Updated: Aug 9
On September 10 of this year, I will have officially been employed for 15 years by the company I work for. During this time, I have seen a lot of changes in the workplace. Some are subtle, while others are dynamic. Some were not so good, but I must admit many are lovely. In reflecting, here are some of the changes, what I think about them, and how they created my Work-Life Zen.
DRESS CODE: GOOD
When I started working where I do, our dress code was business casual. We had to wear collared shirts (typically button-ups) and khakis or slacks, and dress shoes. While your boy could rock biz casual, it's still an extra expense because it requires having work clothes and not at-work garments in your wardrobe. Typically, this is an expense that is hard to swallow, especially for recent graduates or someone making a career jump. The only exception was, once a quarter, the company offered a "Jeans Day" where we could pay $5 to wear jeans and a polo (the money was donated to charity.) Then it slightly changed where we could wear jeans if we worked on Saturdays/Sundays. Yipee!
After about 8-9 years, it changed to jeans and t-shirts, as long as they were appropriate. Naturally, a few almost blew it for us all, but it became stable. This went on until about two years before COVID. It was pretty much wear what you want, as long as it was respectable and appropriate. T-shirts and shorts ruled! Work From Home changed the game further. I know because I'm wearing workout clothing.
This was a good change!
CAFETERIA: NOT GOOD
My campus has a cafeteria for those who wish to buy lunch instead of bringing one from home. The first one was called Sebastian's, and it was great! They offered terrific selections from cooked meals to grill food to prepackaged meals. Fresh sushi and homemade key lime pie stand out in my memories.
However, a new vendor replaced them, geared toward healthy eating. A lot of the beautiful selections were replaced or outright eliminated. The prices were scaled too. Healthy foods and portions were significantly price reduced, but non-healthy foods and portions were jacked up. To simply put this, the upgrade wash trash. Not a good change.
Ultimately, this led to me taking my lunches. Not only is it significantly more cost-effective, but the variety and taste also cannot be matched! All it takes is a time investment anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
EXTRACURRICULAR WORKPLACE ACTIVITIES: SHAKY AT FIRST BUT EVENTUALLY GOOD
When I first started, work was work; home was home. I went to work hard, not play. This work ethic fed from the GGs (Greatest Generation) to Boomers to us Xers. However, that first changed as the Millenials were hired in great numbers.
At first, I wouldn't say I liked some of the changes. Our busiest time of the year is January through April, which happens to be tax season. The volume of customer interactions can take a toll on everyone. Our company, always trying to innovate, come up with some new ideas that weren't pizza and snacks. However, these first steps earned my ridicule and scorn.
The first step was to convert some meeting rooms into recreation rooms. Some of them had video game consoles hooked up to the TVs. Ok, fine. However, we also had adult coloring book stations and, on one particular day...stress puppies.
What the fuck?!?!
Eventually, other changes came into the workplace, and they grew on me. We have redesigned sitting areas and meeting rooms, changes to the gym, outdoor spaces, and other cool things. Adjusting took a while, but it made for a happier place. However, despite all these changes...
WORK FROM HOME: THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN PROFESSIONALLY
Nothing will ever be better than working from home. It changed my life as an employee of the company I work for.
What was initially supposed to be 30 days is now on its 823rd day. I couldn't be happier! I'm more productive, have more flexibility, and use almost no PTO for illness for my family or myself. My home office setup is superior to my workspace on campus. I can take classes to finish my degree more quickly. The food and coffee are better, and I no longer have to endure a commute. My work-life balance is perfect right now.
While the COVID pandemic sucked, the silver lining is work from home is the way to go. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to return to the office. We are scheduled for Mandatory return in September at 40 hours/month. Even though I hate having to return, I find this arrangement to be more than fair, even tilted in my favor. It gives me no reason to bitch.
I love the company I work for. It has been fantastic for me, and the benefits I receive are top-notch. My Big Boss, the CEO, is the best Big Boss I have ever worked for. I have no doubt whatsoever that she genuinely cares for all of us. She has been accommodating, generous, and supportive. New ideas and innovations have changed my workplace because of this attitude from the top.
I no longer have to coordinate leaving the office to pick up a sick child from school. I no longer miss my boys' sporting events during the week. I get to fulfill my dream to get a B.A. in English-Creative Writing and perhaps pursue an M.A. in Creative Writing. I spend more time with family while being better at my job. There are opportunities before me that didn't exist two or three years ago. All this happened because the CEO let us work from home and has continued to do so because of its popularity and our increased productivity.
Sadly, the company I work for is under a heavy regulatory environment still set in old ways in many cases. Government entities do not care for corporations or citizens. They only care for control and cash. Because of their archaic way of conducting business and an adverse inflexibility towards change, this great company will likely be forced to pull us back in. Thousands of us will have to make significant, life-altering decisions when that happens.
Work-Life Balance is a delicate thing. It's currently Zen, harmoniously balanced life, a feather on rocks. In the coming months, it may become chaotically unstable. I worry that the cause-effect equation will bring a workplace change that isn't good.