NROP: The office that’s not the office.

When in March of 2020, we got the news to go home and work from there for a couple of days, I figured we’d be back within the week or so. My workplace was NOT ready to go remote. It’s not that they couldn’t; they didn’t want to. It wasn’t in their culture.

But, a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks, which turned into a couple of months. Suddenly, software was purchased to replace hardware (ex.: cloud-based vs. physical fax machine), and not-so-tech-savvy people learned to successfully create, join, and participate in virtual meetings. If you needed one, this is proof that the “I/ We can’t” is often just an excuse. You can, and you will (if you have to).

At first, people had many issues adjusting, but they mostly kept on going “for the greater good.” Working from home was the right thing to do. However, people quickly got tired of being in close quarters with their family 24/7 and began to miss the office dynamic (gossip and complaints, anyone?). Those that could, returned to the office. Maybe not full-time, but a couple of days a week. To my surprise, management announced that the hybrid model was there to stay. Woohoo!

Fast forward a couple of months. People are tired of being isolated; all they want to do is chit-chat with their co-workers and go out for lunch. Managers are discussing bringing everyone back in full-time. Even those that can work from home without any interruptions. Are you kidding? How blind can you be? Are you not aware of all the vacancies we have? About candidates refusing to pursue a job opportunity if they are forced to be at the office all day every day? Sometimes I wonder how people can be so… unaware…

One manager just lost a great employee because they decided that everyone should always be at the office. Another one is about to lose a new employee because, during recruitment, they talked about potentially allowing for a hybrid workplace after the first 90-days. They lied. They were never going to allow it. They were just desperate to get someone to fill that position. And now they will have to go through the process again. And these are the people that are pushing for an organization-wide return to work.

The thing I agree with is that celebrations are better done in person. So, when there is an event going on (ex.: someone’s retiring), sure – get people to come to the office for the day when lunch is being catered. Those events are good for people to catch up with those they don’t speak to on a daily basis. Virtual meetings make it impossible to have side chats (unless you do breakout rooms, but those aren’t organic).

I’ve previously discussed the pros of working from home on my blog. While working from the office is best for some (fewer distractions (I know, that’s one that’s hard for me to understand!), better motivation, closer monitoring of slackers), working from home is the superior option for me. It works for me on a personal AND professional level. I’m at my optimal.

This post was inspired by yet another rendition of a virtual workplace. Have you ever played The Sims? It was all the rage back in the day, so I got to try it maybe once on a friend’s computer. What it was (is?) was a computer game in which you got to create an avatar and just… live life. It sounded boring to me, so I never took to it. I am too busy living my own life. I don’t need to live a copy of it online. I assume the appeal for others was that they could try to create the perfect life for themselves through which they could fill the void in their real life.

I bring up the Sims because that’s the first thing I thought of when I read about a South Korean invention – the metaverse office. It combines the physical aspect of the office with the virtual world. How? Well, you know how you join a Zoom/Team/whathaveyou meeting with a click of a button, and you leave in the same manner? You do this just after or before closing/ minimizing other screens you work on. In the real world, you would actually have to get up from your desk, walk to the conference room, attend the meetings, and then go back to your desk. ‘Soma World’ by Zigbang combines those two. In the morning, you (your avatar) enter the building you work in, walk up the stairs/ take the elevator, and get situated in your cubicle/ office. If you need to talk to your co-worker, you either shout across the floor (which I’ve seen happen on more than one occasion at my workplace) or just walk to their desk and talk.

It seems to me that you would be playing an online game all day that way. I imagine you would need an additional monitor to watch the ‘office,’ while you do your actual work on the other monitor(s). When my partner and I first started dating, we’d jump on Skype once we got home and just did our thing. Every now and again, one of us would say something, and the other person would jump from their seat, having forgotten we were connected. This metaverse office reminds me of that. You’d be busy, working, and all of a sudden, you hear your boss’ voice. They are standing at your desk. Talk about being taken by surprise and trauma…

So, what do I think of ‘Soma World?’ I think it’s absolute nonsense. In my eyes, in an attempt to combine the best of both worlds, they actually combine all the bad things. Yes, you might be able to work from home, but you will have all the distractions from the office at your fingertips.

When I need to go to the bathroom, I don’t want to have to walk my avatar to the bathroom before I go there myself.

When a co-worker wants something from me, I encourage them to send me an email or set up a time to talk if it’s something more involved. I DON’T want them to just stop by whenever. That’s why I would close my office door often while at a physical office – sometimes, you just need to wall yourself off to focus.

Do I miss walking to the conference room? Umm… no. If I want to talk to a co-worker, I will meet them for drinks after work. Do I need to debrief after a meeting? Usually, not because that’s how angst and gossip are formed, but if I do, I will call them.

What does a simulation of an office bring to the table? It makes it SEEM like you are among people, but in reality, you really aren’t.

Do you see any benefits to a metaverse workplace?

Stay golden,

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31 thoughts on “NROP: The office that’s not the office.

