Here we are. Today was the last day of “maximum telework” authorized by the Office of Personnel Management as a response measure to reduce the spread of the Great Plague through the federal workforce. I know others will disagree, but for hard working introverts like me, it was a golden age. It was a demonstration of my own long-held belief that work is what you do rather than where you do it. Starting again on Monday, the powers that be have decreed that once again where you do it is, in fact, far more important than whatever results might be achieved. How, after all, will anyone know you’re working if they can’t see you shuffling, dead eyed, around the cubicle farm?
For the last two and a half years, I’ve spent four days out of every work week doing the job from my home office. The one day each week I spent in the office was, as far as I can tell, a concession to the one singular task that we couldn’t do from home. You see, someone had to be there physically to push the button that unlocks our office door when a visitor rings the doorbell. That’s it. We were all required to be there some portion of the week, in large part, because well paid senior analysts with 20, 30, or 40 years of experience were needed to perform critical duty as door attendants. You won’t want to question me too closely about how Uncle chooses to task assign the resources at his disposal. It’s a much longer conversation and one I probably shouldn’t have until my retirement paperwork is safely filed.
In any case, come Monday we roll back the clock to February 2020 and pick up our “regular” schedules as if absolutely nothing has happened in those 30 intervening months. I’m considering opening a betting book on how soon a wave of cold, flu, or plague will sweep through our poorly ventilated office space. We were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to really rethink how and why we do things – and we squandered it. “We,” of course, meaning the deep thinkers and senior leaders mired in mid-20th century theory and practice who set policy for the rest of us.
It’s true, they can force me back to “business as usual,” or “normal operations,” or whatever more cheerful phrase they choose to use for the mass return to cubicle hell, but they can’t make me do it with a smile in my heart. As ever, I’ll be polite and professional, but it’s hard to imagine a time I won’t be salty about the alternative we chose to give up.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be spending the weekend coming to terms with the fact that the best two and a half years of my career are now at an end. It’s hard to imagine another black swan coming along in the next 12 years and 8 months to grant us a better result, but hope springs eternal.