Do you remember when the commute to work used to drive you nuts? I do. I remember driving north on I-75 and cursing the construction (still happening) and the crazy drivers darting around me. How was I never going fast enough?
But then COVID-19 happened. The freeways emptied. The commute was no longer. All of a sudden Friday meant nothing special anymore. Gone were the days when the tradition of looking forward to the weekend was obsolete. Friday was just like any other day. I didn’t have big plans to go downtown, or try a new restaurant that just opened, or Lyft to Hamtramck for a shot and a Zywiec beer. Somehow, I found myself strangely MISSING the commute and the ritual of it all.
After a few months went by and I was crawling out of my skin working at my dining room table with my two hairless cats swarming me, we got word that we were going to reopen our TechTown coworking space. Some of us sighed in relief, some of us paused in fear but all of us were uncertain what it was going to look like during Covid.
The early days here were strange. Implementing mask protocols was awkward. Following the arrows on the floor to lower foot traffic felt foreign. I still can’t get used to the sneeze guard windows that envelop my dedicated desk. But then something occurred. I was talking with a coworking member about something so trivial and he sighed heavily mid conversation. We made eye contact and he declared, “I’m sorry, but this just feels so good to be shooting the shit with someone again.” And I understood because I felt the same way. It had been over a year since I had seen this coworking member and it turns out he had been feeling stir crazy too. He was missing that same damn commute.
And here we are. The pandemic is hanging on. The masks are still being worn, the arrows are finally gone but the sneeze guards are here to stay. I sit next to Juan-Carlos of Featherstone every day. We ask how each other’s doing and sometimes we’re both not doing great, while other days (Fridays in particular) there’s a shared lightness between us. Neither of us really know what each other is working on, but we both have been busy and probably both have felt bogged down at times. But his team is growing and it’s exciting to see. And our occupancy rate is going up at TechTown. When I started in my position as the Membership Supervisor, I am going to be honest—I really didn’t know what I was doing. I really didn’t know how I was going to sell the space. And yet, we are at 94% occupancy and I only have 3 small private offices left to advertise to potential tenants. It feels good.
Yesterday I came into work and counted the number of members just on our first floor. There were 20. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but it is! People were collaborating, laughing and moving around. I saw our CEO Ned do three laps on the first floor just to clear his head! I guess it isn’t just me or a few others—more are missing that commute.
The idea of working from home was bound to happen—it simply had to. Parents needed it, workers deserve the flexibility, and the CEOs finally had to accept and embrace it. Working from home isn’t going away and I don’t want it to. But I can tell you this—it’s not made for everyone, especially me and all of the other members I see here. We missed human interaction, we missed working together (in person) and we needed the space away from our dining room table. I can confess that I’m looking forward to 4pm today because it’s Friday. And because I have dinner plans with friends and I’m dreaming about that patio in downtown Berkley and the pizza place. I’m even looking forward to dodging the crazy drivers.
It all still matters.