Yellowed newspapers. A mouse who met its end on a glue trap. Wilted plants.
These were the scenes we photographed this summer at three New York City offices — including our own — amid a pandemic that has left millions of people out of work and millions more working from home.
At The New York Times’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, to see a newsroom silenced during the busiest news cycle of our lifetime was both eerie and poignant. The dusty, yellowed newspapers piled high on desks, floors, coffee tables — most of them dated March — gave the space around them an almost sepia tone.
A few blocks away, at a nonprofit theater company called Ars Nova — a launching pad for artists such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Annie Baker and Billy Eichner — a rehearsal for a new play called “Wet Brain” had been abandoned mid-session. The scripts have remained open on desks — notes in the margins — for six months, seemingly frozen in time.
At the Collegiate Academy for Mathematics and Personal Awareness, a charter school in Brooklyn, chairs are stacked on desks and lesson plans from March 12 still hang on the wall. Teachers and students will return virtually in September.
So what does the future hold for the office and the workers who once inhabited it?
As it turns out, most workers do not miss it. In a survey of 1,123 remote workers by The Times and Morning Consult, 86 percent said they were satisfied with the current arrangements — even when that sometimes meant working from their bedrooms or closets. They reported feeling less stressed, more able to take breaks and that they were spending more time outdoors.
In the following stories, we explore what becomes of gossip, or handshakes, or the work attire collecting dust in our closets. We profile different types of workers, including the office addict (he’s still going in) and the new hire (he’s never met his co-workers). And finally, almost a year after studying the office as it once was, we ask: Is this an opportunity to change how we work once and for all?
This is an exploration of our lives OOO.
— Jessica Bennett and Anya Strzemien
① American office workers were miserable and burned out. Why not rebuild our work lives from scratch? By Claire Cain Miller
Work May Never Be the Same
In the Before Time, Dan O’Leary, a director of business partnerships at a tech company, commuted two to three hours a day and flew on weekly business trips. He adhered to a strict schedule: His alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. to fit in a Peloton ride and shower before catching the train, and his workdays were jammed with meetings.
Since the coronavirus upended office life in March, his workdays have been very different, even idyllic.
“Work is totally now for me something you do, not somewhere you have to go,” said Mr. O’Leary, 37.