69 Comments
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

I absolutely fucking hated the office and I don't miss it, not even for those fancy roller ball pens or the office snacks. I never minded going in for meetings, sitting in a conference room with a white board and some other folks while we hashed through some things that were faster in person, that was fine, but the day to day grind of having to go to a random building? Trying to write while everyone around me was talking? Never having a place to go to have a quiet half hour to myself to clear my head? I fucking hated it. Good riddance to the office. The office is what kept me freelance for so long -- I had many long term clients who would have been happy to hire me but balked when I told them I would not work at their desks. Non-negotiable. I totally get that there are people who prefer the office and not everyone thrives in the same environment. But good riddance to the office, I say, good riddance and good day.

Expand full comment
author

Yes, I hear you. For me, it was hard to write longer features in the office, but news stories on deadline—those I seemed to write better with the newsroom spinning around me.

Expand full comment

This, me exactly. No more office ever as far as I am concerned! I was fortunate to find an amazing fully remote job at a nice company last year, where I hope to spend the last 17 years of my working life.

Expand full comment

I miss sauntering down the hall to talk to several different coworkers and getting coffee along the way. Then sauntering back and talking to more. A good hour could be spent that way. Good for the soul. And mental health. And productivity!

Expand full comment
author

Yes, I miss those social aspects!

Expand full comment

After working from home for ten years now, I dearly miss the office: the camaraderie, the gossip, going out for lunch or coffee or happy-hour drinks, the mild rebellion of doing personal stuff on company time (now I’m just rebelling against myself/my goals, great). Of course it could be unpleasant too, but for me the bigger problem was finding a job doing actually interesting/fulfilling work—more and more that seems to require bootstrapping your own enterprise.

Expand full comment
author

Yes, hard to find the perfect balance of work you like, people you like, a space you like. I miss gossip!

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

Oh yes, I miss the colour photo copier next to my desk! And don't talk to me about the GALL of having to BUY my own staples!

Expand full comment
author

What???

Expand full comment

Yesterday I spent a good hour trying to find a packet of staples I had ‘acquired’ when working at my last paid job. I could have gone out and purchased some but I only needed one and it also seemed wrong to have to buy my own. In the end I used a paper clip!

Expand full comment
May 17, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

The indignity is real!

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

This was SO beautiful to read! I'm lucky to have only ever worked in two offices, both women's mags, so full of women with a token art dept male in each. The first one was full of women older than me as it was my first job. Apart from a couple of competitive bitches one rank above me, I never experienced bad office behviour. The second one was a dream, a wonderful curation of women and we just got on with our jobs and got along like a house on fire. It was a teen magazine so no pressure, just a lot of laughs. Mine was a visual job, so no writing required. I have no idea how journalists write features in offices with constant interruptions, especially in the days of Actual Telephones. I do remember wearing a 'do not disturb' hat in order to do focused tasks like Excel spreadsheets. (Not that anyone took any notice.) These days I 'work from home' but much prefer the freelance 'office' of the local coffee shop. Human interaction, even if it's just background hum is essential for getting my cogs in gear.

Expand full comment
author

I didn't like writing features in newsrooms! My brain would explode from all the noise and chaos. So I'd come in early and/or stay late for those. But I liked writing on deadline there. And now I miss human interaction by day. There really is something contagious about other people's focuse.

Expand full comment

Office Space has always been one of my faves. In my old office, we had our own "Milton" who mumbled to himself. Great article!

Expand full comment
author

Thanks! I love Office Space, too. And Stephen Root!

Expand full comment
May 13, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

my stapler... my stapler... :)

Expand full comment
author

😂

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023·edited May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

I never met an office I liked. I did use to use other people’s offices to eat my lunch or rest in, between appointments back when I had to work for an hour or two at a time for several different clients in their offices over the course of the day. Hybrid is the only fair way to make people work but we all know it’s all about surveillance and control rather than productivity and good mental health.

Expand full comment
author

Yes!

Expand full comment

What I never understood about working in an office is how it became the high school quad. The cliques. The gossip. The backstabbing. Not for me. So, I started working for individuals or small businesses, usually out of their homes, then out of mine (back in the early aughts, WFH before WFH was cool). Now, I'm back in an office. It's a small group. Nice people, good vibe. Then one new guy came in and lord. I miss working from home. I prefer it. You can avoid the turd that eventually ends up in the punchbowl so much easier from that distance (or at least aren't confronted with the coffee grounds he left in the sink...FFS). xo

Expand full comment

Oh goodness, this one hit close, although it wasn't the “new guy” but a seasoned, entitled a$$ who thought dumping his half eaten bowl of oatmeal into the shared kitchen sink and walking away without even rinsing it down the disposal was okay …because someone else would always clean it up…I'll bet he votes red.

Expand full comment

LOL. Perhaps. Though he's originally from an English-speaking European country. And the galling thing to me is this was *after* I had asked him to put his coffee spoon in the dishwasher. We are a small office! This is not hard! Gah! My sympathies to you, Shire. Eat your oatmeal at home! xo

Expand full comment

I'm one of those hybrid workers and I find that I feel SOOO much better on my in-office days. It doesn't hurt that my employer spent some serious money and energy creating an office space that would lure us back (gotta love working for an architecture firm). But I wouldn't want to come in every day. We're doing 3 days in the office and that feels about right, with the occasional extra home day to facilitate doctor's appointments, etc. But man, I could NOT have done this in-office life when my kids were little. In those days I taught at their school, which just made everything work.

Expand full comment

Yep I think hybrid is the best for me and agree on the full-time office life being tough with kids. I transitioned to a hybrid work environment that allowed flexibility before having kids but the traditional office schedule would have been tough when they were younger.

