We all miss our colleagues, me included.
Sitting in an old wooden rocking chair in the guest bedroom of my house with a makeshift retro flat-screen TV on a nightstand rigged up as my second monitor, I long for the comforts back in my office. I remember a place with appropriate ergonomics and where my business meetings are not interrupted by my 3-year-old asking/screaming for more apple juice.
I was lamenting this situation to one of my colleagues, and she reminded me that I’m not working from home, I’m doing my work at home. While those two statements sound similar, they mean very different things.
Working from home means it’s something you’ve probably chosen to do; you most likely have a proper desk and chair to sit in while said work from home gets accomplished. You also likely have the ability to either report into the office once in a while or work from a coffee shop to experience some adult human interaction.
Doing your work at home means a situation has presented itself that makes you unable to do your work where you normally would—such as, at the office. I can’t tell you the number of Zoom calls I’ve been on where people are sitting on couches. Couches! Orthopedic surgeons are going to see a spike in back surgeries in a few months. But who am I to judge? I’m sitting in a rocking chair.
Ergonomics and physical space aside, I started to think about all the things I miss most about my office. It became clear that what I miss most is actually my people. My sweet, sweet colleagues. The lack of this serendipitous community has left the biggest impact on my body—a hole in my heart.
So here’s the moment you’ve waited for. My ode to my colleagues.
Colleagues everywhere, we miss you dear.
We miss morning greetings and smiles,
without masks and health fear.
We miss spontaneous whiteboard thinking,
markers transferring hand-to-hand, as ideas burst free.
Not to mention, we miss the casual invitation to have lunch with thee.
Whether train, or plane, or car, or bike,
We miss going to client meetings with you alike.
There’s something to be said for lending a hand, too.
On your good days and bad, we miss supporting you.
The high-fives, the long days, the normal Tuesdays in between.
Nothing compares to good, old laughter. End scene.
We can’t wait to see you again, my colleague, my friend.
We know, or hope, someday this isolation will end.
Important people everywhere are trying to figure out what comes next for office spaces. Do all our desks need to be 6 feet apart? Do we need a new sanitation strategy? Must we limit the number of people who can be in the lobby at once?
The reality is, no one really knows if our offices will ever look the same again. No doubt, the physical space issues will get sorted out in no time. What remains to be considered is the people part. I mean, I’m sure we will have lunch meetings again, and we will probably visit our clients at their offices again, but how will that look? Even when conditions improve, what type of psychological damage will we need to overcome? How long will it take the hole in our hearts to heal?
Luckily, I’m a researcher who studies people in their places of work. Over the coming weeks, after I’m out of the rocking chair, the information from the data we are collecting on re-entry into the workplace will be fascinating. I know we will have some obstacles to overcome, but the optimist in me is excited to observe how the holes in our hearts get mended and how life will rock on at work.•
Julka is founder of Indianapolis-based DORIS Research, which uses design thinking to organize workspaces.