The other night I decided to reacquaint myself with a movie that can be best described as THE quintessential white collar satire: Office Space. I laughed about the main character, Peter Gibbons, and his day-to-day dealings with his coworkers.
The audience meets his annoying office neighbor, the receptionist whose perky, repetitious phone greetings would be enough to drive anyone crazy. We meet his two friends, Michel and Samir, who end up have a hilarious gang fight with their infuriating, always-jamming fax machine (remember those things?).
Our skin crawls when we meet his pompous boss, Mr. Lumbergh, who could be counted on for a snarky comment or presumptive “See you on Saturday,” each followed by his condescending “Mmmmmkkkay?”
And of course, there is the hilarious, mumbling socially awkward character, Milton, who is eventually responsible for (**spoiler alert if you are one of the three people over the age of 30 who hasn’t seen this movie**) retrieving his beloved favorite red stapler from the boss … just before he decides to set the whole place on fire.
Interestingly enough, even though I do not work in a traditional office setting, I have been feeling a little arsonistic (just made up that word) lately myself. The stress of my job has reached an all-time high. Every project I’ve managed in the last three weeks has felt somewhat like pushing a semi truck up a hill. Nearly impossible. Truly exhausting. And maybe even downright dangerous.
It has been in the midst of these recent struggles that I have found myself missing some of the things that came with working in a more traditional office setting. But, my work arrangement is unlikely to change any time soon (the local office I used to work in literally doesn’t exist anymore), nor do I necessarily want it to (there are plenty of things to appreciate about my work-at-home arrangement).
So, I figured I should probably stop, take a closer look, and make some adjustments.
1. I miss having my co-workers in close, physical proximity.
There is something to be said for having your colleagues nearby to offer support. When they physically see or hear you struggling through some sort of business problem, they can help you to talk through various scenarios, strategize for solutions, and offer up aide or expertise in a much more natural, fluid way than is apt to happen when we work-from-home.
One way to adjust for this is to concentrate on reaching out and recreating that synergy in whatever way you can. Maybe it is scheduling a troubleshooting or brainstorming meeting with some key colleagues, or, planning a lunch appointment with an industry partner you respect. The main idea is to avoid being isolative.
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2. I miss the challenge and guidance I used to get from my mentors.
Along the same vein as the prior point, when I used to work in a traditional office setting, my mentors or the leaders I worked with seemed to be more accessible, more apt to have a pulse on the particular difficulties I was facing, and more prepared to offer me feedback and guidance.
I have a lot of respect for my current management team, but, it seems as if more of my struggles occur in the solitude of my home office (and it probably wouldn’t be wise to use the short amount of time I do have with them airing my challenges or disappointments).
In these instances, I think it is more important than ever to develop a mentoring relationship with someone you can trust. If it can’t be a leader within your own organization, think about a professional in the industry, a business coach, a member of that local networking group you’ve been meaning to get involved in, or another work-at-home woman you know who has overcome some of the same obstacles you are currently facing.
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3. I miss office jokes.
This sounds so corny, but, I just laughed a lot more when I had my colleagues around. Maybe they were funnier when we were all together in person. Maybe I had a better sense of humor. Or maybe we just had more passing opportunities to make sarcastic quips or share our silly knee-slappers.
But, I miss having that spirit of fun and laughter that comes from physically being around each other. Not sure what the best solution is to overcome this. Perhaps I should start telling bad “knock knock” jokes via instant message to my virtual co-workers? Or, do I need to subscribe to a funny twitter feed or joke of the day email service? Or, the answer may be as simple as committing to lighten up a little bit. Either way, laughter is a great way to let off some steam and put things in perspective.
4. I miss the relief that came with getting out of the office.
For me, there was more of a mental and emotional break from work when I could shut down my computer, switch off the light and close my office door, and pull out of the parking lot. As a work-at-home woman, my office IS my home. And, I don’t think my husband and children would agree with moving.
And it wouldn’t matter anyway, because my office would come with us. One thing I plan to do to compensate is to reinstitute an official “quitting time.” I will shut down my office, INCLUDING my smartphone at a decent time, take a long walk (that’ll provide some physical separation AND stress relief/decompression time), and then come back “home” to my family. A vacation wouldn’t hurt, either.
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All in all, I am extremely lucky to be able to work-from-home (others, like our friends at Yahoo, don’t have that privilege). When we can get intentional about how we approach our work-at-home arrangements, we can enjoy the perks of being at home without losing out on the interpersonal relationships that make our businesses thrive.
What aspects do you miss about being in a traditional, physical office setting? What adjustments have you made?