“What do I need to prepare for lunch at work?” was the thought going through my mind the other night, as I walked around the supermarket. After three years of mostly working from home, I’m back in the office full-time for the next month or so.
As I walked up and down the aisles, I was looking for some meals I could easily heat or “assemble”. I was keen to avoid getting back into the routine of spending a lot of money every day on coffee and takeaway meals. Both are easy routines to fall back into.
The other thing that’s concerned me about returning to the office is my increasing “social exhaustion”. I’d never heard the phrase “social exhaustion” until recently, as I sought solutions to prevent and recover from the “tiredness” I often feel after face-to-face catchups.
By nature, I’m an “introvert”, which I “discovered” about twenty years ago when I did one of those “Myers-Briggs” tests. It’s been very useful in my career to understand that extroverts usually like to “talk things through”, and introverts like to absorb the information and then “think it through themselves”. A total generalisation, of course, but still pretty relevant.
When we did the tests, I remember a significant number of senior managers I worked with at the time were also “introverts”.
How can that be, we all wondered, how can people working in radio be introverts? We concluded that it was because people who work in radio are generally sitting in a room by themselves speaking to just one person, on the telephone or face to face, unlike actors or people on television who are more inclined to “perform”.
The learning we all took away was that we had to work hard on our social interactions, to overcome our inherent introverted nature. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career.
But after a long period of time living alone, and the last three years working alone, I’ve realised lately I’m out of practice.
Of course, “social exhaustion” pre-dated COVID-19, but there’s a lot of evidence it’s
worsened during the pandemic, according to lots of articles I’ve read.
The advice I’ve read has concentrated on the need to “prepare” for social interactions. You need to play out some of the conversations and scenarios beforehand, and afterwards, you need to make a moment to “recover”.
After two days in the office, I’m still coming home and feeling quite tired. But I’m also “gearing up” for the next few weeks by accepting lots of invitations.
Mardi Gras and World Pride were a good start to things. And then on Saturday night, I caught up with Matthew (who reads this blog) and his partner. A lovely evening, Matthew. Great to meet Alex, and catch up for the first time in ages!! I’ve accepted a dinner date for Wednesday night. And I’m also going along to the opening night of the Sydney Writers Festival, an event that’s likely to involve lots of standing around and small talk.
Though I realise this blog can sometimes seem like an endless round of social interactions, most nights I’m sitting at home by myself, listening to music.
Maybe this will be the start of the next phase of my life? Getting out and about again?