Of course, we all knew it wouldn’t last, but the time has come to return to work. More people are getting vaccinated, hysteria around the contagiousness of coronavirus has started to subside and the justification for remote work has been stretched to its limit. 

A 2021 survey found that one-third of workers would quit before going back to the office full-time. And other research suggests up to 83% of employers agree remote work has been successful

Personally, I find myself annoyed by the coworker who is quick to express their excitement to return to work. We’re all then thrusted into an awkward conversation about how it would be “nice to return to normal” and how fun it’ll be to “see everyone in person” again.

First, I don’t all of you…and let’s be honest, the old “normal” sucked.

It ends when someone is bold enough to say “but,” but it’s never fully representative of my plight. I’m not excited about sitting in traffic for over 30 minutes or being constrained to work trousers, but that’s not it. 

My list of reasons for not wanting to return to work is a bit more nuanced than that.

Daytime sex while working at home

I’ve had the pleasure of being at home with my partner and I’ve enjoyed all the pleasure that can come with it…thoroughly.

Both our jobs decided to go remote early on in the health crisis. It was tough at first; he bought a work desk and placed it less than two feet from our bed, totally disrupting my sense of home and workspace boundaries.

One-in-five couples find it difficult to work from home with a partner, especially in situations where they both partners transitioned to remote work at the same time. According to the same survey, about 48% of couples admitted they had not established ground rules such as agreeing to always use headphones during Zoom meetings or only working their scheduled shifts. 

Once we were able to get out of our one bedroom apartment and into a home with two office spaces and a guest room, we’re getting what we paid for out of both boxsprings.

And since we’ve instituted rules, we’ve really been getting it on because we’re not frustrating each other.

If he wants to show me an internet meme and I’m heavily into work, I’ve promised to use our code phrase ‘it’s crunch time’ and he just walks away. This way I don’t have to give him the death stare then tear into his soul, and he doesn’t have to get his feelings hurt.

It’s not all sex. 

Watching how the other person works, we’ve learned things about each other that we never would have noticed being in separate buildings. We’re also able to support each other in a new way. For example, if I have a tense interaction with a coworker, he can give me an outside perspective and bring me back to Earth.

Dealing with workplace drama

I’m fully vaccinated and thought it safe to attend my first industry mixer since the pandemic started. It starts off with a cocktail and a few long awaited greetings, but it’s only a matter of time before the issues we’ve had to bear in solitude begin to find their way into the conversation. 

And then it hits me, I’ll soon be going back to the workplace drama.

Bathroom chats turning into confessions of anxiety and frustrations. Keeping my mouth shut on co-worker’s secrets I should never have. Being pressed for my opinion in arguments that have no impact on me. 

It seems when I’m not managing my own drama, I’m dragged into playing spectator or participant in someone else’s mess.

I should get paid for sitting in traffic

It’s not the sitting in traffic but the mental and monetary expenses that come along with it. Even if your drive is only 30 minutes, that’s five hours a week you’re spending toward work and not getting paid.

I’ve spent my entire adult life in Houston, where since my late-teens, I’ve had to make a 40+ minute commute into the city at least five to six days each week for work or class. At times, I’ve had to pull over just to keep myself from losing it, or worse, I volunteer extra hours after my shift to avoid traffic all together.

LIFE HACK: Get a gym that’s close to your job and an easily portable laptop, so you can clock in hours with yourself while staying in the area until traffic dies down.

It’s impressive most U.S. commuters only spent 42 hours a year in rush-hour traffic and a collective $100 billion dollar annually in wasted fuel. That doesn’t include the money spent on toll fees, vehicle maintenance and keeping adequate insurance.

Traffic stress has been linked to spikes in domestic violence and we’re all familiar with the term road rage. The AAA Foundation recently reported aggressive behavior (i.e. tailgating, erratic lane changes) are a factor in up to 56% of road fatalities. 

I wish moving into the city was a simple solution, but most salaries don’t offset the costs of urban living. Let’s be frank, it’s between dodging rush-hour or bullets when I think of the inner-city living my wallet can afford.

Commuters accept that traffic is life. However, I can’t accept that it’s a sacrifice I have to make in order to have a livelihood.

Annoying co-workers

Becky, Belinda or Bruce— the name (…age, race or gender) doesn’t matter! We’ve all come across that person in our workplace who acts like it’s their part-time job to be a pain in your backside. It can easily be any of the following characters:

  • The passive aggressive colleague who finds unreportable ways to get under your skin 
  • The one who always finds a way to make simple projects more complicated
  • The idiot who has to over explain everything, especially common sense stuff
  • The supervisor who micromanages the team into exhaustion
  • The white person who you have to keep a smile plastered on your face and phrase every statement as a question or suggestion otherwise they think you’re being aggressive*
  • The supervisor who is never paying attention and always asks for stuff that’s either unnecessary or already completed

Interacting with these individuals behind a keyboard allows me to cuss at the computer for three minutes, take a deep breath and then proceed with a workplace-appropriate response.

I’m not ready to return to work.

*I know that’s a loaded one, but that’s the world we live in.

Losing control of the thermostat

I don’t know about you, but I like my work environment to be…a little romantic.

I turn off the lights, close the curtains and turn on a lamp. I’ll light a candle, usually a gentle floral or wood scent. I turn on some smooth jazz or lo-fi hip-hop. Lots of times I’m fresh out of the shower— smelling like lavender, curls in a messy bun— sitting at my work desk in nothing but an untied silk bathrobe. 

Maybe there’s hot lemon tea in my coffee mug…maybe it’s red wine left that was unfinished last night. It depends on how I feel. They can’t smell my breath on this Zoom call, of which I’ll never turn on the video unless forced, so it’s nothing for them to worry about.  

I control the sounds. I control the thermostat. 

We all know that woman in the office with a space heater under desk or an entire blanket slung over her chair. Actually, research shows most women are more productive in warmer temperatures compared to their male counterparts who perform better in colder rooms.

It took the pandemic for me to realize how much I have to adapt to the workplace environment. I understand how for many people that keeps the line clear as home is cozy and warm versus the cold and desolate job place.

But does it have to be like that? I find myself question the true cost of a return to work.

Discomfort shouldn’t be associated with work, especially in professions where reporting in-person to a workplace isn’t necessary.