diamond geezer

 Friday, July 09, 2010

The crates have arrived. It's time to pack up. We're moving office again.

Stop the work you're doing, ignore that encroaching deadline, and pile your entire life into a crate. That means everything in your desk, and everything in the cupboard, yes and everything in those boxes you still haven't got round to unpacking since the last time you moved. Everything must go, either into a crate or into the bin, and it must go now.

A heck of a lot of rubbish lies stashed in your desk drawers. Pens that don't work, three 95%-empty notepads, and several scattered paperclips. Half a packet of mints, a thin wad of post-its, and the business card of some suited bloke you can't put a face to. It seems the more you dig the more rubbish you find, somehow rammed into a tiny space designed to hold half as much. It's time to decide what's essential and what can be chucked, time to rationalise, to move forward. And to promise yourself a fresh start at a fresh desk on Monday morning, at least until the new drawers become as inevitably stuffed as the old.

The fully electronic office remains a far distant dream. Not every document is electronic, not every sheet of paper is digitised, and all of that needs packing too. Piles of files and heaps of receipts, once deemed essential enough to keep, now lying overlooked at the back of a cupboard. There's loads of this stuff, far too much to sort through in the time available, even though what's really needed is a major slimming down. Do you stop work and waste time trying to decide what to archive and what to bin? Or do you chuck the lot because if you haven't looked at it in two years it can't be essential can it? You'd like to do the latter, but it's risky, especially if some pesky consultant comes round six months hence demanding to view your 'paper trail'. So best to simply bung everything into a crate and move the whole lot over to the new location in the hope that one day you'll have time to sort it properly, even though you know deep down you won't.

Remember this? Look, there's that report we spent weeks writing - let's bin it. Here's that policy the mad manager introduced and we all ignored - let's shred it. And here's a stack of floppy discs which no computer in the office can read any more and yet they were once deemed essential storage - let's smash the lot. We must slim down, we must declutter, because there won't be as much room in the new workplace as in the old. Every office move is always a downsize, an enforced opportunity to reverse years of unrestricted accumulation, before the whole administrative upcycle begins afresh.

Make sure every crate is properly labelled. Stick all the stickers on carefully, so none of them fall off during a weekend of manhandling. Because you don't want to reach nine o'clock on Monday morning and then start wondering where everything is. That sheaf of papers you need for a meeting at eleven, make sure you label that crate specially. Then pray the box-movers pile up the relocated crates in a convenient order, and not with five years of accumulated paperwork shielding the one you need from view.

By Monday afternoon all the existing workers in your new location will be staring at your stacks of unpacked boxes, and eyeing you frustratedly up and down, and wondering when you're going to clear the bloody gangways you miserable interlopers. So you'll empty the lot, over-fast and under-planned, into the nearest cupboard. And there the contents will stay, out of sight and out of mind, until the next day the message comes round.

The crates have arrived. It's time to pack up. We're moving office again.

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