Working a typical 9-5 job in an office is often feared and dreaded, with good reason. Offices contain the stuff of nightmares, such as cubicles, fluorescent lights, unenthusiastic employees and tyrannical bosses. The general unpleasant reputation of offices makes it easy to forget that there can be good things about working 9-5… and if you decide to leave the rat race and start working on your own, there are some things that you’ll appreciate even more after having had the experience of working in an office.
1. Free time.
Working in a rigidly structured environment will make you realize exactly how much free time you used to have (and currently do not have). Commuting back and forth to work, getting up in time to make the commute and spending most of your day at the office eats into quite a bit of your time; when you’re working at an office, you treasure every second you’re not there. If, on the other hand, you have previously worked in an office but don’t any longer, then you most likely don’t view your free time the same way that you did before. You realize how little there is of it and how lucky you are to have more of it, and desperately cling to every scrap of it that comes your way.
After spending most of your life wearing whatever you want, it kind of sucks when you have to spend every day wearing things you’d normally never wear, which are sometimes also uncomfortable. Having an office job make you appreciate sweatpants even more.
3. Not commuting.
No one realizes just how much commuting is necessary on a daily basis until they actually have to do it. Unless you’re one of those lucky people who live 10 minutes away from their office, commuting is a black hole that sucks up all of your available time and makes you even more stressed out than your job does. Once you finally get to stop commuting, you are insanely grateful.
4. Retirement accounts.
Like commuting, few people really think about retirement accounts until they have to deal with them. After you’ve opened one up and started contributing money to it, however, you can never forget that it’s there. You can never un-see the warnings about how much you should be contributing, what kind of account you should have and when you’ll be able to retire. And you’re so thankful that you were forced to open a retirement account, because you have more money now than before you opened that account.
5. Paid sick days and holidays.
Paid days off are a gift from the gods. For those who have never experienced them before, having them is great; at first, a paid sick day seems kind of shitty because you’re sick, but wait! You get to stay home and get paid for it! It’s actually awesome! And sure, holidays are often more stressful than relaxing, but you’re getting paid for it! Hurray! If you’ve one of those people that used to work in a traditional office environment and then branched out into freelance work — i.e., you no longer get those glorious paid sick days and holidays — you become even more grateful, because you realize how much it completely and utterly sucks not to get paid when you want a day off.
Even if you don’t want to spend all your time at the office, it’s still nice to know that you have friends there. Work life is much easier when you’re surrounded by people that you like, respect and can talk to. You’ll definitely be grateful for your coworkers when you have them — and if you leave the office environment, working from home on your own will probably feel weird.
7. Learning how to be professional.
Recent college graduates know that they have little to no actual experience, but if they have any office experience at all, they already have a leg up, especially when it comes to behavior. Working in a professional environment with people who know how to act and expect you to act that way, too, will leave you with valuable skills you’ll be using for probably the rest of your life.
People usually always bring food into offices, especially around holidays or when they’re feeling guilty about something. These foods are usually baked goods. Birthdays take it to a whole new level, because there is usually a huge cake, and the more people you work with, the more birthdays there will be throughout the year. More people = more birthdays = more cake. When you leave the office life, you have to sacrifice a few things, like cake and the opportunity to spend a whole afternoon celebrating someone’s birthday.
9. Sleeping on your own terms.
Once you enter the rigid cycle of working 9-5, your sleep schedule will be really constrained. Not tired? You have to go to bed anyway, because you have to get up early tomorrow. Didn’t go to bed early enough last night? You’re going to be tired and sluggish all day, because there is no time for napping. The times that you get to sleep on your natural schedule are times you will cherish.
10. Time spent not answering emails.
Emails take up an enormous portion of most typical days at the office. Spending hours each day glued to your computer screen and leaping for the “refresh” button so you don’t miss an important email will really make you appreciate the days when you didn’t have to do that, and it will make you cherish your email-free weekends all the more.
If you get stuck in a cubicle or open-office environment in which you’re smooshed next to two people and are sitting across from five more, you’ll appreciate your privacy like never before. In an open office, everyone can look at your computer and work space and see exactly what you’re doing; even in a traditional office, where you might have your own cubicle or desk, everyone can still count the exact number of times you get up to go to the bathroom, and people will most assuredly touch everything you put in the breakroom refrigerator. Office life teaches you to value privacy above all else, because you’ll rarely get it at work.
12. Lunch hours.
It’s a whole hour to do whatever you want. You can eat lunch, or you can not eat lunch! You can run errands, go for a walk, hit the gym… whatever. Once you stop working in an office and start working from home (or freelancing), you’ll most likely feel like you’re slacking and not making any money if you take a lunch hour, which will — sadly — make you long for the days when you had 60 entire minutes to do nothing and it was totally fine.
13. Your own desk.
Even if it’s part of a cubicle you share with other people, or just part of a cubicle in general, it’s all yours. Cubicles might not be the most romantic spaces — in fact, they often look like a small, depressing slice of the early 1980s — but there’s something weirdly satisfying about having your own desk with drawers that you can fill with whatever you want. You can also organize the desk with whatever you want, and get stationary, or cool pens, or plants or action figures or whatever. You are king of this small domain.
It’s not always easy to motivate yourself when you’re away from the structured environment of an office. When you’re around other people, you’re more accountable, and can’t spend an hour staring into space with drool oozing from the corner of your mouth without someone noticing.
15. Free things.
Most offices, no matter how stingy, will always have at least a few random free items that you will benefit from, like coffee or mugs or pens. Even if they’re crappy pens and you don’t really need another pen, there’s still a weird little thrill from getting free stuff. It’s stuff! And it’s free! When you work by yourself, you might find that you don’t get quite the same thrill out of buying yourself a pen or a new mug.