I have worked in an office; actually, quite a few, many, many years ago. The thought of doing so now fills me with horror and panic, which is why I give thanks on a regular basis that I don’t have to do it now. With the benefit of hindsight I realise that it made me an incredibly anxious and rather hollow, confused version of myself, and I now know there are reasons for why that was. At the time though I had no kind of a clue that seemingly benign work spaces and ecosystems were the root cause. However, while I am personally grateful for the fact that I don’t work in an office I admit there are many advantages to doing so, and there is a reason why office cultures still exists, even as they have evolved and, presumably, will continue to do so.
The worst office I worked in was run by a horrible woman of whom everyone was afraid. The kind of person who takes pleasure from other people’s discomfort and instigate behaviours that belittle and shame their colleagues. I had never encountered a person like that before, and am struggling to recall if I have ever met such a person since. Conversely, the most relaxing was probably when I worked in an office where there were just three of us; each of us was medical secretary to a consultant psychiatrist. Mine was a neuropsychiatrist dealing mostly with those who’d experience a physical head trauma. We were busy, but not too busy, and if I remember correctly, we helped each other out if there was a rush on, or so that we could all get wrapped up and leave early. I also worked in an office for a start-up, which was okay, but dull. I was either an analyst or an executive, depending on who I was talking to, but what I actually did was far less tangible. My job, I guess, was to make the company money, which I didn’t completely suck at, although it all felt very tenuous and just a little bit pointless at the time.
So, the cons of working in an office are all those negative things mentioned above; awful people, anxiety, not being sure what you’re actually meant to do. To these, I would add people talking incessantly about cats and tea, phones ringing all the time, and people in a position of power who are also unsure as to what they are doing and so take that insecurity out on you or your work colleagues. The pros of working in an office are that you are compelled through social etiquette to meet people and talk with them at least in an interested and respectful way. Although at times one may be faking it ever so slightly, on the whole these interactions are positive; you get to discuss problems and share ideas fairly easily. Slack* offers an online alternative (and for lone workers, too) but for me the same anxieties persist, and the cons by far outweighs the pros where physical and mental wellbeing are concerned.