About 9 years ago I worked for Satan. Satan is a large office supply retailer, and I worked in their Risk Management Department. It was one of those experiences where it sounds like a really great choice at first then you realize about 24 minutes in that it was a terrible terrible terrible choice.
There were some benefits to working there. I met one of my favorite people there, James, who you’ve heard about in a prior blog post. They also had an omelet bar for breakfast, which sadly is something that kept me there longer than I should have been. If I ever start a company I’ll demand an all-day omelet bar. I think the impact of an omelet bar is grossly underestimated.
But I digress… They were located in a nice spot right off the highway. They had daycare programs for vacation weeks so parents can bring their kids to work during school vacations, which I took advantage of and still think it’s pretty cool. It’s also a very well-known brand so there’s a sense of pride in working there, until you realize you work with Satan, then the pride sort of stops. Sounds like my prior pizza slum lord stint eh? Yep, it’s a trend.
So, after my 3210723th ethics argument with Satan and his followers (ie my refusal to do clearly unethical things) and after James found herself as an unexpected passenger in a car ride with our very drunk (driving) boss after a company golf tournament, we decided this wasn’t really a cultural fit for us. We are averse to silly things like knowingly financially harming claimants, ignoring privacy laws, and being subjected to almost dying at the hands of a drunken driving boss. James and I are weird like that I guess. The other ~7K home office employees seemed to be going about their business.
This is all fine, just keep walking. It’s fine.
I’m not the type to burn bridges necessarily. It’s a small world and I’m very diplomatic. But I do stick it to the man in small ways. My friends and family argue that I am “the man” so if I’m sticking it to the man I’m sticking it to myself. Oh well… I still do it. So, James and I both left and before I left I changed all of the passwords to the systems (both internal and external governmental compliance systems) to “JimIsADoucheInSheepsClothing666”. Oh and one login was too an ACH system for transferring large funds, and I changed the password to “MyNameIsJimAndImGrosslyUnderqualified” It’s the little things, right? Hey they told me to leave him the passwords, and I kept my word.
Then I said good-bye to cubicle farm life. I started working for a large property and casualty insurance carrier in the field. i.e. I had a company car and was on the road 4-5 days a week. FREEDOM! The freedom from the cubicle farm was awesome. I worked many more hours but I made my own schedule and that suited me just fine.
About 3 years in I changed jobs to a home office position, but continued to work from home for about 5 years. Then this year I offered (aghem) to come into the office 3 days a week. Yes yes I know… poor Marie Christine has to go into an office THREE days a week. Light a candle for me at church this Sunday, will you? I also get to choose which days they are, and if for some reason I didn’t make it in for the 3 days, literally no one would notice or care. But STILL… a candle, please.
I will add that with no traffic my commute is exactly 1 hour and 1 minute long. There is never no traffic, so it ranges from an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes each way. Candle please…
It’s only been 2 months and adjusting to #TowerLyfe has been interesting. The first few days I felt like an actual rat in a cage. I didn’t realize how much freedom I had until I didn’t have it. I mean realistically no one is telling me I can’t leave… but I’m not in my Jimi Hendrix Shirt, yoga pants and ponytail in my basement… so… it’s different. Ok by Jimi Hendrix Shirt & yoga pants I meant nightgown & bathrobe… tomato tomahto.
Not gonna lie it’s pretty much like this. “Can you skype?” “Sorry my camera isn’t working, tech issues!”.
One of the primary things I notice in the cubicle farm is that people don’t work very hard (there are exceptions). Working in the field you work from the minute you start until the minute you finish. In the office, people show up at 8:30 or 9:00… leave at 3:00 or 4:00. They arrive and log in. Then they walk over to chat with friends and talk about TV shows or the commute. Then they go get a coffee. They get back to their desks and make a couple of personal phone calls to their kids’ daycare or for appointments etc. They go to a meeting. They have a business call maybe. Then lunch. After lunch another personal call or two and a check in with friends in the aisles. Then an afternoon break, maybe a walk. Occasionally another quick meeting then almost literally running out of the building. Any time after 3:01 seems to be an acceptable departure time. But seeing me there when they arrive and leave, they appear to have the last laugh. Joke’s on me!
I’m Gen X. This is not how work works. I get in by 8:30. I talk to people if approached and/or when appropriate. I work until 5:00 earliest but usually 6:00 (arguably mostly to avoid traffic). I spend the majority of the time doing what I consider to be actual work. I do understand that “networking” is also work. But dear god the lack of productivity in the office is mind boggling to me. Perhaps I’m just being an asshole and this is how the world works.
