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'I Had A Little Bit More Of A Pep In My Step': A New Yorker's Return To The Office

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now that more of us are vaccinated, we've all started to do it - take our first baby steps back into the activities of the before times before the pandemic. It may have been indoor dining. For others, it's a live concert and, for many, a simple visit to someone's home. But a post-lockdown first many of us are only now contemplating is going back to the office.

DANNY GRONER: My name is Danny Groner. I am 38 years old. I live in New York City, and I work as a marketing director.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We first spoke to Danny the week before he walked back into his office. In February, he started a new job that began remotely but was then told he'd be back into the office this month, which was music to his ears.

GRONER: The one thing that has been missing for me over the last four months is that I personally crave being around the energy of others. So I'm looking forward next week to being able to go into the office for the first time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so this week, Danny found himself on a different subway line on his way to the new office building.

GRONER: I actually ended up getting on the wrong subway line.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Danny finally made it, and he said his first day was full of your regular office tasks. And while he admits it's not what it used to be, it's still better than nothing.

GRONER: There is not much, you know, formal office life there just yet. So what I'm looking forward to is the serendipity that comes back, you know, in the office.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We spoke to him during his lunch break on that first day back.

GRONER: I apologize for being five minutes late. This is what happens when you're in the office (laugher).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He said he'd met a new co-worker right away.

GRONER: I can't predict, you know, what the nature of my relationship with him will be going forward, but I will say from that very brief interaction and introduction, I did feel that I was able to flex muscles that weren't available to me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Danny said he felt excited not only to be able to flex those social muscles again but also to use the office for what it's meant to be.

GRONER: So I certainly am an extreme extrovert on the personal side, you know, in terms of really wanting to be around others. But I also think there's a component of this conversation on the professional side that I didn't realize until the pandemic how few people were really using the office in practical ways to be able to broaden their horizons and to be able to learn what else is going on at the business. I firmly believe that while I can do my job working from home, apart from others, I can't do the job nearly as well as I expect of myself and what my manager might expect of me while sitting in isolation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: After a long day of work later that evening, being back in the office helped him make an important realization.

GRONER: For the three-block walk from my office to the subway, I had a little bit more of, like, a pep in my step than I would have expected. And I think it's ancillary related to the COVID. But what it really was for me is that for 10 years before the pandemic, I was living in New York sort of from my late 20s to my late 30s, feeling like I haven't made it. You know, am I going to be able to last in this aggressive, rigorous environment? And this past 15 months has, like, you know, removed any kind of second guessing, any kind of insecurity, shortage of confidence because we got through arguably the most difficult, you know, year of any of our lives. And going back to those same streets and neighborhoods that I've been on before felt to me radically different in a very uplifting kind of way, that it gave me a totally different perspective on, I am OK.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Danny Groner of New York City on his first day back in the office.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.