As lockdown eases, many of us are returning to our offices, having been working remotely for months. Rachel Farrell tells us why she can't wait to get back, and Amy Lynch explains why she'd be happy at home forever.
Rachel Farrell says yes:
Who'd have thought we'd miss office life? Before Covid, there were days when you'd roll out of bed and think, wouldn't it be great to work from the bed? Hair unbrushed, pyjamas still on and not having to deal with people in person. When lockdown began, suddenly I found myself living that life - and I'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I would.
The work-from-home novelty probably began to wear off about a month and a half in for me. At the start, I documented my days on social media. 'WFH day one - made brownies.' 'WFH day two - started a yoga challenge'.
I'm now on 'WFH day unknown - send help'. When talk began of returning to the office on a voluntary basis, you can guess whose name was first on the list. So what changed? For me it was when I began to realise that I actually need and enjoy a routine. I like having somewhere to go at a certain time, armed with a packed lunch and my Leap card for the journey.
I miss the creative discussions that happen naturally in the newspaper office where I work, compared to scheduled Teams meetings where half the time I forget what I was planning to say in the first place. It's only when you step away from the office that you notice how many of these in-person chats happen throughout the day. Of course, that's not to say that we're not as productive when working from home.
In fact, it's probably the opposite, but there are times when a Facetime doesn't feel the same as an in-person meeting. My back misses my desk and chair after four months of sitting at the same one I studied at for my Leaving Cert all those years ago.
Those who are enjoying WFH likely have their own office space, or maybe they like their couch-space, but it's not for me. I've been tempted to stick up a 'DO NOT DISTURB' sign on my door to stop my mam coming in looking for empty mugs and washing when I'm on a call. I definitely get more steps in too when I'm walking to and from the office, to the bus stop, or even just to the canteen and back for countless cups of tea. The length of my walk from desk to coffee machine has significantly decreased since lockdown began.
I even miss the 'glam office life'. I'm someone who enjoys getting dressed up for the day and when I envisaged my spring-summer work attire, I didn't see hoodies and leggings on the agenda. Working from home was always the sort of idyllic notion I had for down the line, when I have kids or when I'm writing a book and need time to dedicate to something else.
Not at the start of my career, at a time when we are told to mix and mingle and 'make connections' for future opportunities. Now, the only commitment I have outside work is reruns of the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills. And lastly, I miss after-work drinks and spontaneous plans. If returning to the office is the first step there, I'll gladly take it.
Amy Lynch says no:
Why is it that each morning, a school shoe finds itself separated from its partner? Pre-Covid, the mornings used to stress me the most. By the time my children were rushed through their breakfast and ejected from the car at the school gates, it was time for me to race towards the motorway. The red brake lights and radio broadcast confirmed the worst: a crash on the N11, and a fat chance of making it to the office on time. You’d think that 20 years of apologising for running late to my charity sector office job would be less stressful by now. You’d be wrong.
Fast forward eight hours of coffee station small talk, report writing and clock-watching, and the journey would be done in reverse. Except it was then dark. And raining. And it was at this exact soul-crushing moment I’d realise that I’d defrosted nothing for dinner and that one of the kids had a project due. I’d flick the radio and have a quick pray that the tight chest was just anxiety.
Ah, but the daily grind of an office working parent doesn’t end there. There are Weetabix cemented bowls to tackle and dogs to walk before collapsing in front of the telly to mumble a vague ‘how was your day’ to my equally exhausted husband.
Enter Covid-19. Working from home was previously labelled as impossible, yet is now not only possible but essential. Old-school 9-to-5 office hours were previously set in stone, yet are now flexible. Uptight office meetings are now replaced with online meetings, featuring children of colleagues popping their heads in to demand crisps.
As parents who never made it home in time to supervise homework, the hubby and I found ourselves in charge of home-schooling. Honestly? It was a privilege. I got to be the one telling them how clever and funny they are. At 10 and 11 years old, we can point to an email from teacher, they’ll download the app, upload the work, and attempt to teach this middle-aged mum how it’s done.
With all of this time working from home instead of the office, I even did some baking. Okay, the cookies were hideous, and I still can’t shift the aftertaste, but the kids now think their mum is the best mum in the world. Cranky mummy morphed into fun mummy. And she liked it.
The dogs are delighted. No more endless guilt about leaving them alone for hours on end, hoping my mother will check on them at lunchtime, and compensating with a walk in the rain at night. It’s non-stop belly rub action these days.
Working from home has proven to be a better quality of life, with no reduction in productivity. Life is simply healthier. Instead of eating a limp sandwich under fluorescent office lights while tapping a keyboard, it’s a home-cooked lunch and a dog walk with the kids. No competition.
Recently, I noticed that my wardrobe is made up of 80pc shoulder pads and high heels. Now, I don’t know about you, but one tends to feel overdressed in anything fancier than yoga pants when working from home, so I’ll need to invest in some new clothes. But think of all I’m saving on dry clean only jackets! Win-win.
Working from home during the pandemic has made us stronger as a family. We’re healthier. We’re happier. And as for that tight chest? What tight chest?