diamond geezer

 Friday, June 05, 2015

Every so often at work they do a reshuffle, partly to ensure we throw lots of things away, but also to keep us on our toes. Sometimes they move us somewhere better, and sometimes they move us somewhere worse. I'm fortunate that my latest move is in the former camp, repositioned with an increased amount of daylight and much further away from the noisy cow in the corner. But one downside has been the move to a different type of desk, and more specifically how closely those desks are squashed together.

Previously I had an L-shaped desk, which was ideal for sitting in my spinning chair and rotating round. There was room for my keyboard and to spread out my papers, because I'm still old school like that, which made me feel like a valued professional. And those around me had an L-shaped desk too, so there was a decent amount of room for everyone to work together and interact. Sat diagonally-on, not only was it easy to speak to those around me when necessary, but the layout also avoided the possibility I might reverse back and accidentally smash into them.

Alas now I have a bench desk, sat straight-on between my colleagues. We're all lined up like schoolkids, thankfully not quite on top of each other, but not ideally placed for collaborative work either. Whenever I get some papers out I have to move my keyboard out of the way, which is awkward if what I need to do involves both. And they've squashed our rows so close together that there's now someone sat immediately behind me, which occasionally proves somewhat obstructive. They can cram more of us into the same amount of office space this way, which increases efficiency savings, but only by decreasing wellbeing.

One consequence of this move is that my desk is now located down a narrow aisle approximately two chairs wide. When everyone is sat down and getting on with work that's fine, because if I want to go somewhere else there's space left up the middle to squeeze through. But if one person has got up and left their chair back then my exit is obstructed, and if two people have done the same then the entire aisle is blocked. When this happens I stare at the chairs as if nobody could have been quite so thoughtless as to have left them there, then move one and continue on my way.

Another consequence of the move is that I now have a hot desk immediately alongside me. Sometimes it's empty, but more often than not some random employee has touched down for the day, offering a curt hello before unloading their laptop and knuckling down for some hot spreadsheet action. This means I've had a wide variety of neighbours since the move took place, and I've learned to divide them into two distinct personality types. Those who push their chair in and those who don't.

Those who push their chair in I like, because if one of them is in place I can escape from my desk. Alas they're also in the minority. Most of the people they send to sit next to me are chair-leaver-outers, getting up for a coffee or a meeting and blocking the aisle in their wake. I want to sigh deeply at their thoughtlessness, but by that time they're not usually there, so I simply push their big office chair back under their desk and proceed.

Customer service consultants are the worst. We've had a rush of these of late, and without exception they never ever push their chair in. They banter about the tickets they've got for the rugby, and their upcoming flight to Mexico, and that great restaurant they visited with Toby over the weekend, and then they go off for a meeting and leave their chairs scattered across the gangway like shrapnel. I've learned to hate customer service consultants.

And do these people ever learn? Not a chance. If they're ever around when I'm trying to escape they look at me quizzically, deduce that I can't get through and shift out of the way, maybe offering an apologetic word into the bargain. But two hours later they'll be doing it again, scarpering for lunch and leaving their wheeled seat in the middle of my escape route without a second thought. It's like nobody else but them exists... which in their world may indeed be the case.

I am increasingly convinced that the population divides into those who think about other people and those who don't. The latter grouping are those who stand in doorways to check their phone and those who trail wheelie suitcases behind them without a thought. They're those who eat steaming spicy food on trains and those who play loud music at two in the morning. They're those who talk through the quiet bits of a film in the cinema, or light a bonfire while you're holding a barbecue. I suspect they're also those who are happy to see public services cut if they don't use them, and those who'd rather pay less tax than see other people paid more, although that may be taking the analysis too far.

Whatever, I am proud to be someone who pushes his chair in. I do it instinctively, I've checked, returning to my desk after a trip to the photocopier and smiling to see I really did leave it tucked under the desk. We need more people who push their chairs in. It'd make the country a better place.

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