Why Should I Go Back to the Office?

Also, why do I always get nervous when somebody at work talks about ‘safe spaces’?

Tue, 20 Apr 2021

My day job is hosting a “safe spaces” discussion about returning to the pre-COVID office-based model later this year (unless there’s another spike in cases, one expects). The meeting invite says we’re supposed to speak our minds in a calm, mutually supportive environment.

I’ve seen that movie before.

preview image for YouTube video ID WlPTmXi0pVk
You’ve probably seen this movie before, too. (click to view)

Here’s the thing: I hear talk of returning to an office and my first question is, “Why should I?” Working from home for the past year has been good for me:

You’re welcome to go back to office work if you want to, but leave me out of it. Since I’m working with people on the other side of the country it’s not like I get face-to-face interaction with them anyway. Besides, even when I’m in the same building I don’t connect with teammates. Coworker are not fixtures in my life. I don’t get attached to them, and I don’t want coworkers getting attached to me. We’re here to do a job, not to be each other’s surrogate family.

If they try to force me to go back to working in an office, I’ll damned well get another job. I’m not going back to the old normal for less than six figures. It’s not worth it.

Incidentally, I’m really not trying to prescribe policy here. Do what works for you, but don’t impose it on me. I’m not asking for much here. In fact, I’m not asking at all; I’m telling. I won’t tolerate a mandatory return to the office, especially if the only rationale is that changing things would make life harder for the Boomers who haven’t retired yet. What have they done for me lately that I should cater to them?

Incidentally, I find the very concept of having a “safe space” to speak in the workplace bitterly amusing. It shows that adults exercising basic human rights like freedom of speech on the job isn’t something corporations tolerate particularly well, and the the average American workplace is basically a private dictatorship.

If you give it too much thought, it’s particularly galling that children at school have more protection for their First Amendment rights than their parents do at work. Legal precedent isn’t much in the way of protection, but what’s the workplace equivalent of Tinker v. Des Moines? What statute or SCOTUS decision ensures that workers aren’t required to leave their human rights in the car when they come to the workplace?