So you wanted to do the upcoming work in the office…

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Specifically for the New York Times Infobae.

Marjorie Roberts, who runs a nonprofit in the Florida Keys, started the other morning with a to-do list that ideally would have taken no time. Finding a way to fill in for someone going on summer vacation. (Easy). Check the last audit of the accountant (bah). Reapplying for a refund that was denied by the county finance department (why?!). Everything was very easy.

But in the office – “a hamster’s paradise”, as she calls it – she can’t always do what she wants with her time. Your customers and colleagues spend all day asking you for things.

Often she even ends up doing jobs she isn’t particularly well prepared for. “I come from Systems,” said Roberts, who directs Keys Area Interdenominational Resources. “If the printer freezes, I try to figure it out, google how to fix it, or call my kids or my husband and say, ‘What should I do?’”

At the end of the day, Roberts, like many other people, leaves the office with a to-do list as long as the one he was given when he arrived at the office.

Over the past two decades, companies have reconsidered their office space: some have squeezed into smaller spaces in the face of rising rents; others started an arms race for profits. The fanciest offices have slides, dormitories, laundries, ball pits, and streams of cold beer.

But when more than 50 million people started working from home in March 2020, some discovered a luxury their company couldn’t offer: peace and quiet. Now that executives are tightening their return-to-office policies, workers are finding their days filled with more disruptions. They realized that the workplace is not always the ideal place to work.

“I generally have my responsibilities, but I have to deal with the unexpected,” said Jennifer Choi, who manages finances and operations at a nonprofit arts organization in New York and the four days a week she is in the office, tells her is forced to answer questions about office maintenance, engineering and staffing.

According to pre-pandemic research, office disruptions are not evenly distributed. According to a 2017 article in the American Economic Review, women are more likely than men to be asked to do tasks that don’t promote them and that “everyone would rather have someone else do,” such as B. the coordination of Christmas parties. Women were 48 percent more likely to volunteer for this type of work, and when asked to do so, women agreed 76 percent of the time, compared with 50 percent of men.

All of this means that for some employees, returning to the office will mean more casualties. Someone needs to reset the router. At the end someone orders the birthday cupcakes.

As bosses try to bring employees back into the office, they struggle to reestablish a sense of community without losing the emphasis that is often placed on work when it’s done remotely. Meanwhile, some workers are nostalgic for the quiet they had at home, especially since many of the office changes aimed at bringing employees back often make it harder to focus (for example, one company has put up a climbing wall).

Research tends to support the misconception that people get more done outside of the office. A Stanford University study of a travel agency with 16,000 employees found that call center agents who worked remotely were 13 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts. Another study of 1,600 professionals found they wrote eight percent more code in a work-hybrid format than with a full-time office schedule.

Still, many executives are convinced of the benefits of the office: the opportunities to find mentors, build relationships and brainstorm ideas. Some workers also find it difficult to be productive at home, particularly those with caring responsibilities. Hence, companies go to extreme lengths to keep the office quiet.

Azeema Batchelor, who works at the Wiley Rein law firm in Washington DC, has become addicted to the traffic light system in her office. A ballpoint-tipped wand the size of a pen protrudes from his monitor. When Batchelor needs to focus, he lights up the tip in red. When you’re on the phone, it turns yellow. When she’s ready to chat to people passing through her office, a green light beckons her to her.

Batchelor’s office implemented the colored lighting system this year when employees started coming two or three days a week. The goal is to help them find the balance they want between productivity and casual conversation. For example, the head of Batchelor recently came into her office to discuss a planned training course. The green light was on.

“We started talking about getting back into my exercise routine for the first time since having my second child,” Batchelor said, adding that if the two hadn’t been in the office, the conversation would have been all about work . “He would have emailed me saying, ‘By the way, we’re going to reconfigure the training.’”

Samu Hällfors, an entrepreneur from Finland, was inspired by his own experience of being distracted in the office. Hällfors co-founded a company called Framery in 2010, which manufactures privacy cubicles for offices and has sold more than 75,000 units to date. Framery’s revenue grew to $93 million last year, compared to $83 million in 2020, and the company is on track to hit $150 million this year. Hällfors recalled the frustration of a colleague who once confronted his boss about speaking too loudly into his headset microphone.

“He got up and yelled at our boss, ‘You should go somewhere else; no one can concentrate,’” said Hällfors. “It’s likely he said a few swear words as well.”

Then there’s the business world, which has embraced the office as a place of occasional chaos. At Zline, a home appliance manufacturer based in Reno, Nevada, where employees go five days a week, table tennis is played in the office on Friday afternoons. Sometimes the band made up of a few employees called “Pay per Hour” starts playing and one of the most intrepid employees climbs the company’s climbing wall.

In other words, the office doubles as a summer camp lounge, gym, and recreation room. “This is definitely not like a library,” said Andrew Zuro, the company’s founder.

When Zuro needs to do chores on his own, he typically does it at home in the morning or after his 220 employees leave the office in the afternoon. “It’s often quite noisy,” he says. “It’s pretty crowded here.”

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