The Big Return


If you've read my previous blog post ( you know that it's been mandated to "return" to the office.  Only return isn't exactly right because I've never worked in the office that I've been told to return to. 

It's been over 2 years since I've had to commute and I've gotten very comfortable with working from home. However, Wednesday was the big day to work in the brand, spanking new office space.  (The space that I toured in April and haven't been to since.)  In order to save money and wear and tear, I'm commuting via bus.  (It's about half the cost of parking, I'm saving on gas and it's slightly less stressful...although still stressful.)

I'm a (compulsive) planner when it comes to doing things outside of my comfort zone.  I downloaded the transit app (where you can purchase tickets).  I printed out the bus schedule as well as keeping it on my Google drive so I could access from my phone.  In order to make my life easier on the office arrival end, I had to make things a little more difficult on the home end.  I don't want to connect from bus to light rail or walk several blocks in Newark (where I don't know where I am) to an office.  So, I need to take a direct/express bus.  There are very few that fit that requirement.  The last time I took a bus to Newark Penn Station (April), I was able to take the one local in the morning that goes directly to the station.  However, that puts me at Penn around 9 and then I have to walk to get to my building (all done indoors which is kind of neat).  The next earlier one puts me in at 8, but requires me to walk downtown (just under a mile) to board the bus.  That's fine for sunny, warm(ish) days, but I don't know how that's going to work when the weather is not so cooperative.

Wednesday morning I made sure I left my house with over 30 minutes to get to the corner where the bus would pick up.  I had the transit app open the whole way so I could see in real time how far away the bus was.  As I got closer to the bus stop, I realized that I could make an earlier bus.  (It only took me about 15 minutes when I estimated over 20.)  So I hopped on that one and arrived at Penn Station at quarter to eight.  (Don't see how the one after it, that I had intended on taking, would have made it into the station by eight, but...)

I took it slow (since I had the time), going up the stairs and down the enclosed corridors to my building.  (I think it is probably actually a longer route to stay inside than to go out, but...)  It was very empty and kind of depressing seeing all these spaces that are supposed to (eventually) have businesses in them,  (It was kind of like walking through the mall of the dead.)  Somehow I managed to get to my building without any trouble.  (AMAZING.)  I went to the security gate for my company's business and to my (pleasant) surprise, my ID badge worked and I got in with no problems.  (I also got to wear the stylish lanyard/id holder/mini-wallet that I bought in the summer of 2020 when I THOUGHT we were going back to the office [my original office that is], but never used.  I had to fish around to find it because I couldn't remember where I'd stored it and I had a moment of panic when I thought I'd lost an ID badge that I'd never actually used.)

I took the elevator up to my floor, which was mostly dark.  I found my "work station" with no problem.  (Maybe my brain is in better shape than I thought.)  They have put up dividers between work stations.  I am between my boss (who has a window seat) and another co-worker.  (They are really the only people I know and interact with here.)  There is some semblance of privacy, but certainly nothing like what I used to have.  I found the ladies room (all the way on the other side of the floor) and the coffee machine (updated version of the same one we had in the old office with the same crappy coffee pouches) I took my crappy coffee back to my work station.  And although I could hear voices (and I knew people were around), I was the only person on the whole side of the building.

I sat in the relative dark space (there were some lights on and the sun was glaring through the window, but I didn't know how to turn on the overheads), started my computer and went to work.  There were two large monitors on my desk, but they were not connecting with my computer, so I just "did my thing" until I heard my co-worker come in around 8:30.  She had managed to find the help desk team (who were not around when I came in) to help her set up her laptop and screens.  The technician was able to help me as well as I needed a new headset and wanted to use the monitors that had been set up at my work station, but were not working with my computer. This took a LOT longer than it should have, but...

Once everything was set up, I just sat at my station and worked.  (Just like I would have from home.)  Only difference is that there is a co-worker on my left and my boss on my right.  A row in front of me has 4 people working at work stations as well. (I don't know them; we need to get introduced and we should have but weren't)  There were 4 help desk technicians manning their station and several facilities people floating around, but otherwise that's it.  It is mostly quiet and cold (literally, I should have brought a sweater and I am so glad that I wore 3/4 sleeves because that AC is blowing!)  I am not "interacting" with anyone new.  While it is nice to see my boss and my co-worker; it's not THAT nice!  (No offense.)  Let me be clear; there is no real need for me (or for anyone I've run into) to actually be here.  The one meeting I had with another team member (who was actually on the same floor as I) was done via a phone call!  I never saw the guy despite the fact that we were in the same building.

Finally (here's the kicker), by 3:30 I was the only person left working on the floor.  Everyone had left.  I didn't leave because the earlier express bus is an hour away.  So what is the point of this?  There is no point!

If there was a reason for me to be in an office, a TRUE reason (departmental meeting, training, etc.), I'd get it.  But there isn't. If I held a position like bus driver, physician, barista or Broadway star (I put that last one in there because that's the job I'd probably like the most), there WOULD a reason why I would have to be in a specific place to do my job.  However, I DON'T have a position like that.  I sit at a laptop; I have phone conversations; it really doesn't matter where I physically am.  In fact, the pandemic has made me aware of how much more productive I am at home; with no commuting down time, I have my computer on pretty much from the time I get back from my morning walk till after dinner.  I am not saying that I am specificially focused on work during on those hours, but I do check in early and late and can address problems should they arise.  When I am on a bus or even driving into an office, if something pops up, I don't see it until later.  Commuting is costly, tiresome and tiring. In the position that I currently hold, I am a better employee when I work from home rather than from a sterile office. However, that's not what corporations want, or so it seems to me.  

Thanks corporate America.  Making me less productive by throwing me in a "work station" once a week and letting me pay for it.


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