’s easy to delete.
3. Awkward Bathroom Conversations
I don’t know how it is in the men’s room, but in the ladies’ room there is generally an unspoken expectation to interact. You might chat while you’re waiting in line, or someone will meet you at the sink and you’ll talk while washing your hands.
I don’t mind the casual “how’s it going” conversations; they are brief and mindless. But there’s always the person that wants to have an actual work conversation in there.
It always feels awkward discussing the monthly data report at the sink. The bathroom is not that big of a space — it’s not super comfortable to have an in-depth chat.
Even worse is the people who want to talk to you while you’re in there taking care of what you came into the bathroom to take care. I’m all for being accessible to people, but I draw the line at having a work conversation while I’m trying to pee; that’s a time when I like a little quiet and privacy.
True story: years ago I had a boss who would come into the ladies room looking for me, sticking her head under the stalls to see if she recognized my feet. “Bakie-boo (her annoying pet name for me), are you in there?” she would call. “I need to ask you something.”
No. Just no.
4. Repeated Greetings
This is how it goes in an office. You see someone in the hallway. “Hi Jane,” you say. “Good morning Bob.”
Then you see them a half a dozen times again — or more. Some people feel compelled to say “hey” or “hi again” or “how’s it going?” again. Every. Single. Time.
I don’t get the people who repeat the initial greeting each time as if you haven’t already greeted each other that day. Do they not remember talking to me earlier? Am I that forgettable? Or is it some kind of social obligation?
I get that it seems rude to just walk by without some acknowledgement. But if you’ve already acknowledged each other’s presence the first seven times you saw each other you’re probably good to just downgrade to the smile and nod after the first few encounters.
This doesn’t happen when I work from home. I might pass my roommate ten times without anything more than a nod. Even the dog will just raise his head and give one thump of his tail, then go back to sleep. It’s a lot less awkward.
5. Stolen Food
One of the worst crimes against a coworker is to steal their food from the communal fridge.
A few years ago I worked in an office where this a frequent and divisive issue. Almost every day there were new sticky notes posted in the kitchen with warnings — on the cabinets, the refrigerator door or even the food items themselves.
Some of the most memorable notes included:
“Whoever stole my salad dressing, I hope you choke on it!”
“Rose are red/violets are blue/If you steal my chips/I will hunt you down.” (No one said these people were big poets)
“I licked every cookie in this container. Enoy it, thieves.”
“Is this cow milk or breast milk? Steal my milk and see if you can figure it out.”
Now that I’m working at home, I never need to label my food and hide it in the back in the hopes that a lazy thief won’t look that hard. I just put it in the fridge or the cabinet and it’s there whenever I return. Definitely a bonus.
Working from home definitely has its benefits and drawbacks, but I’m all about the silver lining.
Although I am mourning the loss of human interaction and desperately looking forward to the day I don’t need to spend eight or more hours a day on Zoom, I definitely don’t miss these minor annoyances.
What unexpected benefits do you get from working at home?