Welcome back to the office. Your boss is excited to have you here. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it. It will be just like it’s been for the past year – except that you’ll be expected to put in more than 3 hours of work during an 8-hour shift. And you won’t be able to play Minecraft during the weekly staff meeting because your boss will be sitting next to you, now that these sessions are no longer on Zoom.
So you’re going back to work soon, eh? Not to imply that you haven’t been working extremely hard all this time over the past year, your nose to the grindstone three dedicated hours a day (six hours if you count your time playing video games) – ever since you’d been ordered to work from home due to the pandemic. But you just received word that, for the first time in over a year, your employer is asking everybody to report for work at the office.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably greeting this news with mixed emotions. Sure, you’re excited finally to see all your co-workers again. But you’re also wondering if you’ll even remember what they look like. [Hint: they look the same as before – just 35 pounds heavier.]
Having, until recently, worked in a corporate office environment for most of my career, I thought it might be helpful if I reviewed some workplace basics, to prepare you for your transition back to the world of co-workers, company lunchrooms, and office gossip.
First of all, when you enter the office, that slightly annoyingly perky person greeting you is the receptionist. They can help you locate your desk since by now you’ve probably long since forgotten where you used to sit. [Another Hint: It will be in the form of a 5’ x 5’ cubicle with 4’ tall dividers – just like the cubicles everybody else has, except that your desk has been relocated to the basement.]
Feel free to personalize your workspace to capture your own unique style by displaying photos of people you care about, along with fun posters and knickknacks to let people see your fun, quirky spirit – just so long as your photos have been approved by Human Resources, and your cubicle adheres to the company’s new “no posters or knickknacks” policy.
That vaguely familiar plastic device on your desk – the one with a curly cord – is called a desk phone. It works much the same as your cell phone, except that your desk phone can’t check your Facebook feed, or play Angry Birds, or binge-watch Bridgerton. Okay, so it’s essentially useless. But it might make a ringing sound occasionally. If it does, you probably should answer it. It just might be your boss – either that or someone from HR, asking you to take down your Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster (it’s starting to creep people out).
That large white boxy-shaped machine in the hallway where people press buttons and curse at it is called a copier. When you’re in a hurry and you need to make copies of an important document, it will conveniently jam roughly 80% of the way through the run. But don’t worry, with help from three co-workers, you might be able to locate the source of the problem in under a half hour.
Check out your new socially distanced work space. Now you will have more safety and even less privacy than ever before. Your cubicle will look just like this, except that it’s in the basement with a peek-a-boo view of the dumpster.
Since it’s been over 12 months since you last had to wear pants for work, let’s go over office attire etiquette. While pajama bottoms technically constitute a form of pants, you may not score points with your manager if you show up in them – unless you choose the PJs covered with images of your cat. It’s adorable. And let’s leave your Seattle Seahawks sweatpants at home too. Looks like they’ve not been washed since their heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the 2015 Superbowl. (It’s really time to get over it, buddy.)
Personally, I think your bunny slippers are hilarious, but your annoyingly traditional stuffed shirt of a boss might be a stickler for something they call “shoes.”
Also, while this may seem totally unfair, the office expects you there by 8am. Crazy, I know. So, you might want to update your previous routine of waking up at 9:30am if you plan to make it in on time.
When you get to the office, it’s a great idea to re-introduce yourself to your co-workers. It’s been so long, they might not recognize you with your beard and ponytail and the Hello Kitty lower back tattoo you got on a dare that you lost. And when you greet them, smile, and feign interest in their response. Perhaps don’t lead off by saying, “Hey, you looked way slimmer on Zoom than in person.”
When you greet one of your colleagues, for safety’s sake, don’t shake hands. Settle for a friendly elbow bump or an “air” high five – unless the other person is a total jerk and you’ve already been double vaccinated, in which case, go ahead and plant a fat, wet kiss on their cheek. They’ll steer clear of you from now on. However, you may get a visit from that same HR representative who has a thing about ghoulish movie posters. HR reps have no friends.
While the pandemic appears to be in decline, we’re not out of the woods just yet. Be patient. Please continue to wear a mask in the office until you are told otherwise by management. But don’t wear your mask over your eyes as eye shades – especially during the team meeting. It may be your go-to move for your daily 2pm nap, but the corporate policy on napping is a bit less lax back at the office.
When you’re stuck in a meeting you feel is a complete waste of your time, refrain from saying out loud that the presenter is an incompetent idiot and a bore. Your mute button only works in Zoom meetings – not during in-person meetings. I can’t stress this enough.
You will be asked to do your small part to keep COVID away by wiping down your desk, computer, phone, chair and office supplies with an antiseptic cleanser every 45 minutes. Remember to bring a new box of disinfecting wipes to work each day. No, you can’t expense it.
Oh, one more thing. See that large room with all the swivel chairs around a large mahogany table? That’s called a conference room. It’s typically going to be used by your boss when they convene a meeting where they will go around the room to scream at each team member about how they are failing to abide by the company’s new “no posters or knickknacks” policy.
Being stuck in a conference room is no fun. But don’t worry. You will only have to attend these meetings for a few weeks – until they realize that the vaccine you got does not protect you against the latest COVID variant and they need to send everybody back home again.
Before you know it, the next spike will hit, and you’ll be back on your couch, in your pajamas and bunny slippers, with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Good luck beating your high score on Fortnite.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021.
