I don’t need much space to do my work. I’m good with enough surface space for my computer, phone, and a flat area close to me where I can place my coffee cup and maybe a pad of paper. Yeah..I like pads…with paper. I call them MYpads as I semi-conduct myself in today’s tech-obsessed world. I’m also good with one drawer where I can keep a couple of pens and extra MYpads and my lunch bag.
Truthfully, that’s all the space most anyone needs, but they always want more. I bring this up because we recently were notified that our workspaces will be upgraded. To what? You can’t make my desk any flatter, I’ve got plenty of surface space and I already have THREE desk drawers, two of which are empty.
Everyone is entitled to a clean, comfortable, functional workspace… one suitable for the job..but the fact is, however, corporate culture can sometimes fool you into thinking the size and amenities of your workspace translates into power, self-worth and respect, resulting in misguided and honestly, idiotic aspirations.
For example, at the very large company from which I retired last year one can walk up and down an office suite and immediately discern the pay level of an employee. The spaces ranged from deep, narrow cubes that looked like the chutes holding a rodeo calf before it’s released, then hogtied by a cowboy. The similarity is not unintentional. The occupant of such a demeaning space is being sent the message that you are just meat on the hoof, performing some simple task with little hope of advancement.
As your pay level, or “band” increases, your cube becomes less shallow, but wider with a little more surface space, more desk drawers, even overhead bins and a little counter with enough room to entertain one lucky visitor.
But the Holy Grail is the GLASS ENCLOSED OFFICE. It takes years to land one of those and every single employee aspires to occupy one. It says, “I’m hot shit! I have power! I’m important! I know more than you!” Indeed, many of those pining to spend their days in a corporate isolation booth have no desire to attain this dubious achievement..they just want the damn office.
Indeed, when I was promoted to such a level that included the granting of a glass office I asked to remain in my current, more open workspace. I was denied this request by HR, firmly scolding me that doing so would “send the wrong message.” I explained that I would perform to the standards that landed me the promotion and, at the same time, stay in better touch with my team by working in an open space, but again, it was explained that I would not receive the proper respect of co-workers unless I worked in a space too big, too hot and stuffy and isolated. So I moved into the cell that made me feel like a convicted felon. Suddenly, people who had sniffed at me previously came by and wanted to give me high-fives for reaching bureaucratic nirvana. At the same time, latent jealousies were exposed and one whiny co-worker who had hoped to occupy that office went crying to her supervisor that she was cheated.
When I explained this moronic culture to my Italian boss his face turned grey as he said to me, “you are lying to me. Who could come up with such a foolish system?” Heh. Tell the CEO to end it. He didn’t.
Now, in semi-retirement, I’m often able to work from home in a small office of my making. I get a lot done in that little room. The door is always open. So is the window. But when I’m asked to come to my assigned workspace at my part-time job, I’m fine with my little cube, space for my laptop, drawer with my coffee cup, two pens and some MYpads..and I feel pretty freakin’ good about myself…and get the job done. You see, the physical space you work in isn’t nearly as important as your mental space..it’s where your talent and motivation live.
I have no affection at all for offices. A person trying to woo me to his firm promised me a corner office. It was a generous gesture but I told him that under no circumstances would I accept a corner, or any other office. I ended up not taking the job anyway because I was an out-of-work journalist and I wasn’t quite ready to switch to something new. I also despised offices of any sort but loved newsrooms, which are, in effect, offices with just the right proportion of chaos, collaboration and profanity.
A couple of years ago as a sign of a promotion, I was ordered to move from my open cube to a closed office. “If I’m being promoted,” I asked, “why am I being placed in solitary confinement?” Alas, I now view the general prison population through a glass window. Sometimes it’s fun to have one of my co-workers on the “outside” play the game of “prison visitor” and place their hand on my window and I place mine opposite from the inside..just like in “Birdman of Alcatraz.”
Thanks to the Chicago Auto Show last week, I hadn’t’ seen my office or desk in 6 days…until today. I jangled my keys like the “office warden,” opened my door and breathed in the squalid stale air that could only be neutralized by brewing coffee and inhaling a box of Altoids.
For a brief moment I thought about tidying up the mess on my desk I left behind, but why bother? That would only make room for a new mess and I was already quite familiar with the desk-tritus on display, including the Post-it note with my computer password from 2009. I keep forgetting it. Damn passwords!
The sad part is I’ve now grown used to spending my workday holed up in my human Habitrail. There are all sorts of places to hide stuff I should have tossed years ago, I can make phone calls in private and I can engage in the guilty pleasure of watching the YouTube video of Katy Perry in her skimpy jungle outfit singing “Roar,” uh… during my lunch break…of course.
In fact, I think that tomorrow I’ll start the process of reforming. I won’t toss used Keurig pods under my desk and tell curious visitors they’re my dead pet mice, or rationalize a pile of randomly ordered file folders by calling my system “Anarchic Alphabetizing.”
I might even take down the sign on my door that warns potential visitors, “Where productivity comes to die.”