Caught in Transition | First Day Back in the Campus Office by Karen Bone
Many of us are “caught in transition”, whether it be moving from WFH to the office or hybrid or keeping the same schedule with others around you changing. We can’t reverse the clock – the lockdown, the pandemic, it all happened – and the challenges, opportunities, and transitions are ongoing. In this series we look to capture these transitions. How are you caught in transition? Share it with us by submitting an article here!
I went back to my office on Monday, July 12, 2021, after a year and three months of full-time work from home. When I left my office in March 2020, I brought home everything I thought I might need and left behind everything else, not anticipating the length I would be away.
Since so much time had passed, I spent the prior weekend making a list of what to bring with me, sure I would forget something (I did – my name badge and a coffee mug). I gathered everything on a dining chair and packed my lunch the night before. On Monday morning I walked out the door and down three flights of stairs with my husband’s car keys before realizing my mistake then called him to meet me partway and exchange them. My commute consisted of the usual South Florida interstate traffic (which I had not missed).
Upon arrival at my office, I spent time getting reacquainted with my space. It felt like entering a time capsule plus visiting a new world. The Painting with a Twist email for our Division of Research (DOR) social event scheduled for March 13, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19 and later rescheduled as a remote event) still hung on my bulletin board. A small bag of cheerios and another of crackers went in the trash along with a lone fruit snack pack I found in a drawer (fruit snack best by 24APR2021). New items had arrived on my desk, too – multi-purpose wipes, a large bottle of hand sanitizer, two notes from our division thanking us for all our hard work and reassuring us that we could come to them if we needed anything, a new phone (those were scheduled to change before COVID-19 and has a video feature), and a DOR bag and water bottle. Shortly into the morning I added to the newness with a webcam and headphones. In the realm of forgotten but rediscovered items, I found two coffee mugs and a scarf. I still haven’t found my forgotten-now-remembered umbrella (just the sleeve for it).
The atmosphere took some adjustment too. The office was quiet but a different sort of quiet at first - a slightly self-conscious quiet. On a call with a colleague, I caught myself speaking in the low tones you use when you are losing your voice and trying to save it but still need to talk, worried I might be bothering someone in an office near me. Listening to my classical music I second guessed how high the volume should be and readjusted it several times. I could hear the murmur of others talking on their phones and walking past my door but that did not reduce my self-awareness.
Lest you think my experience was mine alone, another of my colleagues likened our first day back to a surreal dream as they too sought to find their bearings (and get back to wearing shoes). I think they had better luck with grabbing the right set of keys though.
Authored by Karen Bone, Proposal & Contract Administrator
Florida Atlantic University
SRAI Catalyst Co-editor