An Open Letter To Office Workers: Finding Beauty In The Mundane
There’s a yawning gulf between people whining about their jobs and those who no longer work in an office moaning about how much they miss it.
The shouty majority – who curse their commutes, pillory their colleagues and bemoan their bosses – really don’t know how good they’ve got it, and not only because they have more to talk about at barbecues. There are countless other benefits of working in an office.
Some six years after being struck from behind by the redundancy train, I recently spent a couple of weeks working back in the office of my former employer, a no-longer-large publisher of print journalism. And I can barely describe how wonderful it was.
Yes, it was partly the novelty. After so long working in an almost sepulchrally-quiet home office, I was thrilled just to be outside. I think I was the only person on my bus commute each day who looked genuinely excited, or fist pumped vigorously when they got a seat.
For the first few days, I sent my wife hugely boring text messages like: “I’m in a lift queue. A lift queue!”. Because to me, even this was a genuine marvel – despite being something I’d hated furiously when I’d previously worked in the archaic building in question.
On hot days, I would call her just to rave about what a fantastic thing air conditioning is. Not to mention food courts.
When someone in my office on the first day stood up and offered to do a coffee run, I wept, openly. Which was a shame, as no one asked me again after that.
But it was the human interaction that I really revelled in. On my first Monday, a colleague turned to a desk mate to casually enquire after his weekend, and while his fairly run-of-the-mill tale of his girlfriend delicately ruining any time he thought he might get to himself spilled forth, I was captivated.
With my hands cupped under my chin and wide eyes, I pleaded with him to tell me more, even after he’d started talking about Ikea.
Yes, to those of you with real jobs, that kind of inane chatter is as constant and annoying as having a woodpecker’s nest in your ear, but to me, it was a pleasant, even uplifting change. Just to be part of simple social chats that meander off in unexpected directions, none of them particularly important or enlightening, but all entertaining nonetheless.
…take a minute to be thankful for the best moments of your working day – the bits in between all the work.
I was discussing my fascination later with another freelance friend and he pointed out that we often spoke by phone on our work days, but it’s not the same. Phone chats with someone you know follow a certain pattern but hearing someone two desks away telling someone else about what they’d like to do to Tony Abbott if they met him at a pub is far more invigorating.
Clearly, the working part of being back in real work wasn’t what thrilled me the most, and frankly, I found it a bit hard to fit it all in because I spent so much time loitering around water coolers, hoping for not-so-casual catchups with people about their Netflix preferences.
There’s no doubt my productivity is far higher when I’m at home, because there are – comparatively – fewer distractions, but after a couple of weeks back working in the warming human glow of an office, I have to wonder what all this solitude is doing to my soul. (And yes, I would just go and get a job, but I’m a journalist, so there aren’t any.) I’m seriously thinking about going on Airtasker to find someone willing to stand in my kitchen and chew the fat.
So, as you drudge your way into the office today, your nose just inches away from that smelly stranger’s armpit on the bus, take a minute to be thankful for the best moments of your working day – the bits in between all the work.
(Lead image: Bruce Mars / Pexels)
Published 14 March, 2019