How Going to Office After Two Months Taught Me an Important Lesson About Habits
Due to the lock down, for the last two months, like most of us, I have been working from home. I read articles about how you need to simulate your routine close to what you’d do if you went to work. That involved taking a shower, putting on clothes you can wear outside and having breakfast before joining the morning team meeting or opening the laptop and starting your work. I also had regular communication with my teammates and other colleagues through calls and chats. Despite all this, when I finally had to go to work, I felt I had to really think and put effort into things I took for granted a couple of months back! Here is a quick recap of how last Friday morning went:
Starting the day with a shower and getting ready
I have been a moderately early riser, so there was no problem waking up. I used to wake up at 6-30am, get ready and have breakfast by 7-30am and reach the office by 8-30am. I started with the usual schedule only to discover there was no water in the bathroom, at least not enough to take a shower. While this problem isn't entirely uncommon, usually I wouldn't be the first to complain as other residents on the apartment building start their day too. However, last Friday, when I called the building manager, I found out I was the first one to complain and he had to get started on things like finding whether the water tanker came in yet, looking out for the plumber etc. I waited more than one hour till the situation got fixed. After shower, I found out that I took way longer to find my clean shirt and trouser. By the time I finished breakfast it was already 8-30am.
I usually have a checklist of items i have prepared over the years which goes into my office bag:
Laptop (obviously, duh!)
Mouse - it helps as i spend a lot item on Excel and PowerPoint
Earphones - to attend Skype meetings
Notebook - it helps when i write down a plan after reaching office and starting work
Pen - in case i need to write or sign anything
Business cards - useful when i have external meetings
Lunch and Water Bottle - eating outside isn't the best option, specially everyday
Office ID Card - the office doors don't open without the access card
Tic Tac - I find it very important to have my mouth fresh at all times!
Many of these things would already be there inside the bag on regular work days so that I don't have to repack them. That wasn't the case on Friday. I had to think carefully about my packing, and in spite of that, I almost walked out without my ID card. Later on while driving I would find I forgot the Tic Tac too!
Driving to Work
By the time I went down to the garage and got into my car it was 9am. I pressed the start engine button - the car didn't start! Of course! I didn't take the car out for a spin for almost two months, and that's why the battery was dead. I called the service center for assistance and they said 10-30am is the earliest they can arrive. I knew that'd be too late. I called a friend from the neighborhood and asked if I could borrow his car. I left my car key with the reception and added the service center guy as a visitor through my apartment social app to give the apartment security a heads up.
Thanks to a friend in the neighborhood, I could drive to work. For a change, it was smooth and my usual 1 hour drive took only 40 minutes. I didn't turn up the radio right after i started driving as it felt like i needed more concentration while driving and the radio/music might be a distraction. Only after I felt I was used to driving that I turned on the radio (and learnt the song “Oops… I did it again” by Britney Spears was celebrating the 20th anniversary!)
Being at Office
After parking the car, I noticed quite a few changes. The entrance is redirected, elevators are closed, and a couple of declaration forms needed to be filled before I could even step inside the building (these forms had a check out time to be filled in and signed by employees). I had never seen the office so empty. I got seated at my desk and at times removed my mask. I found myself going out of my desk to take printouts or fill my water bottle without remembering my mask, and therefore I couldn't go near anyone. There were a couple of times when I had to turn back, return to my desk, wear my mask, and again go on my way. The cafeteria and lunch place kitchen were not active, and seating in tables is limited to two people sitting diagonally opposite to maintain social distancing. I felt relieved that I went past my laziness and packed my lunch instead of counting on the food at the office kitchen which is closed.
I decided to leave earlier than usual. Only after taking the car out and exiting the office campus did I realize that I forgot to enter the check out time and sign off the forms I filled in before entering the office. The drive home was very smooth due to the lack of traffic. I was tempted to stop by a friend’s place on my way back to work but I was afraid I may end up losing track of time and won't be able to reach home before curfew which starts at 7pm.
The Lesson Learnt About Habits
When we make a change, our “normal” adjusts. Right after I started working from home, I was dying to go back to the office. It almost felt like I had to force myself to start checking my work and emails at home and stop myself from getting ready to leave home and drive for work. However, right after a month of working from home, I had to again get used to the morning routine that I used to follow for going to the office. Everything that used to feel effortless just a couple of months back now feels like something that needs to be planned and again practiced to get back into the habit. Everything from getting reading and packing my bag to driving to work took extra time and effort. That’s why it's so important to develop good habits like eating healthy, exercising, journaling etc., once we are used to it - it becomes our new normal and we keep experiencing incremental benefits.
Work from office or work from home?
Are you looking forward to starting work from office?
© 2020 Indro Neel