Monday, July 2, 2012

4 to 8

The previous Friday, it sounded very straightforward.

Subject: Move to 8th Floor

Please be advised that on Monday we will be moving from the 4th to the 8th floors. You should all have been given your new seating assignments but a copy of this is attached. Any work related resources - files, folders, manuals - that you wish to have moved can be placed in one of the marked boxes at the end of each row. Please ensure this material is labelled - Name, Employee Number, Seat Number - clearly. This material will be moved over the weekend and should be on your new desk next week. Each new desk will also be set up with a PC, keyboard and mouse, multi line phone and a headset. While we anticipate a smooth transition on Monday, we request that staff arrive 15 minutes early, if possible, to ensure that the day gets under way with as little disruption as possible. 

Have a great weekend!

So it probably comes as no surprise that the above description of our move to the 8th floor bares about as much resemblance to reality as Game of Thrones does to the history of Europe; all the elements are there, but scrambled and rearranged to a point where they become something other.

When I walk in at 8.55 - five minutes early, so not a bad effort for me - it's to find not a smooth transition, and not a day getting underway with little disruption, but something resembling the last day of school before the Christmas hols. Kids... sorry, my co-workers mill about in groups, giggling and chatting and eating chocolate. A lot of traffic is moves on the walkway to and from the lunch room. There's a general hubbub in the air, the kind of excitable noise that comes from seventy different overlapping conversations. No one that I can see, at least initially, is sitting at their desk working.

A number of workmen in overalls are dotted amongst my co-workers. Some of them heft the boxes of gear that had been collected on Friday (the ones that were meant to have been delivered over the weekend), while others appear to be engaged in setting up workstations, connecting desks to cables and cables to sockets (as was also meant to have been done over the weekend). One of my team leaders hustles past with a grim look on their face, carrying a wad of brightly coloured wires and a manilla envelope.

So there's not much for it.

I know where my new desk is so I go there and sit. Or, rather, I go there and sit after I nick a chair from an unoccupied desk having found mine missing. My phone appears to be missing as well but I figure I better not just appropriate one of those, as I'm sure they need to be set up in a certain way or assigned to my desk or coded in or something. Instead, I flag down one of team leaders rushing past and ask them what to do about it.

'Just grab a phone from a vacant desk, eh?' they say, before scampering off, head down.

Which serves to remind me of yet one more way that public and private organisations differ.

In the public service, everything is mapped out, planned, structured. You wouldn't be allowed to pick up a phone, much less attempt to carry it to your desk, plug it in and start using it, at least not on your own. There would be technicians for that sort of thing, specialists. With a rigidly proscribed work manual to follow. And regardless of how long this might take and how long you might have to wait, this would be the only way your phone could be installed. In the private sector it's very different and very much everyone for themselves, anything goes, survival of the fittest. If you don't have phone you better find one, and quick! Before the bloke next to you grabs it.

So this is what I do.

And I'm not the only one.

Word is spreading.

We have staggered starts in my new office, anywhere from 8 to 11, so a good number of staff on the 8th floor still haven't arrived. And there's no one, no authority, to prevent these poor buggers from having their new desks looted. For while a lot of desks haven't been set up at all, a number of them do have equipment on them, possibly left by the previous occupants, like a defeated army abandoning their weapons in their hurry to flee the city. And these desks quickly become the focus of attention.

With each passing minute you can see more and more people at it. Swapping keyboards and snaffling wireless peripherals and unscrewing document holders. Anything that's lying about is fair game. Not wanting to work very much but also not wanting to have a non functional work station and so be assigned some even more degrading task as a fill in, I quickly join the fray. In a few minutes I have not only my phone but a new headset, mouse and a weird kind of illuminated plastic bubble that has our company name on it and whose function remains obscure.

'Are you ready to go?' still yet another T/L asks me, indicating my plunder.

'Yeah, I think I've got everything.'


And they look very relieved before they hurry off again.

Of course, no one has yet shown me how to log into the phone system and register for the queue so I can get some calls, but I don't mention this. Not yet.

One thing at a time.

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