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  1. Interesting. I’m not sure I understand the concept of a metaverse workplace, but the only computer simulations I’ve played are old dungeons and dragons style games. I guess this is pretty different unless you can simulate cutting your work colleagues head off with a broad sword. Still, working from home has lots of advantages and a few disadvantages, the disadvantages being having to use your own electricity and the lack of face to face social interaction. Working in an office environment can be mentally and physically draining though, I could never go back to doing this. Now that people have tasted the freedom of working from home I can easily see why they wouldn’t want to go back to the daily office grind with accompanying soul destroying commute.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You changed your blog’s name! Interesting. Is there a story behind it? (I just went to your website and so you wrote a post about it. Awesome. I’ll take a look at it shortly. So curious.)

      Right? Maybe to better understand it, I would need to ‘play’ it, but I don’t think so.

      The cutting your work colleagues head off with a broad sword” made me laugh out loud. Stuart! I didn’t know there was such violence in you. Hmmm… maybe that’s the next best idea. I mean – think about it – so many people are frustrated with their co-workers and they either burry that stress or… go and shoot the place up. Such a ‘game’ might help release the stress and aid in co-worker dynamics. Hmmm… Do you know a coder? You should have someone design that. I bet it would be SO popular.

      Yes, the added electricity usage is definitely a major one. However, I feel like the saved fuel fund offsets that.

      I think back to before March of 2020… For over a year, my commute was over an hour coming back from work. It was harrowing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Corporations SUCK.
    “Quietly quitting” is some new meme where employees do just the minimum to keep their jobs. Over and above? Bullshit. All a corporate employee has to offer is their time. They don’t get paid for dividends on their work — those go to the shareholders and the BoardofDirectors. So? Do your time, tell the corp to go fuck themselves.

    19th Century work monitoring, a la Dickensian workhouses, will never die. Not as long as employees give in.

    For the first time since labor unions had their heyday, employees once again have a life not controlled or constrained by Big Corp. No wonder the corptocracy wants to roll back ‘work-from-home’ policies.

    In the last 17 years I’ve worked in an office for 2 of them. It was within walking distance – the perfect commute. Any further and I’d have balked.

    I realize that there are service industries where physical people need to interact with other physical people. I feel for them. I’ve got it made, I’ll admit.

    You read about how Malcolm Gladwell went on an on about humans becoming disconnected from each other in this WfH atmosphere? The dude is a total hypocrite. He never works in an office. Bah, Corps can go to hell.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha. Can’t argue with your sentiment there.

      Many (most?) I know are doing the bare minimum. I still struggle to let myself go there. It’s just not me. And I think that a lax work ethic translates into other areas of life, which causes a lot of frustration for me. Thankfully, I have a good team currently and enjoy doing what I do, so I don’t mind doing as much as I do. At least for now.

      I agree that the old-school monitoring will not die for as long as people give in. But, when I see people NOT giving in and employers STILL not changing their ways… It just leaves me speechless.

      Walking distance? That sounds perfect! I’m used to that, too. For a bit over a year I would drive for about an hour. In traffic. At this point in time, I’m not really sure how I did that. Hard to imagine!

      *nods* I, too, feel for those that HAVE to be there physically. But then again, I believe that there are some people who like that. Let them. Just don’t force everyone. You lied in the past by saying that would never work. Now we have proof that it does. Other than ‘you have to,’ they no longer have a reason to pull people back in.

      Ha! That’s actually one of the managers I mentioned in this post. While they have a flexible schedule and are remote most of the time, they require their employees to be there the whole time. Yea… nope.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love tech stuff so I would try this metaverse workspace. The upside is it’s something new that tech lovers will try. The downside I think, is it will distract from actual work. I’d be learning how to walk to the water cooler or break room. I’d navigate to the bathroom, without needing to go. I’d take a virtual walk around the building. After a couple of hours of exploring, I’d start work. Productivity would surely go down until I lost interest in the new environment.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s the thing. Those that like technology would go exploring, but once the shine wears off, you’d want to put it away. Those that are not tech savvy would have a learning curve, which would probably be frustrating. That might taint their future experience. All in all, I fail to see the benefit in the long run. Unless… we’re talking about a firm that has employees working from all over the world that would never meet otherwise. But then, just jump on a video-call.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As a house wife, I can’t say either way, but it seems to me that it’s just a waste of time when pressing a “busy” icon so people would know you’re not available, or “in a meeting” would be the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d forgotten about The Sims. Hmm. I hope they’re all right: I haven’t checked on my family in a few decades.

    You make some great points. I don’t understand managers much of the time, and I’ve been one. They’re often short-sighted and seem to enjoy very much shooting themselves in the feet. The only real reason to object to hybrid offices is petty. I’m with you. A mix of home and office time is likely best, especially for those of us who can manage blocks of isolated time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My husband had the choice to work remotely from his physical office with the team from 3 different states or work remotely from his home office with the team from 3 different states (and get coffee and breakfast…) So for 2 years+ he’s been working from his home office and he loves it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Life happens in person. The WFH thing really depends on the industry. I get some people love it and say they get more done. I found it difficult to do it long term. Our team work directly with each other daily. Lots of quick chats about the work etc. the zoom thing killed our dynamic. I also found myself finding it hard not to work all the time. That sucked. I have a better balance going to the office. Of course my commute is only 10 mins. I also consider myself an introvert and home body. But I prefer going to the office. I will say too my company is pretty good about us taking the time we need to get quick errands done or adjusting our hours when needed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Life happens in person.” I like that.

