I returned to the office for the first time since the pandemic started—with my new dog. Here's how it went

Dave Stangle at the entrance of the Bark office in New York
Morgan Smith | CNBC

This is part of CNBC Make It's My First Day Back series, where people share their stories of what it's like to return to the office after working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Are you planning to return to the office soon? Share your stories with us here.

Name: Dave Stangle 
Age: 37 
Office: Bark's NYC Office 
Working home since: March 10, 2020 
Returned: December 2, 2021 
Return requirements: Proof of Covid-19 vaccine 

Dave Stangle recalls the last time he was in the office — the week of March 10, 2020 — as a "weird dream." During his last day in the office, Stangle remembers watching his co-workers pack up their monitors to work from home, while he was "running around the office and prepping to squeeze in a trip to the Caribbean."

The 37-year old has been working as the director of partnerships for Bark, a company that designs dog toys, meals, subscription boxes and other pet accessories, for about seven years.

"I thought to myself, 'What do they know that I don't?'" he tells CNBC Make It. "There was a lot of uncertainty [about the coronavirus], but I just figured I'd see everyone once I got back from my trip, or at least see them all back in the office in a couple weeks."

Now – after spending the pandemic working from Tennessee, New Jersey, Vermont and Florida – Stangle has returned to New York. During his first day back in the office, Stangle was surprised to see how much had changed since he last sat at his desk and curious to see how his pandemic pup, Fred, would adjust to office life. 

Dave Stangle and his dogs, Frank and Fred, on an outdoor adventure during quarantine
Photo: Dave Stangle

CNBC Make It: Did you miss the office? 

Dave Stangle: Sometimes I did miss the office, especially the free cold brew on tap. I really didn't expect that my coffee budget would skyrocket like it did during the pandemic! More importantly, I always liked seeing and meeting new people. 

Dave Stangle getting cold brew on tap in the Bark office kitchen
Morgan Smith | CNBC

How did you feel going back?

I decided to go back to the office for the first time on Dec. 2 to reunite with some of my co-workers and attend the office holiday party. I had the same concerns as most people about returning to the office — if it was safe, how the virus would spread in an office setting — but Bark has been taking the right precautions, I'm vaccinated and recently received my booster shot, so I felt comfortable.

How did the first day go?

Since we recently moved into a house in Austerlitz, New York, I stayed at a friend's apartment in the city. I walked into the office at 8:30 a.m. but I didn't open my laptop until maybe 11:00 a.m. because I was so excited to see my co-workers again and catch up. I really missed being able to hug people or walk up to their desks to chat.

Dave Stangle working at his desk with his bulldog Frank
Morgan Smith | CNBC

It was also the first time I was bringing my dog Fred, who I got a few months into the pandemic, into the office. My other bulldog, Frank, would come pre-COVID all the time. I have the feeling the first hour of any day I take them will have to be reserved for letting Fred sniff every square inch of the office. Frank, on the other hand, will hop up on someone's chair, and I'll tell him to stay, and I can walk away for 20 minutes or two hours.

I worked until about 5:00 p.m., at which point I walked over from the office to the holiday party, where I spent most of the evening catching up with my friends and took an Uber home at midnight.

What was the weirdest experience?

Since I've been at the company for more than seven years, I've accumulated quite a bit of products and merchandise. During the pandemic, however, BARK took advantage of cleaning and re-organizing the entire office — a lot had changed. 

When I returned, all of my stuff was packed in a box on the floor. It was funny because a lot of the shipments were dated in 2020, and most of the products/samples I had, pre-pandemic, were obsolete, for old projects we weren't even pursuing anymore.

What surprised you the most?

How much new work organically arises when you're in the office with your co-workers. For example, while I was working at my desk, my co-worker started talking to me about the possibility of a new retail partnership – an idea that never occurred to either of us until we were having this casual chat in the office. Then, later that afternoon, we had an hour-long meeting about it, and now it's a top priority of mine.

Also, I didn't take a lunch break, but I did snack all day on M&M's, candy and jerky. By the end of day there was a huge pile of wrappers on my desk. 

How often do you plan to be at the office?

At this point, I've learned that a hybrid setup works best for me. Working from home can be nice, especially as we settle into our new neighborhood, but I also like being able to sit in a room with someone to talk through ideas and have easy access to our product samples, which helps me better plan partnerships and projects. There's definitely benefits to both.

Check out:

66% of employees want better office cleaning practices before returning to work

New York City will now require private workers to get vaccinated—and other cities could follow

How the omicron variant could impact return-to-office plans: 'We're dealing with rapidly moving facts'

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