Back to the office: Apparently an old dog can learn new tricks

I anticipated that our staff’s recent return to the office would be difficult for me. Maybe really hard. My absence has been almost four years since the start of the COVID pandemic, not two years like most people.

I had gotten used to the fact that my work clothes consisted of shorts, t-shirts and no shoes. This is paradise!

Since Hurricane Michael devastated The News Herald in October 2018, “The Office” has been a bedroom at the front of our home that we remodeled. It overlooks a quiet park.

The work-from-home gig was a blessing.

Further opinion:

As a result, I have been able to spend more quality time with my wife – who also works from home – including having lunch together.

Commuting from one room to another was great and allowed me to delay replacing my aging truck for a few years. It saved me a ton of money on gas, especially since prices have skyrocketed.

It also gave me the opportunity to get back to work much faster after a stroke in 2020. I needed help at home for many months and my wife was there to take care of me while I continued to work. A daily commute would not have been possible and I would have needed special accommodation in the office.

So I happily paid a few extra bucks on the electric bill every month in return. It was worth every cent.

That said, and while I agree that the COVID pandemic has forced an irreversible change in the workplace, returning to our beautiful new building a few days a week over the past month has been surprisingly refreshing. Count me as someone who thinks it’s a beautiful balance. Two days of office work, three days of home office and, above all, two days off.

I had to get used to wearing suit trousers (phew, they still fit everyone) and a nice polo shirt. Oh, shoes too. Light sports shoes, no dress shoes. Those heavy, icy foot coverings are just too dangerous these days.

I’m not the type to stand around and constantly chat with my colleagues, but the personal contact with our young employees proves invaluable. There’s something about being in the same room and being easily approachable that leads to more honest dialogue and more teaching opportunities.

I think everyone needs some of this.

Brainstorming is also more efficient in person.

It’s more natural for me to stop by a reporter’s desk and ask them to join me in my office than to contact them on Microsoft Teams and share my screen. The personal touch works better for me.

After being away from the office for so long, I was concerned about productivity. Would I be able to juggle my duties amid the frequent distractions? Would my attention be drawn in dozens of directions?

And yes, I have done my work at home some evenings, but I see growth and progress in the staff. Those are the dividends that will pay off over years.

I expected to regain momentum over time, but adjustment was easy and quick.

The fight I expected didn’t happen. I like working from home, but office life has its perks.

I’m excited about the new normal. I guess an old dog can learn new tricks.

Ray Glenn is a content coach and engagement editor at the Panama City News Herald. You can reach him at [email protected].

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