      It definitely is industry and people dependant. Some voiced that it’s harder for them to stop working at the end of the day – just like you mentioned. I just switch my computer off and that’s it. (No forwards to my phone.)

      Glad the office works for you and that it’s close! Very important – I don’t mind going every now and again to the office that’s 10 minutes away but when I have to go to the one an hour away… eh…

      It’s interesting that you consider yourself an introvert and a home body and yet prefer to go into the office. I know someone else like that, too. I guess we all need some sort of a balance. Some people need to get away from home for a variety of reasons.

      The fact that your work hours are somewhat flexible is amazing! I think that helps a lot. At least those that want to work hard but also need to take care of other things.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I swear the stuff you talk about is floating in my brain too. Great topic. I never have had the pleasure of working from home, but know I could only do so if I have no other responsibilities. Have a Dog so already walking more than I should. My spouse is too needed to not bug my don’t see me as a working setup, and I would most likely slack more. Sims…player since the very first, play to this day. And live the scheduling stop and talks…makes so much sense for both parties. Taking a break, can’t for 3 mins. Love it. Love the thoughts points here. I could go on…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. It definitely isn’t for everyone as we all have different environments. While I don’t have a home office of my dreams (big, soundproof, etc.), I’m grateful for the conditions that I DO have and that allow me to work from home quite well.

      What do you like about Sims most?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hearing about this situation actually reminds me of “Second Life,” which is another metaverse program that is actually encouraged in certain library programs and elsewhere. People get jobs or even do volunteer work there. There are some benefits, but it is important to remember to step away from the computer and physically connect with people. I guess it depends on your situation and comfort level. A very interesting post, indeed. ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow. I guess with the progress with VR headsets, etc. these kind of ‘games’ will be more and more popular.

      I was just talking to one of my co-workers yesterday, and they mentioned they were surprised to hear that their son loves working from home. He’s a very outgoing and social person. Two questions came to my mind – Is here REALLY a people person or has he just been faking it in the past to fit in? If he really was/is a people person, then will that change with time as he stays at home more and more. (He still interacts with people but just through a screen.) I think there’s some interesting research to be done around this topic.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agreed. Because there are so many factors that come into play there. If someone works from home, for instance, but goes out during their free time to participate in group activities and such, they could remain very social. Or perhaps they really were uncomfortable in social settings. Or maybe they enjoy working from home due to other obligations around the house. It would definitely make for some great research, like you said. ^_^

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Interesting thoughts, Goldie. My job was teaching middle school drama (pardon the redundancy), so I can’t imagine doing that job remotely. Fortunately for me, I retired before the whole pandemick thing started. I don’t think “remote learning” was good for the majority of kids … Time will tell. There’s something about connecting with human beings in person that can’t be replaced or replicated, but maybe I’m just showing my age. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. While in 2020 all sorts of classes were done remotely, I definitely agree with you that middle school drama (:P) needs to be in person.

      I don’t think kids have the discipline to be in school while being at home (unless home schooled). Some kids are still wearing masks in school. It makes me wonder how that will impact them. Heck, the whole thing will definitely have some adverse effects… Not looking forward to seeing it on display.

      Like

  11. I remember playing The Sims on PlayStation one… it was kinda terrible though years later I checked the more recent editions and its definitely come a long way in graphics and gameplay… games imitating life… surprisingly there is something fascinating about controlling avatars… like that craze of virtual pets kick started by the tamagotchi era…
    Its like life has always been shifting towards a metaverse and love it or hate its, its going to sucks us all in till we cant even imagine how we lived life before…

    ~B

    PS I now have a great appreciation for remote work and usually take on gigs which do not require my actual local presence… my quest to being a digital nomad no longer seems like a whimsical dream…
    Oh and its no on the meta-office!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It must have been somewhat good if it’s something that survived so long and that people still play.

      Tamagotchi… those were fun! especially for those that were unable to have a real pet for whatever reason.

      Like

  12. In all honesty, it sounds like a waste of resources. I think it’s simply best to go 100% remote and have events here and then, with the option of working in a physical place. Pre-covid, people didn’t realize how it could’ve been possible. Now that we’ve seen it, it’s time people realize and maximize its potential!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A waste of resources – I like how pragmatic you are in your opinion. Absolutely! It sounds like a bit of a novelty thing that might require a monetary investment that might not bring a return.

      I’m with you 100%. It seems like logic is rarely the answer, though. If we work from home, then offices will become empty and people will not want to live in tiny-tiny apartments in the city. Hmm… There is SO much that decisions like this affect.

      Like

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