When to Go Back to the Office: The New Dilemma

The FOMO of work

The heavy breeze blew the small dagger of snow past my face as I walked home from the gym this morning. It was still dark outside, but I had already started the inner dialogue about whether going into the office today was worth it. It wasn't necessarily the 20min bike ride in the freezing darkness that was pulling at my mind, but it was the potential of getting sick.

I got back home, still feeling the blood pumping when I got out of the shower. I took the blow dryer out to tame my COVID hair, a necessary step if I go into the office. I went to plug into the wall, paused, but put it down on the counter and went into the living room.

"I don't know if I should go into the office or not," I said to Shannon.

My team was gathering at the office today to go to lunch at the canteen. There was a package for me to pick up at the front desk, the contents of which have been a mystery to me for two months. I really enjoy seeing my colleagues at the office. I feel blessed that my company takes good care of me, as I know many others are not as fortunate. We are now allowed to go back to the office if we are vaccinated.

Everything was pointing me to go into the office.

"Why?" she asked.

"Well, it was kind of my fault. During our engagement brainstorm this week, I suggest we re-start the weekly lunches with the team."

"Why in the world would you suggest that?!"'

"Well, I didn't mean, like, now!"

"If you give us COVID, I will be so mad at you".

I had said something similar to her during Christmas in the UK when debating attending a party. We did not end up going.

"Well, it is hard to do team-building if the whole team is not there", I replied.

Thinking for a second, I asked aloud, "How many cases are there?".

A quick ducking showed the below:

denmark covid cases

"Well, that answers that. I'll stay here," I said.

I imagine that millions of others are having similar conversations. Sitting at the table with their morning coffee, weighing the arguments on both sides.

One argument that keeps me at home more than most is that I thrive when working from home. I was just appointed a new manager recently. This marks only the third time in six years that I have been in the same office as my manager and teammates. This has its pros and cons. However, I have really been a remote worker for half a decade. I was a terrible remote worker for the first two years. Eventually, I implemented improvements like space separation and Pomodoro techniques to keep myself focused.

When I go to the office, there is one primary tradeoff other than COVID. Does the benefit of socialization outweigh the extra 2 hours I put into my day for work with the commute and additional preparation time? If yes, then I go.

For now, the decision is more straightforward. I will err on the side of caution. I wonder what tradeoffs other people are making when deciding to go back to the office…