Thinking I could handle it after two years of isolation at home during the pandemic, I gleefully decided to take a position that would push me further into my chosen day-job career and give me more tools for my portfolio.
Believing that being back in an office setting three days a week was manageable and would allow me to network with a new class of professionals, I figured getting out of the house for work would be a benefit to me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
I made assumptions that I shouldn’t have and missed red flags that are now plain as the nose on my face. Don’t get me wrong: good company, great people, but lousy workspace. For me, that third piece is equally important as pay, time off, and coworker relationships. Let me tell you how I eventually came to my senses.
Firstly, I interviewed via Zoom and never got to see the office space where I would be working. I assumed, based upon my role, there would be some degree of privacy in my designated workspace, so when I returned from my amazing onboarding experience at the headquarters campus, I was immediately shocked when I saw my desk (which I must reserve, daily, to use) in the middle of an open space with eleven other desks, organized in clusters of three. My first response was, “Oh, I’m never going to get anything done.” I cannot express how right I was about that.
Secondly, all—not most—of my stakeholders are located elsewhere, in the Home Office. So I travel 20 minutes to an office where I sit in an open space (no cubicle, no walls, no dividers) with my local colleagues, to put on headsets so we can meet with people at a distance—all day.
Lastly, the shared meeting space seating is horrible. “Tech” chairs with small airplane sized trays attached (which one must navigate away from the seat before sitting down—not easily done when holding a laptop, a cell phone, and a cup of coffee) send me back to college lecture hall days. Seriously? I don’t know any technical person who would just love these damned chairs. I’ve been a technical professional, I speak for my brethren: these chairs, no bueno.
A year into this experiment, I had a candid discussion with myself starting with a critical question: What are you getting out of this? The answer was, not enough. While I’ve learned so much from this experience, I had to level with myself and acknowledge that the position, like the office space, is stoic, rote, and not interesting enough to hold my attention. I learned what I needed to grow within that year and although the time was short, it was time to go.
The lesson I gained from this was to add new questions to my interview list:
- How is the workspace configured?
- Will I have an office or assigned private space to work?
- Are there sufficient and useable collaboration areas?
- Can I see the space where I would work? That one is muy importante!
- Do you have neurodivergent accommodations?
I may have been able to negotiate my workspace had I asked these questions and saved myself hours of frustrations and exhaustion. Try being on a conference call with five other people in the room on other conference calls – with no dividers, walls, or noise reduction measures in place. Call centers do better than this.
Luckily for me, a new adventure awaits. I’ve accepted a new role that ticks the boxes of all my working needs: significantly limited time in an office, occasional short travel to the Home Office to meet with my stakeholders and my executives, and the best part: a consistent short commute to my favorite work location, my homeplace workspace. It has the best seat and coffee in the house.
It’s good to be queen again.