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Fear of returning to the office? I think it will be more a case of S.O.S: 'Severe Office Shock'




I’ll miss the Aquarium Cafe.

I’ve been going there every lunchtime for the past 14 months.

The ‘staff’ are friendly, the coffee fine, and a range of food from sandwiches to sausage rolls, delicious.

I’ll also miss the takeaway on the way home.

Fish in an aquarium: Picture by Mecha Morton
Fish in an aquarium: Picture by Mecha Morton

In no time at all you could leave the ‘office’ and be there in under 10 seconds before retiring to the cinema to watch a movie on demand.

Sometimes, on the way home, and depending on the weather, I’d call at the local gardens to take in a bit of nature.

Not quite Abbey Gardens and probably 1/800th of the size, but gardens nonetheless.

I don’t know about anyone else, but these were some of the things that I invented to help me through lockdown, and more so, working at home.

Yes, a complete and full, imaginary life.

The Aquarium Cafe; a fishtank in my living room, the takeaway, a microwave, and the gardens, my own, the cinema, a TV. It at least gave me some semblance of normality, and routine, just like the ‘old days’.

The past is a foreign country they say, and they do things differently there. Which got me thinking about what it will be like going back to the office.

I recently read about a condition called, FORTO, meaning Fear of Returning to the Office.

But I think it will more likely be a case of SOS: Severe Office Shock.

Like everyone else, my communication, has been based around monitors, phones and tablets, that’s apart from the imaginary staff in the Aquarium Cafe and the bathroom mirror, where there was always someone to speak to.

Luckily though, there haven’t been too many video calls, which I always find quite odd and mainly consist of people waving, or at least trying not to.

In 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler first introduced the world, on a mass scale, to the concept of Future Shock.

I remember my English teacher raising it up at assembly, and declaring: This children – IS the future! And that was in the ’80s.

The premise is basically that the speed of change is happening very very fast, way beyond that of any other social or economic revolution, and as a consequence, generally speaking, people go mad, and society breaks down.

Early in the pandemic, a McKinsey & Company study found that digital usage and offerings jumped seven years in a matter of months – so who knows what year it is now.

So after everyone having lived mainly in isolation, dependent on, and immersed in a world of browsers, hangouts, emojis, hashtags, cookies, clickbait, passwords, hyperlinks, posts, follows and likes, it makes me wonder what mental state people will actually be in.

I wonder if when we do finally sit next to our colleagues, turn to say hello, they will rock back and forth, pull a ‘smiley face’, raise their thumb, and say, sorry, can you Zoom me?

I also find it hugely ironic, that pioneers in of all this, Google, are making sure their staff are safely back in the office by September, for a bit of ‘in-person interaction’, ‘sense of community’ and ‘creative problem solving’.

I forgot to mention, I would also pretend my bedroom was a remote country Bed and Breakfast.

Everyone needs to get away now and then :)

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