I know a thing or two about job interviews. I’ve had more than my fair share over my career. On more than a few occasions, the employer even wrote me a personal note saying they would “keep your name on file” if a more suitable opportunity arose or whenever Hell froze over.
Of course, in most cases, your goal in any job interview is to make a good impression. At last count, there are 15,473 different advice books out there pitching strategies to help you prepare for job interviews. These experts offer time-proven, practical tips like Don’t forget to shower before you show up or this useful suggestion: Arrive at least five minutes before your scheduled appointment time, but not seven hours before, as that just comes off as creepy.
But there are no advice books out there on how to blow the interview. That’s where I come in. Say you’re in the middle of a high-stress interview, and it suddenly becomes clear the people at this company are a bunch of a-holes. You conclude you’d rather sit through a three-day insurance presentation on the benefits of whole life over term than ever work for these jerks. What are you going to do? Oh sure, you could just endure the rest of the interview, making steady eye contact, extend a firm handshake, thank the recruiter for her time and exit gracefully – just like every other lame job candidate would do. But since when did you just follow the crowd?
The next time you’re faced with the job interview from Hell, and you know you’d rather take a job as a great white shark feeder with one of those underwater metal cages as your “cubicle” than work one minute for this toxic employer, don’t go walking. Start talking. To help you out, I’ve crafted some handy responses to frequently asked job interview questions, designed to ensure they’ll never invite you back:
Interview question: Why should we hire you over any of the many other highly qualified candidates we are talking to?
Your response: Well, for one thing, can any of them belch the National Anthem on key? Also, if you hire me, your other employees will start to look outstanding by comparison, and that will really help their morale. By the way, I’ve checked into the backgrounds of some of your other candidates. I’m pretty sure I saw the previous interview candidate on an episode of To Catch a Predator. Hey, not to brag, but I have a totally clean criminal record – because they never could prove the arson charges. Also, I never say ugly, racist comments. I always keep those thoughts to myself. (more…)
For several years, every November and December, I experienced three-day work weeks thanks to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Due to the shortened workweeks, I had to be extremely focused, making efficient use of my limited time those weeks. I cut way back the amount of time devoted to watching adorable cat videos on YouTube.
With only three days to get everything done, I dutifully avoided sending our my normal two dozen humor emails a day with links to things like hilarious parody music videos on the Twelve Days of Christmas. I discovered that I accomplished so much in these shortened work weeks that it got me to thinking: Imagine how much more efficient workers would all be if we all had a three-day work week.
There are many companies – and even a few cities (El Paso, TX, Melbourne, FL) and at least one state (Utah) that are currently experimenting with a four-day work week. Instead of five 8-hour days, their employees work four 10-hour days, and they really get a lot of things done in these ten-hour days…well, in the first 8 hours anyway. Polls of workers who have shifted to a four-day work schedule indicate that 85% prefer it to the previous five-day schedule and an overwhelming 99% prefer it to the seven-day 80-hour work week with no time off for Christmas.
The advantages of a four-day work week are obvious:
- Reduced commuting time and reduced energy consumption by eliminating one day of commuting travel per week
- Improved energy efficiencies from reduced use of electricity and heating in offices and factories which are closed one more day each week
- You can get drunk on Thursday night and don’t have to make up transparent excuses for not showing up to work on Friday, like “I can’t make it into work today, boss because my four-year old Nate is sick with the measles again… Yeah, I know it’s the 7th time this year. He has a really crappy immune system…”
Until this past July, for the previous four decades, I had always worked in business. I was routinely required to submit reports on my progress: Sales forecasts, pipeline analyses, business plans – you name the report, I made it up, er, I mean…. um …
My point is this: Just because I’ve recently retired and moved to an island home near an idyllic beach doesn’t mean I plan to stop submitting regular progress reports. Quite the contrary. I’m happy to report that I’ve continued this practice into retirement. The focus of those reports, however, has shifted slightly.
Here is my business report for the past week.
Sea Shell Inventory Forecast:
My collection of sea shells grew by an impressive 11% this past month, due in part to two unscheduled beach-combing field inspections. While sightings of scallop shells were up 14% year-over-year, unfortunately, the projected production of intact sand dollars is expected to be down 18 to 20% compared to the previous quarter, in part due to increased foreign competition (tourists from Japan) which is anticipated to grab significant market share. I plan to diversify my portfolio of shells by investing (my time) in conch shells, tibias and spiny oyster shells. I’m optimistic we will experience a net gain next quarter if beach market conditions continue on their downward tidal trend.
Periodically in this column, I don my business consultant hat (a stylish Italian grey fedora) to share innovative business strategies to grow your business and improve your employees’ productivity. As a sought-after business process improvement expert and author of the popular business handbook, Stop Tasering Your Team – and 50 Other Strategies to Improve Employee Morale, I can help businesses prosper – if only they’d stop and listen to me for once.
I have frequently been approached by executives from Microsoft to Amazon.com to Ninja Ned’s Car Stereo & Hot Tub Emporium on South Aurora Avenue – all asking me the same question: How did you get past security? But as soon as they discover who I am, they are often surprised to learn about my out-of-the-box business strategies (usually as they are escorting me out-of-the-premises).
In this installment, I share the thought-provoking conclusions of a recent Dutch study published in the scholarly journal, Psychological Science. The study tested people’s decision-making ability when their bladders were full and found that people with full bladders tended to make better decisions and were better able to control and hold off making impulsive, costly decisions, leading to better judgment. (I swear I’m not making this up.) Other findings included that Dutch researchers appear to have way too much time on their hands.