First Impressions of What It’s Like to Be Back in the Office

What’s it like to go to the office after being away for months? What kind of adjustments are people making? We talked to workers about what they’ve experienced so you’ll know what to expect if and when you’re called back. Here’s what they emailed:

“Everyone is a lot more flexible and forgiving,” says Sarah Seitz, president of tutoring company Enrichery in Houston. “We all realize the stress that a pandemic brings, and everyone has been great about giving each other grace.”

“I am happier than I thought I would be,” says Natalie Diaz, chief of staff at real estate firm Time Equities in New York. “I realized that a lot of the energy that I thrive on to do my job is derived from interactions with my colleagues and casual conversations.”

“For the first time in years, I found myself packing my own lunch in the morning,” says Christopher Burns, a lawyer at Henson Efron in Minneapolis. “Several nearby restaurants had closed. I probably eat healthier, but I miss the salmon, steak, and other fine foods that the restaurant scene had to offer.”

“My advice would be to focus on internal improvement,” says John McGhee, managing partner of design and marketing company Webconsuls in Nashville. In the moments when lockdown disruptions grind his business to a halt, he’s upgrading his company’s online presence and launching a scholarship for local students studying technology or marketing. “These things normally take a back seat to client work,” he says. “It’s a silver lining.”

“A co-worker sneezed the other day, and all of us looked at him and adjusted our masks,” says James Jason, a currency trader and assistant human resources manager at Mitrade, an online broker in Melbourne. “It’s not intentional! These are people that we shared a lot with before Covid. … I’m subconsciously afraid of my co-workers.”

“The office gives me some semblance of normalcy,” says Eric Fischgrund, founder of FischTank PR in New York. “Like printing out my daily to-do list and having uninterrupted calls at my desk.” He’s one of many executives stealthily enjoying closed offices. “We have not yet opened the office up to the full team, but my partner and I have been going in once or twice per week.”

“It’s tricky,” says Ashwin Sokke, co-founder of L.A.-based holistic beauty line Wow Skin Science. The company has reopened its offices but mandates only one to two in-person team gatherings per month. This is to avoid his worst-case scenario: staffers contracting coronavirus at the office and spreading it to their families or older relatives. The meetings are for team-building activities, “and everything else is done over videoconferences,” he says.

“Returning to the office felt like I never left,” says Taylor McCarthy Hansen, co-founder of industry publication “Sure, there’s the whole social distancing thing, but it doesn’t feel that different to me. By the end of the first day back in the office, I felt completely readjusted.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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