At the beginning of lockdown, when it seemed that what stretched before was going to be a brief time of self-improvement and family time for some of us, I thought that, maybe, this was the start of a new remote working era.

If we abandoned offices for good, or at least reduced our occupation of them, this would be a good thing, I thought. It all seems so wasteful, both of resources, of time, and the environment: why spend hours commuting, then using up vast amounts of electricity, water, gas and fuel to power office work and all its associated activities?

But several months in and I’m not so sure.

I don’t work in an office. But I meet in offices all the time, with editors and colleagues, to brainstorm ideas about articles, features or podcasts. And I miss it.

I miss it so much that I get dreams about it. I didn’t realise that the point to being in another building with other people with broadly the same purpose in life was just about energy. We are just wired to work with others, to cooperate and feed off each other. Some of us (the lucky ones I think), are wired for solitary work and prefer working alone, but I do believe (and feel free to correct me if you think this is wrong), that overall, in order to achieve social and community goals, we are designed to work together, otherwise human civilisation would not have made it this far.

Communal work has another by-product that I also didn’t realise was impossible to synthesise without having a hub of colleagues: a social life. So much of our social life consists of finding various ways to decompress at the end of the week, take stock, and generally find comfort in each other’s shared endeavour.

I’ve never considered work socialising to be real socialising. It always seemed to me just like an extension of work, and so I avoided it as much as I could. Work already takes so much of our time that I didn’t want it to start encroaching on my "real life" time, the time I wasn’t paid for, as well. Home and friends were, to me, things I was yanked away from too often and so I guarded my time with them savagely.

I’m not an introvert, but because what I do is basically think for a living, I became extremely covetous of time when I could switch off and just be. Which meant avoiding work events and people as much as I could outside of clear professional parameters. 

I really regret that. I had the wrong approach. Hanging out with people we work with is not specifically about work. Having the ability to share a common work goal with other people is one of the greatest privileges. To have the ability to embrace those people outside of work and get to know them is not a professional chore, but a huge perk.

I hope we’ll find some balance between the wastefulness of office work and the intimacy of it, because working together is not about work, it’s about life. 

Would you like this newsletter straight in your inbox? Sign up to the newsletter and stay up to date with the Better Politics beat. Subscribe Now!