Mornings before work, I walk my dog around my Fairfax neighborhood. May is a delightful time to be in the Washington, D.C suburbs. Yes, in part because of its gentle breezes accompanying 70° weather and in part because of the last of the cherry blossoms falling from their branches like snow, but also because of the smells. Creeping phlox, and American wisteria, and my favorite, honeysuckle, combine to create a specific perfume, a sweet, whimsical smell that excitedly whispers, “Spring is a time to celebrate life!”
After more than a year of working from home, I’ve come to appreciate the nature I would normally breeze by on my way to and from work. Quieted highway traffic has provided space for a bald eagle to move into the longleaf pine outside my home office window. Doves swoon over each other several branches below. Squirrels play chase, a game that endlessly torments my dog. From the outside, the window upon which she splays her paws mutes her persistent barking.
It’s not just my dog and me spending our days in the home office. My husband, for one, is a fellow mgm employee, seated across from me to share our two-person desk. Other mgmies are spread across Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Richmond. We’re separated by distance but not from each other.
A handful of employees continue to come into the office a few times a week, but most days, most or all D.C. employees work from home. In the morning, project-focused employees meet to give updates on their project progress. They share their accomplishments from the previous day’s work and discuss what needs to get done in the coming hours.
On Thursdays in the late afternoon, the office comes together as a team. Garrett—my aforementioned husband and office manager—shares the latest news about COVID regulations. Virginia’s laws have been in flux over the past year; masks are still mandatory both inside and out, disinfectant is required daily for all desk surfaces, and nudges to get vaccinated are as unrelenting as cooking site pop-up ads.
Vaccination is a persistent topic at those Thursday meetings. Most of our office employees have received at least their first shot, and we represent the range of vaccinations available (most commonly Pfizer, but also Moderna and Johnson & Johnson). We eagerly await the day when the rest of our international company has access to the vaccines as well.
Working from home has meant getting a little creative with office activities. A particularly memorable one from early in the pandemic was through a company called Yaymaker. With our instructor over video chat on one side and a canvas on the other, we learned how to paint cherry blossoms covered in snow with acrylics. Another event was far less wholesome; the team got together to play Among Us, a computer game inspired by the live party game Mafia. Our senior IT architect revealed himself to be the sneakiest—and most devious—of all of us.
The question remains open: when will we return to the office and what will that look like for us? We’ve begun discussing reopening in June or July, depending on changing state regulations, but no one expects the office to be as it once was. We may blend work-from-home time and in-office time. And we may keep our weekly Thursday meetings. As we figure it out, as most offices do, we’re prioritizing the employee and customer experience. For me that means still getting my morning walks in, dog barking in tow, and enjoying the small silver lining of reawakened nature in COVID’s wake.