Working in an office vs. working from home

If you asked me before the pandemic and baby if I would ever consider a fully remote role, I would have given you a grossed out look and said I never would consider it. Why would I want to be alone all day? I’m a social person. I love seeing and talking to people all day long. I love having that comraderie and driving office culture. I love the free lunch (well, I used to have that), snacks (hehe), office supplies, and all the other little freebies and perks that go along with working at a tech company. But once the pandemic came, Pookster was born, and pumping breast milk became part of my life, my perspective on working from home and having that level of flexibility totally changed.

Now that pumping is over, I still feel conflicted about working in an office once again. It’s not that I have the opportunity to given my current company has no New York City office, but the thought at this moment really does not entice me at all: the commuting, the dressing/getting ready every morning, not having as much flexibility with my own non-work life. I don’t have anyone keeping tabs on me to see when I am coming in, going out for breaks, or leaving for the day. There are no spies watching or reporting back to some losers who care. There’s no office gossip. Going into an office every day feels very… ugh. I got this question a lot while at kickoff last week, and my general answer is… no, I don’t want to be in an office again. I’m happy with what I am doing now and the flexibility I have.

Mental health advocate – the emotional labor of fundraising for suicide prevention

I generally am pretty open about my brother’s death. I openly share that he died ten years ago, and that he died from suicide. Well, I kind of have to be open if I am fundraising for an organization called the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and I say that I fundraise in memory and honor of my big brother. There’s really no way to get around that, is there?

I’ve been very fortunate and privileged in all these years fundraising. Family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, acquaintances, even totally random strangers who have never met me in real life have donated money to my fundraising drive because they’ve been touched by Ed’s story and my desire to share it. Many of the people who have donated have donated year after year, since year 1. They don’t have to do it, but they do. But part of the reason I know so many people donate is because of how much detail and information I share regarding how Ed died and how he suffered. And so with all that detail means that people do have a sense of what I went through, and they then feel like they can openly share their own struggles, whether it’s with themselves or their loved ones, with me. And while I feel privileged that they feel they can come to me to share their most personal, vulnerable stories… it’s honestly a lot of emotional labor and burden for me. I’m then associated with mental health and suicide prevention in their minds, and so I’m someone they they feel comfortable sharing with when no one else “gets it.” I “get it,” right, because I lost Ed through suicide. So I’ll “get it” with my colleagues.

So I sat there and listened to a few stories of struggles of friends, family members, and children over the last couple of days at SSKO. And while it was touching to be remembered and thought of, it was also… tiring. It was already tiring to be around 400 of my colleagues nonstop for two days since I work from home, but then to add this additional layer of emotional labor just left me feeling beat. I like it when people come up to me to share what new food they’ve tried or made because they were inspired by me; that gives me energy. Having these conversations around mental health and suicide attempts, while I hope they are helpful… they drain me. I want to help, it feels good to help. But it’s definitely exhausting. Everything has its price.

Thoughts after layoff number I-can’t-even-count

On Monday, the company I have been working at for about 2.5 years had a layoff. Ten percent of my colleagues got let go. This company, in its entire 13-year history of existence, had never had a reduction in force before. And it was pretty obvious one was coming: we didn’t hit our Q4 numbers, spend has been pulled way back, especially on work travel. I was just waiting for when it was going to happen… and wondering if I would be impacted. Our CEO gave a cryptic nod to it on Sunday night, and then on Monday morning, he announced on Slack that there would be a layoff later in the day: if you were impacted, you’d get an email within 10 minutes of the all-hands meeting ending. If you were not impacted, you would get a calendar invitation to the all-hands meeting the next day. So after the meeting ended and we all got off Zoom, we sat there for ten minutes, wondering if we’d get cut. As a defense mechanism, once I saw the Slack message in the morning, I had just assumed I would get laid off. Because… if I assume the worst, then I couldn’t possibly get too upset, right?

I guess that’s how I deal with layoffs now. Because I’ve gotten laid off twice before, fired once (yep), and every single company I’ve ever worked at has had endless layoffs where was unlucky and “lucky,” I always just assume the worst. I cannot even count how many layoffs I’ve seen happen across the last 15 years I’ve spent working full-time; I’ve lost track. I feel sorry for the people who think that their individual contributions are so great that they couldn’t possibly get selected. That type of naivete should only exist if you’re super inexperienced and in your early 20s; after that, that type of thinking is just flat out stupid and ignorant. We’re all disposable. Even the CEO of a company is at the hands of their board or shareholders. At the end of the day, we are all just a number.

