This is a cross-post by Marc Goldberg
I never turn my computer off unless I absolutely have to, it’s enough to let it go to sleep when I go home. My biggest fear is that someone will notice that I don’t have anything work related on my screen during the day but turning the computer off doesn’t have anything to do with that one way or the other. I’ve been working at the same company for 11 years now, promoted once and had a pay raise every year that I’ve worked there. I would tell you what my job is but I have long since forgotten. My title is Operational Systems Manager though I don’t actually manage anyone. It would be nice to have an office of my own but apparently it’s all about ‘open plan’ space these days. Where I sit long since ceased to be a desk and at some point was transformed into a ‘workstation’ whatever that means. My boss is 15 years younger than me and I find it quite hard to look at him. There are plenty of pretty girls in my office, all of whom are married with children whom they constantly talk about and use as an excuse to leave the office early. I’m jealous of the ease with which they are able to leave at will. I am not married.
My office building is one of these glass monstrosities that’s filled with comfortable couches in the most random of places, that no one ever really feels comfortable sitting on. Similarly a multitude of beeping, blinking games consoles litter each floor of the building, each is hooked up to a massive flat screen television that no one wants to be caught watching. There are always seem to be more people watching the staff than the televisions. There’s even a pool table hidden away in the basement. It started life on the 9th floor, which by some quirk of fate is the floor my ‘workstation’ is located on. I took to that table from the start, so did everyone else. It got to the point at where a line of people waiting to play one another was a constant fact of life on the 9th floor. But it couldn’t last.
First the chalk for the pool cues disappeared and wasn’t replaced. Then the complaints from HR began, it didn’t take many, in fact I think it took only one before an email was sent around announcing that the table was a ‘health and safety’ problem. The reason being that an employee might turn while holding a pool cue and accidentally hit someone on the head. And so the table was moved downstairs into the basement and the message was sent that just because management had deemed a pool table to be a necessary part of the office that didn’t mean they approved of people actually using it.
My day tends to be taken up with a lot of sitting. Lately I have taken to playing online poker for most of the day and it’s costing me a fortune, but it’s money well spent since it relieves the boredom. My boss sits behind me in the corner of a rather large room from where he has the option of scanning all of his staff’s monitors. I have long since ceased to care that he can witness my online poker antics and live in hope that he will eventually pluck up the courage to fire me for it. I often look around at the other people in that room we all share and wonder whether they are actually ‘working’. Personally I have long since forgotten what it is that my own position actually entails, I lazily ponder whether the others there genuinely believe in what they’re doing or whether they are simply better at pretending than I am.
I sometimes try to convince myself that I should be ‘working’ but then I am never really sure what it is I am supposed to be doing for ‘work’. In the past when I have done ‘work’ it has invariably led to more work and then some meetings with the ultimate decision that the results of my ‘work’ will be referred upstairs where they are never heard from again.
I tried to leave once. It was an interesting meeting that I had with my boss where I confessed that I was unhappy and wasn’t doing anything with myself all day anyway so perhaps it would be better if I left. That meeting lasted 40 minutes and when I left my boss’s office not only was I still an employee but the word ‘manager’ had been added to my job title and a hefty pay raise was in the works. Even the head of the division came up to me later that day with a smile on his face, he playfully punched me on the shoulder while uttering the words “helluva negotiator you are, there’s a fine future for you in systems management Seinfeld.” I wasn’t sure if he was joking or genuinely had confused my name with the show. I didn’t correct him.
Once I was asked whether or not I was ambitious and I had to think about that one. For nice as it would be to get more money to sit around doing nothing all day I feel that I’m not quite a good enough actor to pretend to actually care about the mechanics of the company I work for. I suppose my biggest ambition is to rise up high enough to get the pool table moved out of the basement. But that will never happen, it is a health and safety problem.
There are some people who arrive early in the morning and there are some people who leave work late. We have a special computer program that monitors when people arrive and when they leave. I don’t think anyone really looks at it, but I tend to live in fear of it nonetheless. Not enough to actually spend the requisite amount of time in the office, but I live in fear of it nonetheless. When I arrive I check the time on my phone and spend an awful lot of time looking at the clock in the bottom right hand corner of my monitor while I sit at my ‘workstation’.
There’s lots of natural light in the room I share with a few other souls, an entire wall is actually a window. Sometimes I spend an hour or so just gazing out of it wishing I was on the other side doing something else.
But what else is there?