The ups and downs of daily office life
By Caroline Ho, Assistant Editor
If you’d asked me 10 years ago what I thought of a nine-to-five office job, I probably would have said it sounded boring and soul-crushing as hell. Yet here I am, happily one year into my first full-time “adult” job—one that’s about as blandly white-collar as can be.
In my non-Other Press day job, I work Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm, as an administrative assistant in an office of about a dozen people. My ambitious, fuck-the-system younger self is probably shaking her head in disappointment at how comfortable and content I am. I certainly had hesitations at first about taking this position. My previous jobs were all in the realm of retail and fast food, and I worried I’d miss the energy of being on my feet interacting with people all day.
Major perk: I do have a desk—my own large, comfortable desk to personalize as I see fit, not just a cramped and musty employee locker. My office desk has turned out to be a much-needed bedrock in the past year, in fact. I’ve had to move multiple times in the past several months, so my desk has become a lot more familiar and stable than my living situation. With many of my possessions being shuffled unceremoniously from one moving box to the next, I have truly appreciated being able to pile up an ever-increasing number of cardigans in my corner of the office. The office coffee machine and fridge are, of course, also great sources of comfort and reliability.
The regularity of office hours is one aspect I didn’t think I’d enjoy nearly as much as I do. Five days straight of work every week, stuck in the same environment every day, with just two days off to recharge before starting the same grind over again? I’d grown accustomed to years of erratically timed college classes interspersed with part-time retail shifts, a schedule that completely rearranged itself every four months with each new semester. I thought I needed the thrice-yearly total shakeup to keep life from growing stale.
Indeed, there is a certain looming incessancy to having essentially zero flexibility in my working hours. Holidays no longer bring with them the promise of a fresh timetable, but rather only an extra day or two of respite from the same old, same old. In addition, a “normal” schedule means that my main time to run errands—after work and on weekends—is spent competing with the hordes of other nine-to-fivers.
However, I’ve grown to love the consistency of my hours. Turns out planning things more than a week and a half in advance is simpler when I’m not worrying that management will scoff at a requested evening off—or conveniently forget about my request. I’m also lucky enough that my company never requires me to stay late, so I get to go home at 4:30 every day, which I know isn’t nearly the case for every office job. Even waking up at 6:30 each morning is a perk—it gives me an excuse to go home at night and stop pretending to socialize past 10 pm.
In a lot of ways, I’ve found office life to fulfill all the most mundane and sometimes monotonous expectations. Yes, I habitually worry that I’m wasting my time here, that I’m selling out to a corporate and classist dream, and that my life is amounting to nothing outside of these regulated hours that I have signed away.
At the end of the day, however, I’m surprisingly satisfied with my nine-to-five life. I absolutely see how this type of employment is not for everyone though. The repetitiveness, the unchanging environment, the utter banality—I expect it would lose its charm very quickly for some.
All in all, I’ve found myself enjoying office life a lot more than I would have imagined 12 months ago. I don’t know if I’d be content here forever, years down the line, but at this stage in my life it’s exactly the routine I need.
Perhaps I have traded my soul away to the system. But at least I have a desk—my own large, comfortable desk.