Maybe it’s the early onset of the Winter Blues, or maybe the loss of Twitter is finally getting to me — but after 4.5 years of working from home, I’ve recently found myself actually missing commuting to work.
I started working a hybrid schedule back in March 2019, right after F+W Media declared bankruptcy and finished its slow-motion dismantling of a bunch of solid, profitable businesses to inexplicably carve off the struggling ones into a new, debt-free entity that was arguably doomed to fail again. (Yes. Still bitter.) I’ve been fully WFH since the summer of 2019, but until the pandemic, I made a point of getting into the City now and then for meetings and/or seeing friends after work.
Like so many other things, the pandemic completely disrupted those social outings, but at no point did I ever miss getting on the train and going into an office every day… until I suddenly did. Kind of.
At the beginning of 2023, I decided I was going to make an effort to get into the City at least once a month, combining a work meeting of any kind with a social outing — whether an afternoon coffee, happy hour drink, or even a Mets game. It worked for a few months, more or less, but for a variety of reasons, Spring came and it became too easy to do pretty much anything but get on the train.
Last month, I attended my first in-person conference since February 2020, and it was a surprisingly pleasant experience. I met a few new people, bumped into a few others I hadn’t seen in years, and a few more I’d seen sporadically throughout the pandemic. Afterwards, I had coffee with another friend, and was on the 4:52 train heading home with a vague feeling of loss.
Over the years, I’ve made a few good friends at various jobs — too often bonding over corporate bullshit, but occasionally making deeper connections that stuck even after the job was in the rearview mirror. Slack and Zoom can help maintain existing connections — and I’m surprisingly fond of my current colleagues I’ve still yet to meet in person after 3+ years — but it’s definitely not the same as engaging and bonding over time in person. If social networks are considered soft connections, Slack connections are at least another step removed from there.
It would take a lot for me to give up the many conveniences of working from home — and I can’t imagine ever going into any office five days a week again, even if that office was walking distance from my house — but I can’t ignore the lack of social engagement being a bigger deal than I used to think it was. With Daylight Savings Time over and another cold Winter on the way, I’m going to have to make a concerted effort to be social again, and as much as possible, keep it separate from work-related activities.
PS: If I schedule something with you, don’t let me bail without a good excuse!