Was I happy I wasn’t affected? Obviously. Who wants to look for a new job in this miserable environment where pretty much every company is reducing its staff and cutting everywhere? But I honestly just felt numb in general. There’s really no such thing as “job security” anymore, anywhere.

“How was your weekend?” “Awful, thanks for asking”

I had a call with a colleague of mine on a separate team. He knew I was out sick the last two days. He asked me what had happened and how the weekend was, so I point blank just told him everything. We also had some annoying topics to discuss regarding customers, so all in all, it wasn’t the most uplifting conversation ever. But we both joked about it and he said, “well, I’m not used to seeing this animated version of Yvonne, but I can take it!”

Even when things really suck, and when all you can see is that dog meme, the one of the dog with the house burning around him, saying “This is fine,” I still try to inject humor into it all. Because at the end of the day, your disposition is a choice. You don’t really always get to choose your circumstances, but you do choose your attitude about it at the end of the day. And if you can’t laugh about dumb things that happen, then what are you going to laugh about?

Impending recession and potential layoffs

Even when we haven’t been in a recession, my dad has always complained that we’ve been in a recession for as long as I can remember, as far back as I can remember, So, you can imagine what it is like when there actually IS a recession happening, and what the general negativity and tone is like from my parents. My mom has been calling me the last several days, but I haven’t been calling her back because by the time I remember to, it’s either too late and I’m tired, and the last person I want to talk to when I’m really exhausted is my mom because she will probably say something to annoy me, and then I’ll just have to cut her off. So I waited until I finished work yesterday afternoon to call her back. Of course, she asked how my job was going and if I thought any layoffs were going to happen. She’s nervous we’re all going to lose our jobs. But then again, it’s my mom: she needs to be nervous and worry about SOMETHING, anything. She will just grab anything that could be a potential scare. But to be fair, the news has been endless when it comes to all the tech and financial companies laying off now. Most of these companies do not even need to lay people off; they’re just doing it preemptively or because other big wigs are doing it, which is even more fun for employees.

The truth is.. I’ve gotten laid off so many times now that I generally have become numb to it. I no longer take it personally. Sure, it sucks in the moment and in the 24 hours after that. But then, you get over it and move on. I realize it’s just a game of chances and luck. Sometimes, sure, I could have probably played the politics game more at work, but because I don’t care to, I realize that anything could happen to me. I’m just another employee, another number, and when people finally come to terms with this and realize that they aren’t “special,” they won’t be so hard on themselves when they lose their job in a layoff. Some people have been lucky and have never experienced what it’s like to get laid off in their career. That’s great for them. But once it’s happened to you, and has happened a number of times, you just kind of get jaded. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, and sometimes even how little you work — it’ll probably happen to you sooner or later. So because of this, there’s really little reason to worry. It’s perhaps too logical, but we should not worry about things totally out of our control. And given all my past experiences, I know that if I were to get laid off, I’d eventually find something else and just continue life. Life moves on. Pretty much no one stays at one company their entire career anymore.

Mental energy exertion during in-person meetings

For the next two days, I’ll be onsite with customers for multiple-hours long meetings. Today, I was onsite with a customer for 2.5 hours, and I felt completely, mentally drained after that. First, I was already feeling out of practice with getting ready for the meeting in the superficial sense- deciding what to wear, how to style my hair, etc. Then, while onsite, I realized, in real time, how much more exhausting it is to be in person in real life with customer meetings than to be on the same meeting via a Zoom call. There is something about being in person that feels so exhausting and draining now that it makes me wonder if going back to a regular cadence of in-person meetings is even feasible or enjoyable for me at this point in time. With the world opening up more and companies looking at the current time as an “endemic” rather than a “pandemic,” more in-person meetings will be expected. And well, it’s part of my actual job description — to meet customers and build relationships. But with three years working from home and having very limited in-person customer contact, I feel a bit out of it. It was fun in some ways to be onsite again and have that type of interaction, as having in-person interactions is obviously a lot more real and stimulating, but I can’t help but admit it was just tiring. I passed out pretty quickly this evening and will likely do the same after tomorrow’s all-afternoon long meeting, as well.

