The 2020s and the Post-Office Worldwork life
I moved to the Bay Area 6 years ago after stubbornly refusing to for over a decade before because I wanted to be in the middle of the world of software. 2020 made some of that luster wear off.
Our office closed at the end of March, 2020, for what was scheduled to be 2 months, which eventually stretched out into over 6 months, until finally we were told to clean off our desks by Thanksgiving as we were permanently remote.
I did poorly doing remote work in 2012 when I first tried it and didn’t look forward to doing it again. A big part of my day was framed around a commute, a large part of my productivity are 3 minute snippets of conversation with random people on the elevator to get an idea for what I could provide my coworkers, the majority of my socialization is in the context of work, and a large part of my sanity was my enthusiasm for figuring out byzantine ways to get around solely by public transit.
Working from home has been varied as I adjust to it and go through cycles of acceptance, as well as the variance in the openness of the Bay Area. At one point places were open, which was great, and appointment based, which was even better because there was limited admittance and things were empty enough to appreciate in a way we hadn’t before. The SF and Oakland Zoos, 2 of my kid’s favorite places, were noticably better experiences until they locked down and shut again.
Now that I’m adjusting to working from home I am noting probably the same things everyone else is: that work/home boundaries are hard, that having a dedicated workspace is essential, and keeping a routine with good sleep hygiene is absolutely paramount to not breaking down.
A benefit of the events of 2020 was that I lost over 40 pounds – no more being too tired to cook 3 nights a week and ordering out. No more eating a $20 lunch in the Financial District at a restaurant every day. No more cocktails on Fridays.
Another benefit was saving money – hundreds of dollars a month in eating out, hundreds of dollars in gas, hundreds of dollars on my Clipper card, hundreds of dollars in things like movie tickets and indoor playground fees. With that we were able to save more aggressively, and with our extra time able to do paperwork and visit house showings, so we were able to pounce and buy a home.
I was a little reluctant to buy a home in the Bay Area initially because “everyone is leaving,” but exoduses have happened here before and I honestly don’t anticipate things will stay like this forever, at the worst we’ll have to wait a decade. Our lifestyles won’t go entirely back to 2019, but people like living in cities and having interesting things to do nearby, and I’m sure even if the lucky Millennials who can afford it are permanently committing to the suburbs the next generation will cycle back and flock back to major cities and their surroundings.
My new office is my garage – we’re going to put in the money to turn it into a mock office, complete with a sealed “phone booth” room and cubicle-like partitions. Right now, it’s just a garage with a couple of desks that I share with the Christmas decorations, but it’s somewhere where my work life is separate from my home life.
It’s been weird, but it’s been weird for everyone.
Update 2021-02-10 This essay by Paul Ford covers a lot of my thinking about the office, too.