One of the discussions we had in our MBA class for Integral Human Development was the question, “Which forms of well-being are being nurtured at work?”
In my mind, work is still a physical space, and only three weeks ago, it was.
Let me tell you my story.
When I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Communication Arts, I wasn’t very specific about how I wanted my workplace to be. It was a cramped office in Ortigas, with a job that was not so great (imagine writing 4,500 words per day!) and a pantry that could barely fit four people.
View from the top…ish.
However, my fond memories of working at that office mainly came from the set of friends I have gotten to know over time. I’d say it was an environment very similar to what I got out of college.
Fast forward to 2012, and I was working at a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company. It was stable, with badges to access specific office spaces and a large pantry that can fit most people on site. The seating and interior design were comfortable, albeit spartan, but it did focus on efficiency and surveillance, as there were cameras everywhere.
My workspace, circa 2012
My way of nurturing relationships happens mostly outside the workplace, as BPOs are more focused on efficiency and productivity, or at least that’s what I felt in the early 2010s. There’s always a way to cut waste, eliminate costs, and ensure that people’s work is maximized at these workspaces.
In 2014, I moved to a startup company; as the name implies, it was a very vibrant and young workplace. Free-flowing beer and coffee were open for everyone’s taking, and weekly parties on-site made dinner plans less troublesome.
2015—and still is
In this setup, we spent most of our time at work. The office had lockers and a shower, which you can use when pulling an all-nighter. However, it would soon dawn on everyone that these workspaces are designed to make employees stay at the office longer. Therefore, social relationships and bonds are established at the office.
My last on-site work was in a commercial district, where almost all advertising and media agencies in the Philippines hold office. It was a cross between my 2012 and 2014 workplaces, which come from opposite sides of the spectrum. Then the pandemic hit, and I’ve been working—and studying—from home for the past year and a half.
Home has been the most rewarding workspace for me. I spend enough time at work, but I can only choose to stay at the workplace if needed. Social bonds are a mix of work friends and friends I have earned along the way.
Working from anywhere
Despite the threats of COVID-19, some workplaces want workers to return to the office. However, any chance of that happening with me is impossible, as I’ve recently resigned and taken on a project management position headquartered in the US, operating in India. I am the only employee out of Manila.
I thought long and hard about this decision. My workplaces from previous years are physical spaces that foster professional relationships and even friendships that go beyond the workplace. I will miss the early morning congregation at the pantry and even the overbooking of meeting rooms! I thought that to be productive, one has to have a workspace that represents them and the organization that they belong to. You can’t blame me for overthinking—as most of my professional career has been exclusively working on-site for the past few years.
COVID-19 was a real game-changer. It put a different perspective on what is a productive space. It means I can train myself to work anywhere and be productive on my own terms. I can also take this mobility and use it to my advantage.
It’s been barely three weeks, but I don’t think I’ll regret this decision anytime soon. There are a lot of memories and stories that workplaces help us in our ways of thinking and doing, but having the freedom to choose what works best for you is liberating.
I know that this is not a choice everyone should be making, but one thing’s for sure—you can nurture your way into your workplace.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, DLSU. He can be reached at [email protected].
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.