Two in-person meetings back to back next week

Wow. Almost three years after the pandemic began, I actually have two customer meetings, two days in a row, in New York next Wednesday to Thursday. I’m having lunch with colleagues both days before being onsite the rest of the afternoon with customers. I kind of got thrown into this quite quickly, but was fine to go since I haven’t done this in so long. Wednesday’s meeting is also territory I am not quite used to: pre-sales meetings. I rarely attend these, but was happy to be asked to go to this one since I’m local, and it would be good to do something new for once. Also, I cannot even believe some level of normalcy has started with work travel again. The next question I have in my mind is: what the heck am I going to wear, and am I completely out of practice with how to even do in-person customer meetings? Plus, it’s winter, so I have to dress warmly and look good and professional. Talk about all the things I never thought much about pre-pandemic that I actually have to think about now!

The Monday after Thanksgiving: when no one wants to work

I had two meetings scheduled today: one was at 9am and external, while the second one was at 1:30pm and internal. The external meeting got cancelled, and the internal meeting still happened. It was just a 1:1 with someone I got assigned to help onboard onto our team. She said almost all her meetings got cancelled today or people said they were out sick, so she decided to forgo wearing makeup. “Sure, everyone’s sick! How convenient!” she laughed.

Motivation to work after a long time away from work is really hard. It’s almost like both your mind and your body are dragging, wondering why you have to be back at work when instead, your trip could have just gone longer. But I guess that’s why people take advantage of “sick” days! But I guess we all need something to jolt ourselves back into action to prevent from being lazy and not accomplishing anything.

Either way, it’s hard to not do anything when you have a young baby who is completely dependent on you to raise. Kaia still has to eat, so I still have to prep food for her. That’s my real work now.

First work dinner since pre-COVID

My company is hosting a small networking dinner at the swanky, trendy Polo Bar in Manhattan this Thursday evening. It’s a spot where apparently celebrity sightings are normal, and it’s difficult to get a reservation. I got invited, as there was an extra spot, and I’m sure the team thought it would be good to have a non-sales, non-white, non-male person represent the company. So I agreed to come. I also thought it would be nice to go to a work event after almost three years. But I realized that I am totally out of practice with going to any type of work or networking event, and even something as simple as how to dress for one.

Throwing on a dress is the easiest thing, but I also have to think about slightly adjusting my pumping schedule to accommodate getting to the restaurant. I also have to think about my outfit overall, my makeup, my hair — all the things I never think much about when I am on a Zoom call where people can pretty much just see my face and my neck. I’ll have to “talk shop,” but I hope this will be a good event to make work a bit more normal in a type of an endemic.

When baby Kaia comes to the office

It’s amazing what a baby at an office does. Chris dropped Kaia off at my office at around midday, and when I could barely get the third floor doors open to our office, an entire group of about 15-20 Korean-speaking, female visitors descended upon her, cooing and making baby sounds, playing peekaboo with her, and gushing over how cute she was. Then, our CEO came over and started gushing over how sweet she looked. When I rolled her stroller over to the lunch area, all my teammates gathered around her to admire how sweet and well-behaved she was. One of my colleagues was so obsessed with her that she held her for what felt like ages, and after a little crying and fussing, Kaia felt comfortable with her, too. Some colleagues warned that we may have a babynapper on our hands…

Babies can soften even the hardest, most serious people. Some colleagues who I never thought would care about any baby took a liking to her and tried to interact with her. And Kaia is clearly good in office environments, as she barely cried at all and just seemed to want to stare at everyone (and eat all their lunches, too). I had pre-ordered a falafel salad for lunch, and while chatting with some colleagues, I could not get her to stop trying to grab my plate of falafels! I’m proud that she’s so interested in food, but still do not want her exposed to too much salt too early on.

As we left the office and went back to the hotel, I felt so happy to finally have met all my colleagues, been at a “real office,” and had my colleagues meet Kaia. I kept looking down at her giggly, smiley face, thinking how lucky I am to be a working mother — her working mother. Each moment with her is like a gift to me. While I have many colleagues who are now pregnant with their first or second child and complaining about it, and I get why they are complaining, I’ve never once complained about being pregnant with her or having her because I will always remember my road to have her was not an easy one. I don’t for a second take any of it for granted. And while working does take me away from her, I always remember why I am working — it’s to make sure she’s taken care of and is comfortable and has everything she needs.