This week has presented a bit of an odd situation in that I was told that I may no longer have access to an office.
For the last (nearly) year, I have been working from home three days per week and in an office in Nanaimo one or two days a week days per week. Going into the office makes my days long because it involves a ferry, but it also ensures that I see people during the work week. My actual work team is in Ottawa (and spread around to other places too) and some days (like yesterday), I’m in phone meetings for most of the day anyways. All my work can be done remotely as I do web planning, information architecture and so on. My work team doesn’t really care where I sit because I’m on a phone/chat with them regardless of my physical location.
So, I’m trying to decide whether or not I should fight to keep this office space which is a something I’m sure I could win, or should I just let it go since there seems to be some reticence to allow me to keep “squatting” there. Technically I do not have a right to office space in Nanaimo, as I do not fit within that part of the organization. Things changed with my work reporting and now I must reapply for the space with new managerial signatures, or I could just keep using the space as I do until it’s eventually cut off and deal with that if it happens.
I’m not sure that going into the office really does much for me even socially as I don’t share work with anyone in that office, and I’ve had days when I go in and no one’s really around anyway. Also, when I work from home, I can do things like bake a loaf of bread or throw a load of laundry in – which gives me a much better work/life flow. Productivity for me (I have come to learn) does not depend on location, but on mental state – so that’s not really a consideration.
At the root, this is about identity. If I am part of an organization, what does it mean if I no longer have a physical space in that organization? Is it easier for them to let me go? Do I have less stature in the eyes of my colleagues? Also, as the president of my union local, is it weird that I no longer work in an office building?
What I’m considering at this point is holding off on the formal paperwork and simply moving to less time in the office overall to see what that feels like. This week, because I have a cold, I only went in one day. Next week I have required travel in the middle of the week to somewhere else so I probably won’t go in at all. Perhaps the week after I’ll work from home the whole week. And I’m also aware that building will be undergoing refit in the next few months which means that I will work from home exclusively to avoid the noise and mess.
I used to believe that I was not the kind of person who could work from home, but I’ve found in the last year that this isn’t true and that there are lots of advantages to this arrangement. I’ve got good work hygiene in that I do get dressed properly every day; have a separate work space that is not inside my home; keep regular work hours that I stick to. And when I am working from home, I start and end my days much earlier which works for my counterparts in other time zones.
So far, so good. But what if? What if? What if not being in an office makes me more vulnerable to layoff? What if I get isolated from my work group? What if I can’t control my work future the way I want to? When I explore this a bit more I see that what I want is something I can’t have – a way to predict the future, some kind of control that is elusive no matter where I sit.
I also have to acknowledge that this is true – I’m pretty sure this isn’t my last position inside my organization. I have no desire to move on just yet, but with eleven years to go until I collect my pension, I suspect there is at least one more change of position ahead. I can’t know that of course, but given my past eighteen years of employment – there’s a good chance that will be so. There’s even some chance that whatever I do next will be at least part of the time in Vancouver, not Nanaimo at all! So I don’t know how much any of it matters in the end, as long as I keep contributing, keep working, keep showing up on the phone for every meeting – I expect where I sit is less of an issue than I am making it.