America, your family misses you. They haven’t seen you for over a year, and it’s time for a nationwide family reunion.
I’m talking about your office family.
Even I miss my workplace, even though I’m moderately introverted, dislike riding subways at rush hour and have no particular reason to go to the office in the first place. Yes, we erstwhile cubicle drones have proven we can get the job done from home, but much as we all adore our family-families, we’ve all had enough face-to-face interaction with our household relatives to last us for a decade.
A census survey late last year found that people were working remotely more than usual in 37 percent of households during the pandemic. Getting back in the groove of going to the office will yield all sorts of psychological, emotional and even economic benefits. (Lunch places in central business districts, for one, could really use your business.)
It’s satisfying to be in the presence of other people solving problems while advancing toward a common goal, even if you work for Widgets, Gadgets and Wotsits Inc. A survey of 2,300 office workers for Gensler last spring found that 70 percent wanted to return to the office most of the week, and only 12 percent wanted to work from home every day. Majorities said it was more difficult to collaborate remotely. Even the CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, said he experienced fatigue with the virtual meeting platform, having had as many as 19 online meetings in a single day.
Then there’s the natural fascination of regularly interacting with fellow members of the species in the 22-to-65 age group: the geezer who stands around by the urn of Chock Full o’ Nuts offering dad jokes for six hours a day; the overly ambitious young upstart quietly scheming his way into middle management; the girl in the corner who laughs too loudly at her social-media feed. (I miss you, Alexandra!) Even the worker bees of Dunder Mifflin, despite their sad, cringey faces, were an odd kind of family. I’ll bet that by now, even they’d miss the trip into downtown Scranton to wince at every team-building exercise devised by their incredibly awkward boss.
Meanwhile, over the past year, America has added almost as many inches to its waistline as it has dollars to its deficit. A Harris poll found that 42 percent of Americans reported gaining an average of 29 pounds during the pandemic. Getting up and moving around, and being more than 15 feet away from the pantry, has to be better for your fitness level than staying home and slowly turning into those blob-people in “Wall-E” who lived permanently in motor scooters because their legs could no longer support their bellies.
And consider the social perks. Remember when you could ask, “How was your day today, honey?” and not know the answer? Going to the office every day gives you and your spouse something to talk about again over dinner! And if you’re lucky enough to live in or around New York City, you’re guaranteed to have lots of really interesting stuff to discuss, involving crime, chaos, disorder and all-around freakiness. People pay good money to go to the zoo or the museum to see unusual stuff. In NYC, it’s all included with the price of your subway fare, and pretty much everything is a lot more compelling than whatever’s going on in the average suburb.
Going to the office also means that, once in a while, you could even do something wild like not be home for dinner at 6 p.m. because you’re still out doing stuff with people other than family. (And, for those of us with small children at home, what bliss it will be to spend at least some days in the company of adults!) No one is suggesting anything bonkers like getting on a train and going to work five days a week, but it would do us all good to bust out of our homes once in a while and revel in one another’s quirks, habits, clothing choices and thoughts. Don’t tell me Zoom is just as good as reality. It isn’t. Many people working from home have actually reported feeling burnt out, and nearly half of adults working from home experienced stress, anxiety or depression, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Plus, as Cathy Merrill, the CEO of the magazine The Washingtonian, hinted in an op-ed last month: It’s really easy to fire your employees, or simply reduce them to contractor status, when you don’t see them every day. Want to be indispensable and climb the corporate ladder? Make sure to get yourself some actual face time, instead of virtual FaceTime, with the boss.