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Sunday, September 20, 2020

“It’s Very Apocalyptic”: Workers Return To Untouched Office ‘Time-Capsules’ 4 Months After Locking-Down

In many ways, lockdowns and quarantines have become “the new normal”. Which is why it’s eerie to return back to offices several months after they were abandoned for a glimpse as to what life was like prior to the pandemic.

Kevin Dorse, a communications professional in Ottawa, told Bloomberg“It was like opening the lamest time capsule imaginable.”

Offices were scattered with winter clothes, expired food products, calendars on the month of March and newspapers proclaiming “the worst stock market crash in decades,” the article notes. As we know now, things have changed wildly since then – well, at least for the stock market.

But the trickling back to the office is starting to become a reality around the country as a few brave workers dare to head back into the abandoned and deserted buildings. In the last week of July, only 6.9% of employees had returned to offices in Manhattan that are managed by CBRE Group, Inc., the company said. 

As restrictions start to lift, some people are braving returning to pre-pandemic life, taking to the subway like normal and making their way to their old office digs for the first time in months. The spaces are “exactly as they left them” back in March, Bloomberg notes. 

Jennifer Wallner, the events manager for the War Memorial Center, said she had to cancel a year’s worth of activities. Upon returning to the office, she was greeted with flyers for an event – VetFest – that was supposed to take place on July 30, including 1940s style music and war reenactors. We’re sorry we’ll miss it this year. 

“That was really a punch in the gut. Our year just went from all of these exciting events that we were thrilled about. They were going to be great. And here they are just sitting in a pile of garbage,” she commented.

Michael Arciero, an investment banking analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., was a little more upbeat. He was excited to find six dress shirts in a dry cleaning bag at his desk at his Manhattan office. Winter coats were still everywhere, he said.

Other workers are finding their browser tabs on their computer were still where they were three months ago. One Microsoft employee said his work computer still had a page open from March that said “15 days to slow the spread of coronavirus.”

Rebecca Buckman, vice president of marketing communications at venture-capital firm Battery Ventures LP, was greeted upon her return to the office with copies of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times from March. 

She commented: “It was a little bit eerie. People had just left things. There was still food in the fridge. But the most striking thing was the newspapers.”

Tony Knopp, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based software company TicketManager, has been going into the office by himself after sending his workers home, since March. He said: “It feels like ‘I Am Legend’ or ‘The Walking Dead’. It’s very apocalyptic. If I don’t go in for a few days, I open the door and it pushes a stack of mail. And nothing moves. Whatever I need, I grab from someone else’s desk. We’ve run out of batteries, so now I just go to another desk and grab batteries out of their keyboard.”

Lewis Parker, a strategy director at a communication agency in London, said: “Even though it was only at the start of March, it felt like a lifetime ago. It felt incredibly abnormal to be back after so many months of home working.”

And then there’s notes like this one.

Nick Case, director of athletic video communications at Charleston Southern University, concluded: 

“It felt like a different world. The warmth and energy that comes from having all our people there was gone.”


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