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{07/02/2013}   The office environment

Last week I was working on the meeting room floor at a swanky, relatively new solicitors’ office.  From the floor to ceiling windows of the meeting room and our lunch room (a perk of working in such a nice office), I could see through the glass wall windows of the similar office block across the pedestrian way, ie a mere three metres or so away.  There were rows and rows of desks perpendicular to the windows.  I found it both fascinating and pitiful.

In many ways I am lucky never to have had a conventional office job other than various temp jobs over the years but I do appreciate that my varied work environments also have major flaws so I am not about to feel sorry for more conventional office workers coming from a seemingly superior vantage point; it’s just different and these are just observations.

As my chair was facing out the window for the four days I was working in that building, I spent a lot of time looking at the rows of workers.  At lunch time, most of them sat at their desks to eat and either worked or did their own computer-based things, my point being that it didn’t seem like many, if any, people took an hour’s lunch, which everyone is entitled to, and actually left their work space for that time.  I could also see personalised things around desks so it seemed apparent this was not a hot desking office, so to me it looked like a row of rabbits in a pet shop, all with their separate hutches, complete with food, snacks and toys … though with toilets elsewhere!

Most were dressed quite smartly, ie shirts and trousers or smart skirts.  I know this is often office uniform and I can see merits in having a work wardrobe, but to sit in your hutch and potentially not see anyone from outside your office environment, why do people have to wear such clothes?  Part of the reason most people don’t wear suits at home is because they’re uncomfortable and restrictive.  Why do you have to be uncomfortable at work?  When attending meetings, sales things, etc, I can see that a suit is appropriate.  But to sit in an office, it just seems unfair.

To spend from, say, 8.30-5.30 in that environment seems wrong.  Five days a week.  And then to be cooped up on a train, tube, bus or car sitting in traffic to try and get home.  Why can’t more people work from home, even one day a week or the odd half day?  Sometimes it’s good to be away from your desk and sometimes you can get more done without interruptions from colleagues, however welcome those interruptions might be.

You know how you can go to old mills or factories and get an idea of life in the Victorian years and how we can think how lucky we are not to be in those conditions?  While conditions nowadays are, thankfully to an extent, controlled by health and safety and basic human rights, office life is a new way of promoting uniform workers.  Yes, offices have to function and work has to be done, I just don’t see that the maximum productivity can be generated from people lined up at desks, in the same hutch every day.  I’m not surprised there are so many issues of office politics and bullying and harassment.  There, mini rant over.  And I wonder why I don’t have my own company!

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