Our research has shown that workers are weary of remote work. The last two years have been a long, often lonely, road for many workers. Today, we spend some time Anna, who's well and truly ready to come back to work.
Part 1: Anna is alone
Anna sits alone in her kitchen. She looks at the digital clock on her microwave.
Technically – technically – work doesn't start until 9.30. But her laptop's right there on the bench, waiting for her. She doesn't have to shower or get dressed. Not like the old days. It's not like anyone would know. Her commute is a quick hop from her kitchen table to the desk. Maybe just a quick look at her emails before breakfast.
When... this all started, she was happy. Who wants to go to the office, anyway? Isn't work-from-home every office workers' secret dream?
"What did I think was so great about it, anyway?" she wonders, opening up Gmail and wiping sleep from her eye.
By the time she's done answering emails and finishing off a few tasks from yesterday, it's already 10.15.
"Better get a coffee," Anna thinks to herself. "At least it's an excuse to get out of the house."
As Anna walks outside, she feels sunlight soaking into her skin. She'd almost forgotten the sensation. She wanders towards her local cafe, her mood lifting with every step away from her home office. She nods to her neighbours, returning from similar pilgrimages. When she nods, they smile back at her.
It feels good – interacting with people again.
And then she notices something has changed about her morning. It's not just another morning anymore. It's a nice morning. The kind of morning she used to have walking to the office.
But then she remembers the afternoon she has ahead of her, stretching out like a desert. A mental purgatory, ticking off tasks in the same room she's been stuck in for months.
"You know what... I think I might actually miss the office," she says.
Then she pays for her coffee, smiles at the barista, and begins her long walk home.
Part 2: Light at the end of the tunnel
Anna wakes at 7.30am. For a second, she doesn't remember where she is. Then it clicks into focus and she remembers.
She's at home. She's at work. She's in the same place she's been since the start of the pandemic. Some new hybrid of work and home that doesn't really feel like either. How long has it been?
And for that matter, what day is it? It could be Friday. But maybe it's the weekend. It doesn't matter that much anymore.
She can't see much point in tracking the day of the week, anymore. Now that the weekends have become workdays. Even the word weekend seems to clang around in her mind. At home, the working week is a circle, she thinks. There are no points, no ends.
Anna realises that she misses the time when "work" and "home" were two separate places.
And then, all of a sudden, she hears a bell ring. It's her laptop... an email from her CEO.
Anna sits back, sinks into the couch. Her phone vibrates, lights up. It is a message from her work friend, Billie.
"See the email from Bec? Drinks after work on Monday?"
Part 3: Anna goes back to work
A champagne cork bursts from its bottle and bounces off the wall, sending peals of infectious laughter rippling throughout the party.
"Almost got me," Jimmy yells out.
"There's two more bottles," Anna's CEO shoots back, pouring a glass of champagne. "That's two more chances."
Anna had forgotten how funny her coworkers could be. In fact, she'd forgotten lots of things. She'd forgotten how much fun it was to run into a friend in the elevator. She'd forgotten how easy it is to fix a problem when you can walk across the room and talk to someone about it.
Now, as she sips a glass of champagne and eyes a grill full of sizzling burgers at her company's Welcome Back cookout... it all comes rushing back.
Anna smiles to herself.
But she's not just smiling about the things she's forgotten. It's also everything that's changed. When she left for work this morning, she wasn't sure how much she'd be coming in this week. She had grown pretty comfortable in her home office, after all.
But from the moment she opened her new tenant app, she was hooked. At the top of the screen, she noticed a yoga class scheduled for tomorrow. It's free and it's in her building. She vaguely remembers filling out a survey a couple weeks ago where she said she'd like to participate in more wellness activities. Well, here was her chance. She couldn't pass it up.
So, she decided to spend Monday and Tuesday at work. Then she saw that she could book dry cleaning in the app, too. She clicked on it, more out of curiosity than anything else. It was affordable, and they'd pick it up and drop it right back to her desk. She couldn't pass that up either.
By the time she'd tapped into her building with her smartphone pass and settled in at her pre-booked hotdesk, she'd already arranged her laundry to be picked up on Wednesday.
"Well," thinks Anna, "I guess I'll be in the office this week."
She looks around at the laughing faces of her colleagues and realises that most of them will be right there with her.
"In fact," she thinks, "maybe it'll be a little while before I work from home again."
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