office hours

So, You’re Alone in the Office This Week

You. Photo: 13/Image Source/Corbis

At dinner last night, an editor friend of mine told me she sent out her regular nightly email to 40 people and got back 20 out-of-office replies. “Why are we even working this week?” she asked. Indeed, we’ve come into our offices as if it were any other time of the year, sat at our desks, and reveled in the pin-drop silence. We’ve made a lot of “slow news week” jokes, we’ve taken hour-long coffee breaks, but underneath the dismal, grim task of being the few, the proud who hung around before New Year’s, there is the potential for something actually tolerable, possibly even fun to happen. We just have to live a little.

What if we spent our empty-office week practicing a modified version of what Norwegians call “romjul,” the half-holy week that comes before New Year’s Eve. “Romjul” may not sound like a wild, party-time vibe (after all, Norwegians use these days to visit friends and family and finish off the remaining boiled cod and pinnekjøtt), but if you’re one of the few people in your office, may as well get your romjul on. Instead of defaulting to a steady whine of “why me,” think of your office as the club and your cubicle as the Champagne room. Chances are your boss is skiing with her hot husband, Dale, in Val d’Isère; she’ll be none the wiser if you let your unwashed hair down for a few days.

Bring in leftover holiday food like cookies and cakes and even a ham skeleton if it’s still got meat hanging from the bones. Keep the food on your desk and invite all the other wounded office soldiers over for a midday feast. If you have the forethought, you can even send out an email the day before to request others bring in leftover food, too. You know what it’s like at an office party when there are snacks: You get one measly nibble of a pineapple square before everything is gone. But thanks to the week that shall not be named, there will be more than enough treats to go around. Eat several slices of cake in a row to communicate dominance to your colleagues.

Have an office crush? Take this time to figure out where they sit, what they keep on their desk, even leave them mystery sticky-notes of love if you’re feeling supremely unhinged. Are they in the office this week with you, too? At 3 p.m., casually walk by with two paper Dixie cups and two plastic mini bottles of Fireball whiskey and say, “Care for a tipple?” After you take the shot, reveal that you have a full bottle of Fireball hidden beneath your sweater. This is a foolproof way to get someone to love you, trust me. I’ve tried it.

But maybe you’ve had enough food and drink for the season, at least until December 31. Do you think romjul is only for people who like to indulge in risengrynsgrøt and gløgg? Hardly. This week is a perfect time for acquainting yourself a little better with your office layout (where is that mystery second bathroom), the supply closet (upgrade yourself with a few new pens), and the scanner. I know you have been meaning to scan your contact-lens prescription over to 1-800-Contacts. Now is the time to do it. Please, do not waste another minute. I’m serious. Go. Now.

There are so few people in your office right now that if you were a particular kind of daring, you could play some music from your shitty laptop speakers. Test out your roommate’s nu-disco LP on your poor editorial assistant. (“Man, that bass line really slaps. Wouldn’t you agree, Katherine?”) Play your favorite Christmas hits just as a stupid prank to get people to yell out loud (“TURN IT OFF!!”). Hell, if you’ve got enough gall, do a little workout to ‘00s pop music. May as well get started on your 2016 resolutions now. If you think a corporate office environment isn’t the place to do 30 burpees and 60 laps, you’ve clearly never worked during the slow week, and you’re probably spending too much money on your monthly gym membership.

All in all, it’s important that you try to have even a modicum of fun. Keep your spirits high. Every hour on the hour, ask a “Would you rather?” question out loud to anyone who is listening just so you have confirmation that your vocal cords are still capable of making sound. You may even stir a healthy debate over preferring vaginas for ears over penises for fingers, the first time in history those words have been spoken outside of the CEO’s office.

Good romjul to you. Please pray for us.

So, You’re Alone in the Office This Week