I miss working from the office

I went into my office yesterday for the first time in a few months to pick some stuff up. We got notified a couple of days ago to get any personal property out of the office before Thanksgiving or else it'd be thrown out, so I guess we're moving out of the office1. It was a pretty eerie place to be; even now, 8 months later, most people haven't been back and it kind of looks like the entire office was abducted by aliens in early March.

Despite how weird it is, I still miss working out of the office.

I miss having a clean delineation between "work" and "home".

I miss having copious desk space and a big monitor2.

I miss the 48" TVs on the wall showing Grafana dashboards with key metrics so there was always ambient knowledge of what was going on with the product.

I miss having meetings in conference rooms where you can see other people and have a giant whiteboard to sketch on.

I miss casual collaboration. Video chat is a poor substitute and Slack is a deeply irritating tool that combines the worst aspects of synchronous and asynchronous communication.

I miss productivity! Our engineering productivity has fallen through the floor since COVID despite everyone working longer and harder; I fundamentally do not think remote teams can ever be as productive as in-person teams.

I miss having my employer pay for electricity and heat and fast symmetric multi-gigabit Internet access instead of shifting those costs to me.

I miss having a plethora of convenient and delicious options for take-out lunch! I miss the gyros and french fries at Ayola. I miss the chicken pesto sandwich at Working Girls' Cafe. I miss the chow mein and pork buns from Yank Sing. I miss the katsu curry from Muracci's. I miss the curry burritos from Curry Up Now. I miss the croque monsieur from Cafe Madeline. I miss the $5 lunch specials from Mehfil.

I miss the succession of friendly baristas at our favorite coffee shop who always knew our orders and put up with our banter.

I miss occasional after-work drinks at the sky bar with the $18 well drinks that we always convinced management to pay for.

Hell, I miss BART in all its loud and smelly glory.

Look, I know, it's not all bad. It's a lot easier taking care of a baby while working from home than it would be if I were commuting 45 minutes each way every day. I'm spending a lot less money on food and coffee and BART. And I'm not arguing that we should be in the office now; not a single one of those things I listed above is worth the health risk of jamming 150 people3 into an open-plan office with a quasi-functional ventilation system4. But I really hope that office-work isn't a permanent victim of this pandemic, that all the companies pushing for permanent WFH to save a few bucks on rent reconsider their stances, and that there comes a time when I can go back to work again.

  1. I am pretty sure this is an euphemism for "we haven't paid rent" but who knows… 

  2. I'm lucky I have any desk at all; if we still lived in the apartment in SF I'd be working with my laptop on my lap every day and probably have a permanent crick in my neck. The "Work From Home" requirement strongly favors people rich enough to own spacious houses. 

  3. An unfortunately non-zero-number of whom are probably COVID deniers, sigh, thanks US politics 

  4. It turned off at 5:30pm