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‘Your second family and the proper bants’: beware of the over-familiar employer

by Erin Lindsay
03rd Sep 2020

Post-Covid, are we really going to return to pretending that an office is like a second home?

“Caffeine-filled air… the boss’s jokes… hearing buzzwords”. If you had to choose my least favourite things about office life, these would definitely be up there. But for some reason, they’re being used as bait by the London Underground to lure the city’s workers back to the grind.

Spotted at Euston station this week, Twitter user @helloalegria posted a snap of the advertisement while waiting for the tube, saying “they are gagging for us to return to the office”. The thousands of replies agreed with @helloalegra’s incredulity, with many laughing at the blatant disconnect with reality.

Having had to work from home for the past six months, there are definitely things I miss about life in the real working world. We’ve all been deprived of human connection for too long, deprived of the seemingly menial activities that make up our days and make us feel real. I absolutely miss being in the office — I miss getting out into the world in general. What I do not miss is ‘plastic plants’, ‘taking a lift’, or, the most gag-inducing, ‘proper bants’. And I fear for the world post-Covid that will assume that these things ignite joy in me and other workers.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if an employer refers to your office as a ‘family’, it’s a cause for concern. You can like your co-workers, you can be loyal to them, you can be passionate about your job and want to do the best you can. But ‘family’ — a safe space that loves me for all that I am, where I can completely relax and unwind, and where there is no mention of labour of any kind — certainly doesn’t fit the bill.

It’s lovely that a business wants you to feel that way when you walk through reception every day, but more often than not, it’s also a way to emotionally manipulate you into spending more time and energy on a job than is really necessary. That uncomfortably trapped vibe is what emanates from this advertisement, and it’s got me concerned about what working life is going to be like post-Covid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of businesses have shown understanding, compassion and flexibility to their employees that they may have never shown before. Remote working is the new normal, or at least, it’s accepted as a viable alternative to an office desk. We have more freedom to work in a way that suits us. But as society opens back up and tries to cope with living alongside Covid, the mixed messages are becoming confusing.

Both here and in the U.K, we’re bombarded with messages to stay home where possible, to socially distance, to reduce your social circle as much as possible for the safety of yourself and others. But we’re also sending our kids back to school, encouraging people to spend locally to boost the economy, and, as the ad suggests, being excited about returning to the trudge of commuting and buying overpriced lunches.

An office can be a space of creativity, of friendship, of achievement and success. That’s the space I want to return to. But ‘proper bants’ with ‘my second family’? I’ll give it a miss.

Featured image: @helloalegria on Twitter

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