I went back to the office for the first time since lockdown

I’ve been comfortably working from home since lockdown started since I’ve never really needed to be in the office.
My colleagues are based in different parts of the world, commuting sucks up too much time, and I’m more productive at home.

Friday actually started out with as a plan to meet a friend up in the city at the closest major station to me, which wouldn’t require me to go all the way to the centre. Then, Virgin Media alerted me of possible broadband disruptions. Then, my colleague Phyllis was going to bake muffins. And I just happened to need 2 simultaneous witnesses to help sign some documents so 3 of my London-based colleagues would fit the bill. So the office gods were putting the pressure that day and that’s how I ended up in the office.

I had a lot of fun! I wasn’t very productive, but it was really good seeing everyone… chatting over muffins, doing team lunch, running design huddles around a screen, jumping into a room with a big whiteboard… stuff you typically don’t do at home. I did one zoom call, that was about it. And some slides. It was a good call for an important piece of work I’m leading. But it didn’t need me in the office for that.

I could see myself doing the odd one-day-a-month thing. I’d probably want to maximise my office time for group-related stuff. I wouldn’t do office for office sake. This is all the typical stuff you see everywhere, I’m just really late to the game.

I like the flexibility. I like the productivity. I also like meeting people. I like having options. It makes a lot of sense, and only nonsense if you’ve been trapped in a bubble the whole time and woken up from a time machine after years of cryogenic sleep.

This made me think a bit about climate change. The reason why we’re having so much trouble with that is that we don’t really feel climate change like you do COVID infections. And it’s likely that many of us in privileged positions won’t feel obligated or motivated to change for the climate at a visceral level. It simply doesn’t affect us at that level.

It affects our conscience and morals, sure. But that’s not the same as experiencing death from climate change which few of us suffer from. So, I wonder if the only way is start with what we do struggle with (moral, conscience) and gradually force ourselves to suffer by changing and letting go parts of our “old” lives….. getting rid of the car, replacing the boiler, paying more money to install solar panels, installing water and heating limiting devices, travelling less…

Maybe the problem is that we’ve been framing change as a motivation-oriented thing (e.g. obligation to do our bit). Maybe, somewhat counter-intuitively, we need to frame it as a phased mourning which doesn’t kill us but lets us pragmatically accept that we have no way but to let go of the past, and one step at a time, adjust over to a different way of living…. and in that process, find ways of dealing with those negative emotions over time.

A forced mourning that lines up with the time cadence of the planet’s change rate, which works to a different beat to our daily cycles. A forcing of lost hope so that we can let go of whatever things we’ve been clinging on to, hoping for an easy way to transition out.

I think we severely lack coping mechanisms. Everyone is hoping for a nice, smooth transition to a future, more sustainable life. All of us are scared to let go. I’m scared to let go.

Maybe this is what’s missing – a space for dialogue about coping, mourning together, accepting that the loss is real even if we don’t feel the climate effects, and somehow cobbling together a new life bit by bit… accepting that not everything has been worked out yet, but pressing on anyway.

Maybe we can start by finding ourselves… the mourners. The copers. The ones at neither ends of extremes.

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