Expand full comment

I like the mix too, especially during the winter months. Too much cabin fever.

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

I have mixed feelings. I'm the odd introvert who loves meetings but needs silence to work. Without going in to the office, I miss the interplay of ideas. And I also miss the young people there, the grad student interns and new employees just starting out -- they would casually ask my advice and, surprise, often took it. They kept me on the fresh edge of things. It's not the same virtually.

And, funny story, my daughter started a new job 4 years ago. It's completely online and she's never met any of her team in real life. Lo and behold, due to a company reorg, she's now on a Zoom call with some of the previous folks -- and discovered that "Jan," her friend and colleague all these years, is not female, as assumed, but male. LOL.

Expand full comment

I'm the same -- introvert and need the quiet to focus but get a lot of value out of just talking with colleagues. My work transitioned back to in person faculty meetings this year and I've realized how useful it can be to just talk to people in person at times.

Expand full comment

Where to even start? I'm somewhere on the autism spectrum, and I've never really liked offices.

My first years at work, first in the UK, then the Netherlands, then in the US, I was working in lab. That's a very different experience than working in an office. As I moved up the corporate ladder, I spent less time in the lab and more time at the office end of the building. I remember well the distracted walks to the mail room, the fax machine, the copier, the coffee machine. I also remember the casual misogeny, the brown-nosing competition to see who could be the last to leave, the narcissistic sociopathic bosses.

When I left, I swore I would never work for a corporation or work in an office ever again. I failed once at the second. A consulting customer wanted me to spend "core time" - 10:00-2.00 - in the office so that people would "get to know me". I was assigned a cubicle (always sounds like a square testicle). After a week of no one coming to see me, and my neighbor playing his voice mail messages on speaker phone, I told my customer "I can't get any work done here." She said she would pay me for coming in, but wouldn't expect me to do any work.

I've been happily working from home for over 30 years, and I would never go back. A meeting every now and again, sure. Otherwise, let them go the way of the fax machine.

I'm realizing I just wrote half an essay in your comments. Thanks for the indulgence.

Expand full comment
May 13, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

What I miss about my last office is the nest of crows in the pine tree outside my leaded glass window (faculty office, turret, the whole classic deal.) What I don't miss? The rat (actual rat) in the kitchen. Sucker was the size of a sweet potato & could sometimes be seen scuttling down the very threadbare hallway. And what I REALLY don't miss? That offices are high school with better clothes. Little fiefdoms. Who will fix the copier. Who said what to whom. I also really like not having to get up early, pry myself out of the house, and commute. The crows, though? Loved 'em. That was just me and the kvetching, gorgeous birds.

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

I have mixed feelings. No great hatred for offices. I have telecommuted since 1996 , so I was on th leading edge of this....and always liked it, but touched base in my office across the country every two weeks. mostly because back then, clients wanted to see me in person, which now they realize they don't need to.

I think we gained some and lost some with the advent of remote working. The losses relate to interpersonal relationships, which are harder to manage remotely. I don't miss the politics. I'm not that social but I did like being around other people when I wanted to. I do miss talky lunches with colleagues. But I enjoyed working alone remotely and was more productive, less distracted. My nephew started a new job recently in a legal group that mostly works remotely, but the cohort he started with decided to all go in on the same couple days a week. So best of both worlds for them, I think.

Expand full comment

I miss having "water cooler" conversations, running into people whom called out my name but I did not remembers theirs, taking long working lunches with co-workers at different places, brain-storming with some of the smartest people, using the whiteboard (the real one, you know, the kind makes squeaky marker sound), hearing my heels clicking the floor when everyone else had gone home, and having my assistant sitting in the cube outside of the conference room and taking good care of me ...

I do not miss the office politics, the pretending "I am interested" during hours and hours of pointless meetings, and absolutely does not miss the traffic, both on the road and in the air, the wasted time and carbon emission.

Expand full comment
author

Same, same…

Expand full comment
May 12, 2023Liked by Sari Botton

After working from home for two and a half years, my office reopened in 2022. For the past six months, I’ve been going in. Only one other person - thankfully one of my friends around the office - is doing the same regularly. So it’s just one or two of us in a huge cubicle farm most of the time. And guess what? I love it. It turns out I really needed the structure of getting up in the morning, getting dressed and going to work. I can feel the difference in my mood; my wife says I look happier; and my one telework day per week feels leisurely, not like a trap. Of course, it helps that I like my job and most of my coworkers.

Expand full comment

I liked my newsroom experiences. It was noisy and we all were crammed in together in different rooms but it felt good to discuss ideas together and head off with the photographer on assignment and get out of the office. Plus my editor sat next to me and asked me direct questions about my copy. But working at a nonprofit at the office was terrible. So many pointless meetings. So much wasted time. So many people I would rather not spend my life with. I went into business for myself because I hated it so much (and commuting). Glad to work at home now!

Expand full comment

The Maureen Dowd elegy to newsrooms really hit me hard. I unabashedly loved newsrooms - the energy, the wackiness, the bad jokes and Monty Python routines lofting once the rough deadlines were over, and that subterranean thrum when stories were popping and we were all interviewing and writing and cogitating. After transitioning to corporate work, I came to really dislike offices - the BS, the games - and saw the pandemic's requirement to go remote as truly a godsend. I opted to go fulltime remote even after people returned to the office, and have no regrets - if I want socializing with colleagues, I get on Teams and happily IM with my peeps. Much nicer than sitting in a bullpen and NOT ONE PERSON stops by your desk to talk to you!

Expand full comment