The Tribes: The WFH Colleagues Killing Your Vibe
You used to know where you stood when you went to work – carriage six on the 8.47am train, wedged against your fellow commuters, opposite a woman watching an unsavoury zombie TV series on her iPad. Now with hybrid working, you don’t know if you’re coming or going. Yes, over the past year or so, you’ve probably missed the encouragement, camaraderie and thoughtful chitchat that comes with office life (who are we trying to kid?), but now you’ve found a better balance, you want to spend more time working from home. Not that this doesn’t bring its own set of problems. Or “co-workers”, you could call them. Here, then, are five people – and animals – driving you to distraction as you sit at your makeshift desk on your kitchen table.
The Parcel Force To Be Reckoned With
Your delivery driver should be with you between 12.00 and 6.00pm, meaning you’re stuck inside all afternoon. You were in all afternoon last time, too, and that didn’t stop him dropping an apologetic “Sorry we missed you” note through the door. But is he sorry? And does he miss you? If he really was and did, he’d knock before taking your parcel back to the depot, right? Now you’re working from home and in all day, he has no excuse not to ring the doorbell. Given the six-hour window he’s afforded, why does he choose to turn up five minutes into the meeting you’re chairing? Oh, wait, he wants a signature for a package – for your neighbour. You take it in and turn around and just as you get back to your screen, you’re forced to pivot to answer the door again. Only this time you aren’t quick enough and he’s left your box, marked “Fragile”, on your doorstep, upside down, with – and full marks for security here – a bin lid perched on top of it.
The Helicopter Parent (As In Wants To Fly Away)
“Do they really need another teacher-training day when the school was shut for six whole weeks over the summer?” you ask yourself. This is not the first question you’ve been asked today. That would be, “Can I have an ice lolly for my breakfast?” followed by, “OK, with my breakfast?” at 5.45am, a good hour before your child would usually wake up on a weekday. But it really is worth asking, because you hadn’t planned for it. Now you’re craning to hear your team over the theme tune to PJ Masks, which is playing loudly from the tablet propped up against your laptop. That “deep work” session you have pencilled in for after lunch will probably be punctuated by the construction of an Iron Man suit out of whatever is in the recycling bin and, no doubt, a trip to A&E to extract a piece of Lego from a nostril. Is bedtime the right time to fight crime? Because it’s the only chance you’ll have today to get that report done.
You’ve Lost That Loving Feline
A sense of entitlement is baked into the DNA of the domestic cat. But, to be fair to Socks, he was here first. Once, the working day was when he was the king of all he surveyed – between naps, obviously. Now his humans are cluttering up the place, doing things, making noise, only occasionally refilling his biscuits. You’d think with all those hours shaved off the commute, they’d at least find the time to change the litter tray more regularly, but no. What should be a Zen garden looks more like Easter Island. He’s tried all the tricks – the progressively louder meow, the stealthy leg circle then sprawl across the most dangerous spot at the top of the stairs, the ceremonial presentation of a chewed house plant – but nothing seems to get him noticed. Why should he be expected to drink water from a bowl when there’s a tap that surely his servants could turn on? It’s given him a lot to mull over as he settles down for a sly 40 winks while shedding fur all over the black item of clothing left on the bed. That’s multitasking. Are you paying attention now, human?
The Scatter Chatterer
“So, he’s the shit-hot lawyer, who isn’t actually that shit-hot, as it turns out, and he had an affair with a judge,” says your cohabiter, emerging from a Teams meeting. You try to disengage, but it’s already too late. “So, she sent him a request for divorce – in a text message. She says she wants the media to respect her privacy. But then she reveals everything on her reality TV show. Now she wants his money that’s tied up in her company, but she claims that she didn’t know where the money came from. Now he has been diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s, so he doesn’t know where the money comes from, either. And now her TV show is being used as evidence in his court case, but not with that judge. Sorry, is it a bad time? But you’re not on camera, right? Yes, come to think of it, I might be missing the social interaction with people outside our household that comes from working in an office environment. What makes you ask that? But also, did you know Andre Agassi was wearing a wig?”
The Remote Controller
Previously a proponent of presenteeism, this colleague has been forced to admit that a prolonged period out of the workplace has not had a massive impact on productivity. If anything, the staff seem to have got more done. And, thankfully, this business busybody has no end of platforms to keep tabs on – no, stay connected with – his co-workers. He’s rarely idle on Slack, an outlier on Teams and is eyeballing Facebook. He’s a telltale on email, calling you out and looping you into conversations with no explanation, so you have to scroll through to decode. But still he can’t get to the bottom of why this way of working works. It’s almost as if, in the physical office, there was something – or someone – gumming up the cogs, holding everyone back. Perhaps further patrolling of communication channels will identify the culprit.
Illustration by Mr Pete Gamlen