I’ve been tired, and irritable, and struggling to concentrate all day today. I’d usually write it off to one of the six different projects sitting on my desk in some condition of “not done yet,” but that’s mostly situation normal. Hardly cause for the two spontaneous nose bleeds that left me with chunks of tissue jammed up not nose so I could get on with whatever it was that I was doing while stanching the flow hands free.
Other than conditions as described, I don’t feel bad. My blood pressure isn’t out of whack. All appears to be as well as you could expect.
It wasn’t until I got home this evening that I realized that I was carrying around the probable culprit of at least some of my ills on my back. It seems in the mad rush to try getting some of those unfinished projects nudged towards the finished stack, I neglected to maintain a regular level of coffee intake. I can’t begin to tell you the last time I came home with a perfectly full thermos at the end of the day. Usually I’m finishing up the last of it while pulling into the driveway.
I’m just going to assume that today’s low state of affairs was triggered entirely by the shameful lack of caffein in my system and commit myself to doing better tomorrow… Because going through the day wholly uncaffeinated is no way to live.
The hardest part of coming back to the office after a telework day is obviously coming back to the office. That’s the fact in the most absolute sense. Trading home for office goes against everything I really want to do in my heart of hearts. If it weren’t for the mortgage and random astronomical bills related to the care and feeding of an English bulldog, perhaps things would be different. I suspect to one degree or another, that’s probably true for most of us, but it’s not one of the topics we discuss in polite company because realizing everyone else is in the same boat would be altogether too depressing to contemplate.
Aside from physically making the transition from working at home to working in the office, the most difficult part of these days is really just in dealing with the environment. Like so many drones, my “official” place of duty features open cubicles, a regular stream of people coming and going, endless interruptions, as many as 30 phones ringing, and the impossibility of getting away from being audibly assaulted by multiple simultaneous conversations at various volumes. I don’t care what the research says. I don’t care what the efficiency experts tell you. Open cubicle work space is a disaster. Sure things get done, but as often as not it’s things getting done in spite of the working environment as opposed to because of it.
Comparing that to my home office within the comfortable confines of Fortress Jeff with its comfortable chairs, expansive desk, fluffy animals, and relative calm and quiet, well, there’s really no question why I do more and feel better at the end of a telework day than I do on any other weekday. The transition between the two realities is jarring and decidedly unpleasant. Short of staring my own business to dispense sarcastic comments and inappropriate remarks, cubicle hell feels like a reality for at least the next seventeen odd years.
It’s kind of nice knowing there’s a better option. Of course it would be better still if it actually weren’t that way, but I’m a realist.
Tuesday is the new Monday. There. I Said it.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago I use to dread the arrival of Sunday night and the end of the weekend. Now that Mondays are usually spent working from the comfort of home, Tuesday is the day that causes the most angst and consternation. Now that I’ve settled into the new Monday routine I’m even more starkly aware of just how cripplingly unproductive a day at the average office is.
The trouble with being an information worker is that so much of what you touch requires some amount of reflection and analysis. Concentration is pretty easy to come by when you’ve got views of the woods and the loudest sound is mid-morning trash collection across the street. It’s a much harder commodity to come by when you’re stacked shoulder to shoulder with 30 other people who are all having their own conversations, or are warming up their lunch, ignoring phones ringing, pushing reams of paper through the shredder, and making their way to and from meetings and appointments, or who are just away from their desks wandering around to pass the time.
Now I can be a pretty focused guy. When the need arises I can summon monumental amounts of concentration on one point to the exclusion of all else… but I’m starting to suspect that the need to do that all day, every day is a major contributing factor to why I drive away from the office four days a week feeling like someone has run my brain through a blender. Somehow I doubt seriously that’s part of the recipe for wise and effective analysis over the long term.
I know for a fact that isn’t not even a short term recipe for a happy and productive Jeff.
This new job has a lot going for it, not the least of which is putting me 800-odd miles away from a certain batshit crazy senior leader. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few idiosyncrasies around here that I could do without. Until I’m self employed in a company of one, I suspect those are things I’ll just have to resolve to live with though. On balance, it’s been more than a fair trade.
There are a few things, however, that should be called out specifically. The first is that there isn’t a television anywhere in the building. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but I hadn’t realized how much I can come to rely on the quiet ranting of Fox News to help me tune out the random chatter that comes with life in a cube. The second, and perhaps more distressing is the distinct lack of cell service in the building. I’m fortunate to be by a window where I have just enough signal strength to punch out a text message or a tweet. Forget actually receiving a phone call or launching an app, though. This unhappy condition has the unfortunate side effect of leaving me largely at the mercy of whatever “fair use” I can manage with my desktop PC. Since that means I’m using Big Brother’s hardware, it feels like I might as well be Amish eight hours a day.
We are quite literally “under” construction. The office suite the floor above us is, as far as I can tell, undergoing some type of renovation that requires the repeated dropping of bowling balls onto the bare concrete slab. This activity has the unpleasant side effect of making it sound like the entire second floor could become the first floor at any moment. It’s not bad, as long as you don’t find loud, hollow thumping and continual rending of metal distracting or annoying in any way. Other than that, it’s practically unnoticeable.
I’m probably an idealist, but I’ve always thought this kind of work would be best done outside of “core business hours.” You know, when the vast majority of employees are not making their limited effort at being productive for the day. It’s sort of the same way I look at day-time janitorial service. Sure, having my cube vacuumed is nice and all, but it’s awfully distracting when I’m sitting in it making a phone call or actually trying to get something done. In television shows, the cleaning crews always come at night. Maybe that happens in the executive suite, but for the drones, everyone seems bent on showing up at the most inopportune time.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.