First day back

Reflections on a late return to the office

Last week was my first day back in my base office in almost two and a half years. Since becoming a father it has been easier and more beneficial for me to be at home, and with my projects all being distant there hasn’t been the drive for me to see the local team.

But I never wanted to be a full-time teleworker. As amazing as it is to spend these formative months with my baby, I miss the hubbub of the office, the harder boundary between work and personal life, and the serendipity of a chance encounter helping to solve a problem.

I’m probably the last office worker in the country to return to the office, but thought it is important I capture my impressions.

How was it? Quieter than I remember, but otherwise the same. Partly this was down to most people now being part-time teleworkers, but also because it’s the middle of the summer holidays and half of my colleagues appear to be on leave at any given time. There were enough people in for my visit to not feel weird.

There are some changes. Our office footprint halved, but most people seem to still sit at their old desks. We’re hot-desking now, but we’re creatures of habit. I’d say that includes me, but I forgot what desk I used to occupy.

Also, very exciting: there’s a shiny new coffee machine, which I’m sure will enrich my working day once I work out how to use it.

It makes me wonder what the future of all of this is. Looking around our building there are a few empty units, and the ones that remain are far from busy. The building is missing its buzz, but it remains to be seen how much of this is holiday-related and how much is long term. Will we eventually get new neighbours?

To end on a positive note, it was great to catch up with some of my office mates, some of whom I haven’t seen in almost 30 months. I don’t normally work with these people so I’ve missed the opportunity to interact at a mostly social level.

It’s great to be back in a place of work again, where I can concentrate on one thing. I have the opportunity to enforce some separation between my work and personal lives. That separation will never be absolute, and nor would I want it to be: the foundation of a strong team is the incorporation of our personal lives into our professional interactions.

Looking forward, I’ll go in more often and try to get some regular days so things are more predictable for my family. It will be nice to get some routine back into my working life.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn

Using What We Have

On keeping notebook collections modest

I bought new pocket notebooks, a rare experience these days. Birthday money doesn’t burn holes in my pocket like it used to, but I still like to spend on analogue products when I can.

One of the key principles for living sustainably is to buy less. With this in mind I try not to buy more than I need and I only buy things that I think I’ll use. In terms of notebooks, this means my pile of “to use” notebooks never gets much more than ten to fifteen books high.

I didn’t used to be this way. I had subscriptions to quarterly releases from Field Notes and others. I chased the new shiny thing. I coveted new rulings and layouts. But as I’ve become more interested in green living I don’t want these things as strongly.

There’s a concept amongst stationery collectors (and other hobbies) known as SABLE, which stands for Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy, i.e. you’ve bought more than you could ever hope to use in your own lifetime. I’ve never been close to SABLE, but I wonder if, for sustainability reasons, it is time to consider another acronym. Just Enough Stationery for Tomorrow, perhaps?

Other things to consider if you want to make your notebook use more sustainable:

Use the good china

We use this phrase in our house to remind us that things are made to be used. You could save certain items for some unspecified future use, or you could enjoy them now.

Imagine the scenario: you die, and whoever gets the job of handling your estate doesn’t even realise how awesome your notebooks are and pitches them

Complete things

And use as much of them as you can. I don’t necessarily mean you have to fill each page with blocks of densely packed, tiny writing, but it stands to reason that if you get more use out of each item you will buy less things

Only buy what you need

This is where I lose the collectors amongst us, but I refer back to my earlier point: these things are made to be used.

Is it right to imprison these books in boxes or cupboards, knowing that the energy, time and materials used to create them was wasted? I like to think of those great notebooks, those ones I could have bought more of, as better fulfilling their purpose out in the world, hopefully in the hands of someone who values them

Buy local

Buy more notebooks manufactured in your own country. This reduces the energy consumption associated with shipping, but also supports your local economy

Buy sustainable

Look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper or recycled paper