Work from home is the ultimate corporate fantasy. There’s no travel involved, you can wake up 10 minutes before office hours, have breakfast leisurely because there’s no train to catch, walk around in your pajamas, make time in between to play a game or two on your PC – no one’s really keeping track.
Coronavirus is upon us and the lockdown was inevitable. The “work from home” communiqué from HR will probably go down in history as the most-awaited email ever. It’s like the time when the teacher in school said you had to “read” something for homework. It meant there was no homework… or that’s what I thought.
Week 1 at home was more or less perfect. I converted the dining table to my desk, headphones plugged in. Mama’s coffee was better than the insipid office machine “espresso”. And who needed that dusty bean bag when you had the whole bed to yourself? It was all going great – hot lunches and naps, no drudgery of meetings, and I’d end the day by 7 pm, in time to watch a film on Netflix.
The past two weeks, I’ve been changing my chair at home every day.
Today is Day 6 of working from home and my excitement has died down – it’s a lot like the school kids who thought this was a vacation only to find out that the society has shut down the play area. Now I’m just a grumpy guy staring at my laptop, irritated by the erratic internet and the pigeons on the window sill. I’ve run out of small talk to make with my father; my mother’s phone conversations are more distracting than the “office uncle” who refuses to use headphones. I never thought I’d say this but I think I’m beginning to miss my office fam… a little.
If friends are the family you choose, then your co-workers are the family you are contractually obligated to be with – for at least eight hours every day. We spend more time with them than Sambit Patra does at Republic TV’s studios. From sutta breaks to heartbreaks, there’s no escaping your office fam. In the age of swipes, for many of us, it’s the only steady relationship we’ve had. And if you’ve been working at one place for longer than three years, they know you and your mood swings better than anyone else.
Work from home is the ultimate corporate fantasy.
My co-workers can tell from the colour of my shirt whether I have a date later in the day, making accurate predictions that would put our meteorological department to shame. And they know not to mess with me when Man U has had a bad game the previous night. Parents may not notice, but my colleagues in HR will take one look at my formal shirt and know that I’ve gone for an interview. (On most occasions, it’s just that I’ve run out of clean tees.)
They say you don’t have friends at work, but no one ever told me that you might find a work spouse. We aren’t like Jim and Pam from The Office – in the sense there’s no romance brewing – but he can tell from my expression whether I just got a nasty hearing from my boss or an appraisal worth celebrating by ordering waffles from our favourite joint near the office.
Every workplace you join, there are bound to be hiccups, but then you start functioning like a well-oiled machine, much like the Hum Saath Saath Hain family before the interval. After a point, there’s no arguing over the AC temperature or who will stay back an extra hour to train the new intern.
The office just becomes your comfort space without you even realising it. The past two weeks, I’ve been changing my chair at home every day; I’ve gone from the bedroom to the balcony, from the sofa to the rocking chair but somehow I still can’t find my spot. My slightly wobbly chair is part of my arsenal and I feel unarmed without it.
Work from home feels a lot like the school kids who thought this was a vacation only to find out that the society has shut down the play area.
Just like I feel lunch is incomplete without the Pulse candies that my colleague S always gets for me everytime he goes down for a smoke break. The evening snack is no fun without the homemade mini-pizzas P gets. Desk partners are hardcore socialists, your fruits are everyone’s fruits and your farsan is everyone’s farsan. You may hate the guy sitting next to you, for cheering for Arsenal or not agree with his political views, but you’ll forget all about it when he punches up your script and doesn’t take credit for it. At the end of the day, we know we are all in this together to take on the world – and hate on the rival company’s latest project even though we secretly know it’s a stroke of genius.
These last few days of social distancing have got me thinking… I always thought our office was too loud but now I’m craving for the chaos: To watch someone panicking after dropping dal on his white shirt and worrying about how this will trigger a World War at home. Or accidentally closing Microsoft Excel without saving the file he has been working on for the past six hours. I can’t channel my inner Jim Halpert and play practical pranks like sending a resignation mail from someone’s laptop because he forgot to lock it before stepping out. That kind of humour isn’t appreciated at home, where you could lose your name from the family will if you turn off the WiFi when your dad is on WhatsApp.
That’s the thing about colleagues – they get used to your warped sense of humour, they don’t ask too many questions when you are unusually quiet. It’s a no-effort relationship. And you probably never really realise how close you are, until your pesky colleagues are not around. Or until the boss tells you that you will have to work the weekend.
This article was first published in Arre
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