But, what I see is my company being completely overstaffed and paying people to hang out and come and go as they please. It’s almost as if they feel going to the office IS the work. Or perhaps that their presence and general contribution IS the work. I would say in my very limited view so far this is about 75% of the people. I’ve asked friends about their companies and they have the same ratio. Wow things have changed since I’ve been gone. I feel like I was in a hibernation tank for 8 years and woke up in the land of entitlement. Or my secondary hypothesis that I’m an asshole is correct. To be honest it could be either. I get work life balance, but then there’s just taking advantage of your employer and feeling entitled. The secondary part of that is so annoying it could drive a Gen X’er back to smoking a pack of reds per day. Enjoy your vape break Pu$$@#s.
I also forgot a few fun facts about working in an office. People chew. Loud. People talk. Loud. People leave the kitchen a mess as if the facilities staff are their personal housekeepers. People can be totally un-self-aware. I was waiting to get hot water last week and the hot water is part of the kitchen sink. There’s a nice side tap for hot tea water. This woman was washing her coffee mug forever. Not forever but I timed it and it was 3 full minutes, as I’m standing there waiting to take maybe 10 seconds to fill my cup. Has common sense and decency also left the building? Don’t get me started on the bathrooms. It’s 2018 and we haven’t solved the mystery of having bathrooms that don’t smell like low tide?
Thanks to companies like Google and other millennial-grabbing forward thinkers, our office was recently renovated into 22 floors of collaborative space. This means tiny cubes with low walls and lots of open collaboration areas. It looks cool. I feel like I’m on a space ship when I walk into our lobby. There are “pods” you can sit and work in and it’s all very millennial-grabbing and whatnot. I will say the cubicle walls are higher than I’ve seen in some areas so it could be worse. Most closed office space was eliminated, so even AVPs have cubes with us regular folk. I’m not sure how they feel about that. I’ve never cared about titles or offices. You can’t eat a title. Pay me more, call me whatever you want and I’ll sit in the basement on the floor if you want.
Overall the open space concept is ok. I’m not unfriendly, I think people would say I am friendly. But mostly I just want to do my job and have most people leave me the fuck alone. Ok maybe after reading that back I’m not as friendly as I think I am. Hmmm.
One of the major upsides is being with my team and our business partners. It’s great to be in person for meetings and we get a lot done when we are together. I feel less disconnected and better understand people being able to get to know them better.
Parking is free, but pretty crazy. I’m used to parking in my driveway, or parking at a client’s office. For the tower, I need to park in a lot then take a shuttle into the office. Not ideal. Allegedly when I get my next promotion I’ll be able to park in the attached garage, so that will give me one less thing to complain about. But I assume the increased level of responsibility will give me more to complain about in general. It’s a complaint balancing act. Our company requires, for branding consistency, that we only use Arial font. As a small way of sticking it to the man is that I use Calibri font on everything. Take that beuracracy! I figure Calibri is a much better way to manage work complaint angst than some other potential options.
I currently sit next to one of my favorite people at my office, Papa-P. We’ve been working on a project together for almost 5 years. He is super smart, very nice and very productive. He is also thoughtful and doesn’t get nearly the amount of credit he deserves for the level of work he does. That said, he had the audacity put in a request to change desks (ie not sit near me) ALLEGEDLY before I started coming into the office. He will be moving tomorrow to have a window seat, essentially abandoning me in the cubicle farm subject to an unlimited list of possible future seat mates. He’s dead to me at the moment but I’m sure I will get past this unexpected set back. Maybe I’ll forgive him if he starts using Calibri font? This doesn’t happen on the road. On the road it’s you and you alone and your work.
The upside to this is that I get to hold this over his head until he retires. Or actually until I die, whichever comes first. He also hates attention so I should probably bring attention to this whenever possible. It just makes sense. For all of our co-workers reading this, feel free to guilt trip Papa-P until further notice. Sincerely, gold is from aliens.
Probably less than a 1% chance of this type of conversation occurring PP (Post Papa-P). The window will not get your sense of humor, because it’s a fucking window.
Things I hope to avoid with future seat mate:
- Loud Chewers
- Late Arrival Early Departure (Lazy people)
- Negative Nellies
- People whose happiness is associated with the success or failure of a sports team
- Hygiene Issues (Wear deodorant, don’t clip nails)
- People in positions they don’t deserve
- Name Droppers
- Personal Over-Sharers
- Crossfitters (#BasicBen Exception Applies)
- Fad Dieters. No shakeology, paleo, south beach, bone brothers please. I know you believe you’ve discovered the key to life but you sound like an idiot. It will all be over soon when the bacteria from your raw water kicks in.
- People who don’t stop talking about the weather
- Shape-Shifters (I’m kidding I would love to have a shape-shifter as a seat mate)
- Women who don’t help other women
- A mom who talks about her kids all day
- Close talkers
- People who constantly state the obvious
- Man bun
- No sense of humor
- People who come to work while sick
Good night folks, if you remember nothing else, remember that gold is from aliens. #Peace