It’s been years since I have worked at a place where I’ve had an office of my own. In fact, only two of the eight jobs I’ve had since finishing schools have featured this

My first job teaching physics at a college was the only one where I had an actual room with bookshelves and a desk and a phone of my own. I also had a lab with benches and cupboards and could ask the departmental secretary and the departmental machinist for help. From time to time I would be supervising a student or two on research, never as a teaching assistant, unfortunately, since the grading load turned out to be more than I liked, and I served on my share of faculty committees as well. Of course I didn’t really know what I was doing, not for a long time. I had office hours where students could come around for help, though of course few did.

The only other job where I technically had an office was the three years I ran my own business fixing furniture in between tech gigs, working out of my house. I did the books, called customers, paid the bills, ordered supplies, and carried out the whole thing as a one-man operation basically, though I was a franchisee. With the strict IRS guidelines for home offices in place, I didn’t try to claim deductions for my office or my garage shop.

All my other jobs involved sharing an office, working out of a cubicle, working in an open-plan space, or working remotely at a site without an assigned place for my stuff. Not unusual for the way things work nowadays, as compared to the ways business was carried out when I was growing up. Only executives and bona-fide professionals (doctors and lawyers and accountants) get a room of their own where they could put their credentials up on a wall and shut the door on a world not privy to the powerful things they need to do, and I’ve abandoned any attempt to follow that path.

Do I think you’re a better person if you work in an office? No. Do I feel cheated for not having had my own office except for the two exceptions in my lifetime? Not that much, though I think maybe I could have accomplished a bit more in a place away from the hubbub, more for my employers, not for myself. It’s just that the new way is to shrink the office down to a small cabinet and the space between one’s earphones, for a lot of white-collar workers, and that’s just the way it’s going to be from now on.

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