Like many others, I’m making The Great Return to the office and I’m worried I’m about to lose “the sense of wellbeing I’ve often felt during these months of isolation”, says Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times. But UCL researchers say this is what I need: a range of experiences, even unpleasant ones, that can contribute to “psychological richness”. Since the time of Aristotle, the good life has been defined as a balance of “hedonic wellbeing” (fun, joy, good times) and “eudaemonic wellbeing” (purpose and a sense of contributing to your community). This new third way encourages the development of psychological richness by accumulating challenging experiences – in other words, the stresses and surprises of the office life.
But it’s not just people who plunge into new situations who tend to be more curious and open-minded, according to the research team. Those who’ve undergone nasty challenges such as divorce and money problems also experience higher levels of psychological richness. So, although home has been cosy and allowed me to think deeply over the past 18 months, it has provided little novelty. Will a noisy office, the challenge of having to look presentable and the “messy business of dealing with other human beings” bring me psychological richness? There’s only one way to find out.