Trying to hide your Pret coffee cup as you hurriedly sit down at your desk 10 minutes late? That can only mean one thing. You’re back in the office.
Yes, the Zoom fatigue is real – there’s only so long you can spend looking at the bottom right corner at your own screen window. But office life also sucks in its own myriad ways.
As many of us trickle back into the office after long stretches of working from home, be warned, small talk is returning. And it’s going to be everywhere. The office, the lift, the toilets, the canteen. You get the idea.
It’s not that we don’t love (okay, like) our colleagues, and have genuinely missed the camaraderie of sacking it in early on a Friday to head to the pub. But in the our nostalgia for nine-to-five life, we’d forgotten stuff. Lots of stuff.
We might be heading back to work, but here’s a few things we don’t want to bring with us.
We know remote working isn’t without its awkward exchange of pleasantries (and the dreaded pre-meeting chit-chat) but when you’re in the office, there’s no escaping it.
None of us mind water cooler chat with people we genuinely get along with. But riding a lift with a boss, or with someone you don’t know very well, can be real uncomfortable.
And adding itself to the cornerstone of small talk – reliable topics such as the weather, how it’s only Tuesday, and your plans for the weekend – is now going to be all that pandemic chat.
So, prepare for WFH nostalgia: lamenting the end of meetings in PJs, showering at midday, and all those mini runs you scheduled in on your lunch break.
Or so you say.
Pass-agg notes in the office are as natural as saying “sorry” as soon as you enter the work kitchen just because someone else is in there. We hate it, we do it, and it’s never ending.
Sure, no one is going to be overjoyed at the smell of fish emanating from your desk, or the fact that you didn’t wash up your cereal bowl, but having a colleague tell you off about your kitchen habits in ever-so-polite ways still feels infantile.
Now everyone knows who’s stinking up the whole place as they shuffle back to their desk. Best not to make things so personal, eh.
People pinching your lunch/snacks/drinks
Of course, Sometimes pass-agg notes are warranted. And that’s when people keep nicking your food.
It’s baffling why fellow comrades would even consider wolfing food that isn’t theirs (we can forgive a bit of milk being ‘borrowed’, but drinking someone’s Coke or nabbing their doughnut? Unacceptable).
You wouldn’t steal a car, etc. So why is it okay to take someone’s lunch?
Stealing in general
Unless you’re going to wash it and return it, don’t take someone’s precious porcelains. You’re not a netball champion are you? So why nick someone else’s mug that says they are?
The same goes for things like phone chargers, booze, even party invites, left at people’s desks. Just leave our stuff well alone.
People having loud phone conversations around the office
Sorry you can’t get the plumber to come at a time that’s convenient to you. How do we know that? Oh, because we heard you on the phone.
We get it, it’s difficult to reach people unless it’s within work hours, but the thing is, there are plenty of places for personal calls that do not include walking around the office mouthing off at the top of your voice.
The only thing worse that you sorting out your admin in earshot is conducting even more personal conversations with your partner, parents, child etc.
Catching a colleague on your commute
See point one.
No, seriously, just do the decent thing and ignore us if you see us on the bus/train/queueing at Caffe Nero.
The pandemic has to have a few benefits and the end times for hot-desking is thankfully one of them. Nobody wants to sit on somebody else’s crumbs and/or food wrappers, empty cans etc.
Even worse, when there’s residue left on the equipment you have to use. *Shudders*
Renditions of “happy birthday” around someone’s desk
These things are never fun whether it’s your family round the kitchen table or mates shouting the words at you in a pub while you blink back at them not knowing what to do, but when it’s your colleagues, it’s a new brand of awkwardness.
In Covid times, even thinking of a work pal blowing out the candles with traces of their spit, then sharing slices of Colin the Caterpillar around feels wrong.
Oh, and the same goes for when someone’s leaving and you have to gather around their desk to say “goodbye (take us with you)”.
Overstaying your conference room invite
There’s a reason you have a booking system for things. Please respect these times, even if the next party hasn’t arrived to claim it.
Do the decent thing and leave when you’re supposed to.
Did we miss any out?
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.