COVID-19 Response: Providing safe, regularly sanitized and redesigned workspaces
June 19, 2020 | Barkha Kumari
Barkha Kumari shares the one thing that lockdown has taught many. That, home is home, office is office and the latter is calling us.
So many things have changed since the novel Coronavirus invaded our lives and locked us in. Such as my sister-in-law’s frequent craving for Work-From-Home.
“My tech park is 6.5km away but sometimes, it can take me one-and-a-half hours just one way. And how much planning goes into finding that one cab to my office is another story!” she sounded like an employee union leader every time she made a case for herself and inadvertently for everybody working in Bengaluru. Those were pre-COVID days when traffic was abnormal yet normal, you know.
But today, she’s a reformed employee. “I miss the office. I want to go to the office,” she declares surely, only for the nth time.
HRs/bosses are tearing up, I can sense
Power cuts, WiFi troubles, tech glitches during online meetings, and undefined work hours, are obviously the top reasons why people are not enjoying their remote work. But tell me, don’t you miss your office chair - that highly comfy seat of power that you called dibs on the day you joined and even slyly tied a ribbon to ‘reserve it’? Or those water cooler conversations about Money Heist or why can’t the office boy/girl get a simple thing like the filter coffee right? Or those surprise-but-no-surprise flash mobs? Or those office parties after weeks of slogging on the laptop? Aah! I miss those days. I dialed up a few folks to understand why they are crushing on their Office!
“I keep staring at my office wardrobe. When will I wear that olive-green outfit?” my sister-in-law shares hesitatingly, fearing her reasons are too silly. Not at all. An ex-roomie of mine says with a laugh, “I miss dressing up and getting compliments for my earrings.” And please, it’s not just a girl’s thing. A few weeks ago, my partner burst into the living room, saying, ‘I have forgotten what it’s like to wear jeans. I have been coding in my shorts and boxers! I look like a mess.”
To put things in perspective, studies show that a power tie, a pantsuit, your favorite pair of heels, or a sharp office look can put you in the work mode massively.
Sorry, I slipped into the reasons too far, too soon. I mean, how many of you have gone the entire workday without bathing or combing your hair, even sitting down for Zoom video calls like that? See the flip side of forced Work-From-Home is that we’ve lost our grip on days, lunch breaks, and routines. On a normal working day, even if I didn’t break a major news story, I used to be just happy to wake up on time, water my plants, take shower, make breakfast, clean dishes, read news, iron my clothes, take a metro to office, chill with friends post-work. I might not have been productive (work-wise) but I wasn’t lazy either and that would do. Going to the office injected some sort of vigor in me whereas all I do at home is postpone my shower plans because either the water is too hot or it’s not hot enough. I hate this inertia.
There is, of course, the issue of work-life balance. “Going to the office gives a break from home chores and I like that distinction of space (physical and mental both),” my ex-colleagues point out. My partner can’t agree more. “It’s impossible to go around the home without crossing the kitchen and the pots and pans and oven lying there are distracting. I feel like ditching my work and trying a new recipe instead.”
Talking of the ‘office space’, there’s more to it than cubicles and cabins and the annoying CCTV cameras. “I miss going to my office gym,” rues my ex-roomie, while my sister-in-law used to burn calories by fast-walking inside her gigantic tech park, two times a day. As for me, writing an error-free copy was as critical as trekking three floors down to the canteen and back, to have bread pakoras and samosas with a generous sprinkle of kaala namak.
But now, I feel for our sore bums.
When I was asked to give a farewell speech in my last job, I remember saying, “I will miss my colleagues, watchman bhaiyas, maintenance akkas. I know one must be professional in the office and focus on work and nothing more. I can’t do that because I thrive among people. I spend 8 hours, sometimes 10 hours at work, that’s the majority of my day, so how can I not be friends with them?”
I am sure this echoes with many of you. An office is like a microcosm of people from different walks and stages of life and one more intriguing than the others (and annoying too). In some, you find BFFs for life. In some, you find shoulders to cry on. In some, a mentor. In some, competitors. In some, an entertainer who imitates your colleagues (hopefully, in good faith). In some, a singer for farewell parties. In some, a dancer for inter-department competitions. In some, a traveller for the weekend hustle. In some, cofounders for future enterprises. In some, cooks who spoil you with snacks, bakes, and cakes. In some, secret Santa organisers. In some, partners, and flings too!
Even if you aren’t the people’s person, it’s nice to look up from your laptop once in a while and take a visual break. “I can’t explain why but being around people and the energy they bring, is a nice, passive distraction. They break the monotony of work,” says my slightly introverted partner.
So, is there a way out of this missing fest? Because it will be a while before companies start running at their full capacity and before colleagues reunite. “I am thinking of going to a co-working space. It is not my office but is office-like. There will be desks, people, inter-personal meetings and activities,” my sister-in-law caught me by surprise. “If a few of my colleagues join in, I might give coworking space a shot but it’s another thing, I can’t concentrate in a new workspace,” my ex-roomie weighs in, also admitting that she’s now liking the Work-From-Home model.
I am a freelance journalist by day and a serial dreamer by night. I see a lot of weird dreams and remember them too. My blog “Diaries of a dreamworm” is the proof.
Check it out: https://barkhainmedia.wordpress.com/.