Friday, 27 Nov 2020

Opinion | We’re Friends at the Office. Remember the Office?

To the Editor:

Re “We Miss In-Person Work Friends” (Op-Ed, Oct. 23):

Ashley Fetters’s article about missing the in-person interaction with co-workers is right on target. I’d add one more thing to what’s missing: diversity. Outside of our schools, what better place than the workplace to learn about others whose color is different, whose culture and religion are different, whose sexual orientation is different, whose views are different?

The sickness of divisiveness can be cured only if we see one another as human beings, all wanting the same things. The workplace provides that opportunity, around the conference table, the lunch counter and the water cooler.

Helen Morik
Bronx

To the Editor:

I miss being in the same room as my students, especially the direct eye contact that’s so automatic in a classroom and so difficult on Zoom. I miss the demarcation between office and non-office time that commuting afforded me. I miss the family and friends I haven’t seen in more than seven months.

I know that I’m among the lucky ones, with a home and food on the table and fulfilling work to keep me busy and a partner to share all this with. But Ashley Fetters’s article reminded me how much I miss those “weak ties” that are actually among the most resilient.

Rosa Oppenheim
New York
The writer is a professor at Rutgers Business School.

To the Editor:

I agree with Ashley Fetters about missing direct interaction with work friends. I am doing a virtual oral history project on life during the pandemic in my state, Kentucky, and I have heard this heartfelt feeling of loss many times in my interviews.

One other thing that really stands out about this dwindling of in-person contacts, and not just in the workplace, is the loss of physical touch. No hugs, handshakes or other encouraging touches has been something very difficult for people to bear, especially the many who live alone. It is the one question I ask that will often cause people to dissolve into tears when they are responding.

Peggy Cummins
Louisville, Ky.

To the Editor:

Ashley Fetters expressed it all for me. A state lobbyist in New Jersey, I am lucky to have two sets of work friends: one in my office in Trenton, and one in the New Jersey Statehouse. Until my office shut down in March, I didn’t realize just how much my social needs were fulfilled by my work friends.

In September, I got to see some of my Statehouse work friends when I attended some outdoor fund-raisers and testified at a legislative hearing. Although it felt good at the time, it has made me more keenly feel the absence of something I took for granted. I talk and Zoom with my office colleagues, but it’s just not the same. I do feel lonely. I miss the camaraderie and the casual conversations that took place.

I used to love working from home, and wished that I could do it frequently. Now I can’t wait until the pandemic has passed and I can return to the office and the Statehouse. I might not even complain about the traffic on the way there.

Francine Pfeffer
Skillman, N.J.

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