I’ve worked for myself for more than six years now. I didn’t realise it was quite that long (SIX YEARS?!) until just tallying it up for that opening line, but I knew it had been a while.
Working for yourself – especially from home – can feel very isolated at times, but I’ve not always been listening to the washing machine whir about during my six years of invoice chasing fun. I’ve worked in client offices and I’ve had my own offices. I’ve worked within large teams, I’ve worked within tiny teams and I’ve employed staff of my own.
Recently though, I’ve become borderline obsessed with the fantasy of working in an office.
I’ve convinced myself that what my life is really missing is a nervousness about how late to stay at my desk and a symphony of smells from a communal microwave. I want to hear about people’s boring weekends. Loud conversations about TV programmes I don’t watch whilst I’m desperately trying to finish a complicated spreadsheet? PLEASE, have them near me.
Maybe it’s just that it’s been so long since I worked full time in an office that I’ve completely forgotten how awful it can be. I hang on every last word of my friends’ stories of office politics dramaz, feeling like I’m missing out on something brilliant. Becky with the good hair is now Becky with the bad attitude in admin. And I’m obsessed with her.
I’ve had these pangs of desperation to “get a proper job” a few times before, but they’ve tended to be driven by wanting the financial stability of a regular pay check or the desire to have a job that “finishes” when you leave work. I know the latter is ebbing away for most people now thanks to all things mobile, but working for yourself will always involve more hours…even if the hours are tailored more to suit you.
It’s not the money or the (relative) lack of responsibility that seems to be alluring me this time though, I think it’s just the feeling of being in a team. Even if the team hates each other and is all pulling in different directions, there’s still some sense of camaraderie. You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps. (LOL, #officebantz, see you at the pub for a swift one).
Of course I do effectively work in teams all the time thanks to contracts and I really REALLY enjoy this part of my work. I love watching smart people come together to figure stuff out and get things done. Day to day though, the sense of achievement is generally celebrated on your own and whilst Twitter high fives and sanity saving WhatsApps are brilliant, sometimes I think what I’d really like is a bloke from the other side of the office to offer to go out and get Calippos for everyone.
Perhaps that last reference is a good example of how out of touch with office life I’ve become. I remember the Christmas quizzes and impromptu pizzas rather than, say, the suspicious looks when you go to the toilet for more than 30 seconds or the nemesis who pipes up “but I was on the Central Line this morning and I didn’t have any delays”.
I can imagine myself sitting in an interview now…
“So why is it you really want to work here? What do you think you can bring to the company?”
“Well Matthew, you see what I’m really after is lots of chatting. And I’m exceptionally good at chatting”.
Except even as I’m typing this I’m remembering how often I used to leave my buzzy open plan office to sit in a meeting room on my own, desperate to work in silence. I often felt like I was on the brink of a nosebleed, surrounded by shouty Skype calls, ping pong balls and leaky headphones.
I suppose my rose tinted version of office life isn’t dissimilar to when things like Tinder get invented once you’re married and you think it all sounds really charming. I don’t think I’ve ever met a married person who isn’t secretly a bit devvo that they never had the opportunity for their five minutes of fun on Tinder. Give a taken person a phone with Tinder and they’ll swipe on your behalf for days. It doesn’t matter that the single person stares at you blankly wondering what part of their story you didn’t hear to not appreciate that it’s the worst thing to ever happen to dating, you’re a tiny bit jealous because it’s not your life.
It seems only fitting that I’m spending National Freelancers Day wondering if I truly want to be an employee again. But as I look down at my pyjama bottoms and realise I haven’t yet put a bra on, I realise I’m probably safer here at home.
I can put another wash on in a bit. And if I need inane background chat there’s always ITV2.