Return to Work: Facing the Fear

As she returns to an office after a decade of freelancing, our new content manager Emily, shares her best bits and biggest challenges.

Coming back to work after any break is always full on. Whether you've taken time off to have children, to look after elderly dependents or needed to take sick leave, returning to an office environment can feel like a big step.

Having not worked in an office for the best part of a decade, I'm used to running a business from my kitchen table surrounded by the random detritus of home life, be it the remnants of children's breakfasts, drying clothes or the cleaners bustling around my table, while I lift my feet so they can mop.

Full disclosure: I was terrified of going back into an office. I've got used to my own space, my own routine, in short bending work to fit my own rules. Whether I would be able to slip back into a corporate culture was daunting to say the least.

The Best Bits

  • After running a consultancy business and all the insecurity that brings, a permannent job with fixed hours and consistency are a relief and a release of the huge and constant pressure to find a pipeline of work - I'd been careful to discuss these with my employer before returning so we all had clear and agreed parameters.
  • The IT systems are actually manageable, even the new printer, Slack and a rather complicated content management system. I knew this would be a challenge but the reality was far better than my 3am nightmares where the printer was spewing out reams of content I couldn't control - and, of course, having an IT helpdesk when things do go wrong is an absolute dream!
  • I love being with people again. It can be remarkably lonely running your own business, so being in an office environment, working in a team again and enjoying the odd water cooler moment -as well as the endless cakes - is a pure joy.

The Top Challenges

These just weren't what I thought they'd be:

  • Sitting at a desk from 8.30am - 5pm in one place all day is something I'd forgotten and totally took me by surprise. By 3pm each day on the first week I found my feet tapping and legs jittering. I was full of supressed energy - not previously a problem due to my multi-tasking lifestyle.
  • Double screens and keyboards - I've worked on my own laptop for a decade. Having a keyboard with 'tap-tappy' keys again was a shocker initially. I'm a consummate touch-typer but was relegated to 'beginner' again with QUERKY looking more like WAR;TY for a while.
  • Moving daily with the hot desk scenario. Office politics and etiquette can take a while to get a handle on. Hot-desking can be a social minefield if you don't know that so-and-so normally sits in a specific place or that a particular desk is reserved on a particular day for Mr Big.
  • And finally, I miss my tea-pot and am embarrassed by how much tea I drink. My frequent trips to the kitchenette's hot tap have become a personal walk of shame.

Of course, all of these are easily remedied and far outweighted by the benefits and pleasure I'm feeling of being back in the real world of work. Time will, I hope, heal my typewriting issues, I've started cycling to work to keep me from turning into the office mollusc, I'm ditching my heels (which I can barely walk in anymore) for some soft-soled shoes and to resolve my tea-embarrassment issue, I'm going to bring my lovely teapot to my desk - then it really will be a hot desk.