Millions of employees who can work from home don’t seem interested in returning to the office anytime soon, even as social-distancing guidelines are relaxed. But that hesitation doesn’t take into account the many potential upsides of going back into the office. Below are just a few examples of why we should look forward to resuming in-person work.
It’s impossible to be productive without eating a fourteen-dollar salad.
Let’s face facts. For all the talk of improved productivity as people started working remotely, we all know that we’ve lost a crucial ritual that fuels every desk job in every major metropolitan area—the hastily constructed and hastily consumed salad that costs about as much as what you make in the half-hour you spend waiting in line for it. Plus, it’s not just the food—it’s the dining experience. If no one is there to watch you eat, how can you get credit for joylessly scarfing your food down in ten minutes and rushing back to work?
Nothing can replace the awkwardness of forced, in-person small talk.
This is one of those intangible experiences that the Internet simply cannot replicate. Yes, you can have awkward, uncomfortable e-mails and Zoom calls, but there’s something magical about the camaraderie that comes from an awkward, uncomfortable in-person chat. When you’re working from home and pour yourself a cup of water, there’s simply no chance that some co-worker will ask you profound questions like “How’s your day goin’?,” “Any big plans this weekend?,” or, “Thirsty, huh?” And that’s destroying potential for innovation.
You’re more likely to use mental-health resources if your mental health is deteriorating.
Increasingly, progressive workplaces are offering generous mental-health resources, from online modules to one-on-one sessions with licensed professionals. But, over the past year, those companies have been extremely limited in their ability to cause the anguish that necessitates tapping such resources in the first place. Adding ten hours of commute time back to each employee’s week should be a step in the right direction.
You can steal stuff from the office.
That’s fun enough on its own, but the disciplinary meeting that follows might actually manage to make you feel something.
Your building’s security guard has gone too long without your daily banter.
Big Frank is rudderless, adrift, melancholy. Without a verbal sparring partner with whom to have hilarious repartee about the weather, traffic, and weather as it relates to traffic, how can he go on? Surface-level riffing—it’s what we owe to one another.
“Life” has taken on a little too much weight in “work-life balance.”
It’s called “work-life balance” for a reason. You should experience exactly as much work as you do life (and “sleep” counts as life). If you’re exercising in the morning, taking walks during the workday, and shutting your laptop at 4:52 P.M. instead of 5:01, then unfortunately “life” is encroaching on “work,” and you should probably put in twelve-hour days in person for at least a few months to reset the scales.
The C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs says that working in person is essential for an “innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture.”
He can’t be wrong. He’s so rich!
If your superiors can’t smell you, it may be challenging for them to assess your fear.
Many of the other senses have been successfully reproduced using remote-working tools, but smell isn’t one of them—and that’s making leadership so much more difficult than it has to be. Right now, if those in management wants to get a sense of whether their employees are sweating in terror, they have to conduct a company-wide survey. But no online-feedback tool can take the place of a good whiff!
Your button-down shirts might be anthropomorphic and miss being worn.
If there’s a Pixar situation in which all of the shirts in your closet are secretly sentient, the pandemic has probably hit your button-downs really hard. They don’t know that it’s nothing personal! By now, they’ve probably finished learning whatever lessons about friendship during difficult times they’re going to learn, so it’s time for the heartwarming ending where they see the outside world again at last.
There are free doughnuts sometimes.
Marcia loves to bring them in as a surprise treat, and she’s not gonna take any home!