If you asked me 4 years ago what I wanted to do when I retired, I would have said “nothing”. My priorities would have been chilling, travelling and spending as much time as possible with my young family. I had dreams of leaving work on my 41st birthday, clearing out my desk and handing in my ID card. Saying bye to the reception staff one last time and turning my back on Corporate Life in the City of London.
This Pandemic has challenged that goal. I have been working from home since around January this year. The client I was working for had a change in strategy over their office policy last year and we all ended up working from home in January. This then bled into Lockdown and National working from home policies. Then when I moved jobs (all virtually) mid-year, it was all again from the comfort of my own house. I have been working from home now for 11 months!
Most people reading this will probably say “what an idiot”. “He’s in a high paying career and working from home… what is this guys issue?” I agree – its absolutely amazing being fortunate enough to be in this position! I get to spend as much time as possible with my wife and two sons and make the most of their best years (and mine).
I miss the office
I thought I hated Corporate life and the City; I thought I hated the office; the politics, the meaningless work and the people who were all smiling and shaking your hand because it all counted to year end bonus.
But I also miss some of the other bits. I miss the hustle and bustle of the City. I miss lining up in front of the cornucopia of artisan coffeeshops in the morning; a new one every day. I miss the Gym and my personal trainer. I miss lunchtimes coming out and deciding which of the hundreds of lunch spots I would choose today. I miss street food markets dotted around inconspicuously behind the brick and glass facades of City offices. I miss having an after work drink with friends and colleagues at ancient pubs in nooks and crannies. (And this time of year) I miss drunken office Christmas parties and buying Pret Christmas Sandwich’s every day in December like it was an advent calendar.
Most of all I miss London and the commute. The 45 minutes of calm before and after the chaos with my headphones on that mentally and physically carved out my work life from my home life.
Coping with City sickness during the Pandemic (and into retirement)
I didn’t really realise that this City Sickness was even a phenomenon until an Artisan Coffeeshop opened up across the road last week (in my Suburban part of South London). I was there at 8am on Opening day and was the first to be served a coffee (+ loyalty card). Wonderful velvety smooth Oat Milk Flat White laced with well paced Allpress espresso. The taste was similar to a slightly more floral version of something you might buy from Coco Di Mama (who use the same bean). Although I’m not a Coco Di Mama fan, it was a “Ratatouille” moment (the part when the food critic has a flashback about his mothers cooking when he tasted the dish that the Rat made). I remembered the City when I tasted the Coffee.
I think I spent the rest of that day, feeling City sick looking at maps of the City trying to work out whether my favourite sandwich spots and coffee shops were still open in the Pandemic. I emailed my current manager asking about return to work policies (to be told that he did not expect me to return to the office anytime soon).
Feeling slightly dejected, I put a small list together on what to do to recreate that experience during the Pandemic. I realised quickly that this is something that I would most likely take into retirement…
- Start and end your day with a minimum 30minute walk or an activity to separate your work day from your home day. Put your headphones on and shut out the world if you need to.
- If you can, make sure that your office is isolated away as much as possible and don’t go back there after work is done. If you can, work in other parts of the house when you are not doing office work.
- Go out for a coffee as much as you need (assuming you have good coffee nearby) or buy the same beans that they use in your favourite coffee shop and make it at home.
- Go out for lunch occasionally instead of cooking at home or making a sandwich from the fridge. Keep it varied and try the different lunch spots near by.
- In the lead up to Christmas most local Sandwich shops will be doing Turkey Sandwiches with a Christmas twist, so indulge!
- Meet people on Zoom or (if you are allowed) meet people face to face on a Friday for a drink.
- Join a FaceBook group for things you are interested in (like FIRE or Coffee) and join the virtual meet-ups and (when your government allows) the physical meet-ups people are doing in the park. And talk as much as you need to! Get it out of your system.
Very sorry. I know this is Blasphemy!
Please don’t spite me but I know that some of you out there in the FIRE community are closet City lovers (especially in London). We all need to reconcile that part of our lives and hopefully this gives you food for thought during the pandemic and even into your retirement.