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Post-pandemic work disorder



In a shudderingly incomprehensible decision, my organisation called us back to the office. The pandemic was on its way out, said the ill-humoured HR memo, and employees should find their way back in.

On Monday morning, my alarm clock went off at an inhuman (un-rooster too) hour. Especially cruel since, as usual, I’d watched all eight episodes of a web series the previous night – how else could I sleep without knowing who the murderer finally was? In the punishing morning light, my clothes confessed to having shrunk two sizes, and my shoes, in a reciprocal sulk, staged a sole-cracking performance worthy of a tennis superstar. My leather bag had meanwhile been entertaining on the sly and I counted three different specimens of fungus it had cohabited with. There may have been five – my eyes are only used to screens that glare back now.

On the street, it was car-eat-car survival of the loudest. Traffic snarled. People too. Life was back on the edge – of my seat. I walked the last mile to save time.

Adrenalin-pumped and raring to get back to the peak of professionalism, I arrived in the office an hour late for the morning meeting. It didn’t matter because I recognised no one without their pretty zoom backgrounds of glossy bookshelves. It was quite unsettling to finally see each other’s legs too. My boss had experienced a Eureka moment: realising that he had spent his entire career pursuing the ephemeral glitter of materialism, he had retired to an island to teach fish to talk. The org too had a Eureka moment and had fired everyone and replaced them with youngsters, barely out of diapers, who spoke in LOLs.

Yet, the lockdown had taught me to grab the free pleasures and to shake the tree of life with both hands. Unfortunately, even after shaking and slapping it around, the coffee machine refused to spout out free coffee. I drew in a deep breath (diaphragm breathing and 23 other online lockdown courses) – and almost passed out. The office smelt of enough sanitizer to induce an alcohol-fumed coma.

Unfazed, I dived right back into work. I called various friends to tell them I was back at work. I checked YouTube videos on readjusting to work. I joined online therapy groups on back-to-work syndrome. I even discussed it with the LOLers over a lengthy three-course lunch, after which I needed my usual two-hour nap. Bone-tired, I fell asleep in the cab on the way home.

I mailed HR that getting back to office had been exhausting and applied for the next week off to recover. The instant auto response said I didn’t work in the org anymore, LOL! It was signed by a fish who talked.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 4:20:33 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/post-pandemic-work-disorder/article65341094.ece