The year is 2025. It is a sunny Monday morning.
After cancelling every major event aside from university finals, COVID-19 has been successfully eradicated from the planet. Major sporting events? Canceled. Music festivals? Forget about it. They did try to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics, but as it turns out, putting 10,000 domestic fans side-by-side only increased their chances of contracting the coronavirus.
But it’s finally over. This is why today is special. Today is the day I go back to the office.
Carmen from HR has made it her duty to inform the team that we should be most enthralled about our new office location via information disseminated in the form of tri-weekly mass email - “touching base”, as she calls it. Apparently she is elated to announce the office’s state-of-the-art design - in a style that “fully reflects our corporate values”.
No longer do we reside in the Financial District. As I discover in real-time, our offices are now nestled between a yoga studio that doubles as a CBD distributor, and an eponymous Floristry-Meets-Café. Nice. I sip my Oatly matcha latte and scrutinise both as I cross the road. Everything, it seems, is multi-purpose these days.
It’s strange to be walking into the office without a face mask, it feels as though I forgot to put trousers on. Frankly, I almost forgot trousers too.
Opening the building entrance door, I bump into Clarice. My first colleague interaction! I greet her. She frowns, a look of concern crosses her face. We exchange quick pleasantries as she asks about my eyesight, and scurries into Floristry-Meets-Café. Weird.
Ding. I step into the elevator. Ding. And up I go.
Oh. I realise now that I did not smile at Clarice. See, I perfected the art of smizing over the years – you know, when you smile, but with your eyes. But I forgot to smile. With my mouth. I must have squinted at Clarice.
Pandemic mask habits die hard, I guess.
Once upon a time, she and I went out on a few dates. This was before we became colleagues. Meeting her reminds me that it would be nice to meet some of the women I’ve been texting.
None of them wanted to meet, which is quite selfless of them. I do think it’s incredibly admirable of them to maintain social distancing rules, even after COVID.
Ding! I’ve arrived at the 37th floor. Alright, time to focus. The elevator doors open.
Immediately, my attention is drawn to the glowing neon sign in front of me.
“Good Vibes Only”, it reads.
I step into the office space. Terrazzo is everywhere. Succulents, too, are everywhere. And in this sugary dreamscape, amid the jungle of medicinal pinks and zingy greens, is a velvet sofa furbished with palm-tree printed cushions.
Somewhere I sense the hipster-esque spider plant strung aloft by macrame. I look up. Sure enough, one such plant, alongside various others, are scattered throughout the ceiling.
Rose gold seems to gild all edges, including the mirrored bar cart residing in the alcove. It’s a glitzy-looking thing, the cart, reminiscent of a Michael Kors watch. The neon-lit ordinance of the land glows faintly in its reflection. Good. Vibes. Only.
It’s too artsy to be a living room, too comfy to be an office. It dances squarely between the two. And as I continue past the confetti-speckled reception and enter the open-plan workplace (I believe the corporate term to be ‘activity-based workplace’?), slivers of conversation begin to waft in the air: “Ought to pivot, especially when his venture won’t scale”, “In this office, everyone is viewed as equal”.
The space is robust in its office solutions. There are nap stations for napping, work pods for working, meeting booths for meetings – all the options a worker may desire in the Post-COVID Work Generation. Plus, the intern’s doing the coffee rounds.
As beautiful as it is chameleonic, it dawns on me: I know this place.
Swap the succulents for a Swiss cheese plant, and palm-print for flamingo – voila, you basically have the same space as my favourite Soho cocktail lounge. It’s the boozy, tropical junk-boat bachelor party of yesteryear. Take all the tropes, all the ideas, and you have my younger sister’s #HouseGoals living room Pinterest board.
Looking past the peach-pops and flamingo pomp and circumstance, I see this space for what it is.
It’s a millennial’s paradise.
And so I stand at my standing desk, check out the new work pods, have a few meetings, va va voom, am done with the workday, and leave the office.
Just kidding. It’s not even 9AM yet.
“I’ll have a dirty cappuccino with Oatly,” I sigh. The intern scribbles down my order, and scurries away. I guess some things at corporate don’t change.