Today I’m working in my Bristol ‘day job’ office for the first time since May 2019.
I’ve not been into my office base for longer than the lockdown period and longer than most other staff as I went on maternity leave in the summer before Covid hit; I am definitely a ‘reluctant returner’. There’s no compulsory move for employees to come back in, but I wanted to come in at least once before I was told I had to come in, to prepare and scope it out. I love to work from home, saving petrol/pollution/bus fare, having more flexibility with my dog walk, accepting deliveries and getting the boiler checked etc, making a hot lunch, easier nursery runs… I also believe I work harder when in my home office, with fewer distractions, when the office door is closed.
And it’s fine. Today has been more than fine, actually. I took the Park and Ride into Bristol, like I would have done normally when I lived and worked each day in Bristol, and it was better than before, even. The bus was not anywhere near as like a sardine tin as in pre-Covid times, and having moved out of Bristol, I used the actual P&R car park so found parking very easily near the bus stop. It was nice to see the city again waking up in the sunshine as we drove in, traffic was good, and most people on the bus wore masks, which pleased me. I personally think the rules around mask wearing should never have been relaxed – it’s not like wearing one harms the economy.
In the office, a few things have changed. I work in a big HQ, so it’s a pretty big place. The entry gates for swipe access have been changed to little pods – probably more for security than for Covid reasons – there’s a desk booking system which ensures only every other desk is occupied, and the canteen is closed. This is mostly because of the smaller footfall in the 1000 strong desk environment, but that is a shame. They did good sausage baps, back in the day. No issue, I brought a packed lunch! I’m sure that novelty would wear off quickly though, if I came into the office every day.
Mentally, I feel good. Better than expected actually. It was kind of exciting going into Bristol and the office again. I did feel like a ‘country mouse’ in the city, having moved to Wales in April, but eek, a coffee shop. Somewhere I pass by which conveniently sells throat sweets for my developing croak. And I forgot my laptop headphones, so I can easily nip around the corner to Boots – I think they probably stock headphones, albeit pretty basic ones, but they’ll do. Everything’s so handy! Getting out and about is very important for mental wellbeing, and I’ve always loved the feeling of exploring … which, weirdly, this did feel like, even though I’ve worked for this organisation, from this building, for almost five years.
Coming into the building felt a little awkward, but less than 10 minutes in, coffee in hand and laptop connected, I felt like I’d never left. I met my new-ish line manager in the flesh for the first time, which was great – worth the trip in itself, putting a 3D face to a name – bumped into an old colleague/friend I didn’t expect to see, and really felt like I was part of a community, even though only one person present was actually in my team. For whatever reason, we’d all chosen to come into the office today, and it was lovely to have a quiet hubbub behind me as I worked.
Random, fresh conversation. One of the things I’ll take away from my lockdown experience is that there’s a lot to be said for that. I first noticed it when I was in hospital overnight in May 2020 with appendicitis, in the height of lockdown one. Terrified of being in hospital at that time, I really enjoyed talking to anyone who came through my ward door, be it the cleaner, the Dr, or the guy delivering my lunch. Meeting some new faces today (some of whom I work with but have never ‘met’ met) and coming across some old faces has been lovely. Plus I get some guilt-free Instagram browsing bus time on the commute home to my family. How lovely to be able to come home to my family, too. That’s a novelty.
All in all, not a bad day. I am grateful to have such a flexible and understanding work place, but also for the small things the day brought with it. I think had it been pouring with rain, the story may have been a little more on the negative side, but I got lucky. I will by no means be heading off to ‘the big smoke’ and visiting the London offices any time soon – not least because it’s no longer expected to make those journeys due to tech improvements in the office – but I am glad I went into the Bristol office today. It’s nice to be back!
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Born to be a Tourist