Smoking dogs and the egalitarian office
We were reminiscing the other day at Badger HQ about the days when smoking was allowed pretty much everywhere. Cinemas, aeroplanes, trains, buses, restaurants – there were no constraints on where you could go and light up. I was reminded of my first job in an agency in London. It was a huge property located across several floors in a once grand building just off from Marylebone station. The brother and sister team who ran the company were both big smokers. While they mostly puffed away in their own offices, it didn’t stop the smell and foggy atmosphere permeating throughout. No-one really said anything, but the yellow nicotine stained wallpaper had definitely seen better days and the stale fug every morning was fairly unpleasant. The thought of smoking in an office environment now seems somewhat incredulous. Even spotting an employee vaping outside an office block is quite a rare sight to see these days.
Who let the dogs in?
It got me thinking about how much the workplace has changed over the last twenty years. At the aforementioned office, we also had afternoon tea and biscuits brought around on a proper tea trolley by a mad Russian lady called Barbara. How lucky were we? We also had an office dog called Diva, and I have to admit, never was a dog so aptly named. A small Cavalier King Charles spaniel, she would curl up in a basket in her mistress’s office and occasionally get up to scoot across the office floor, which was rather grim if you were having lunch at your desk. This was also long before people brought their pets into work, so it really was something of a novelty. Goodness only knows what happened to Diva, she probably died prematurely of passive smoking.
So, whilst I was enjoying this trip down memory lane, I heard from my other half that they are looking at adopting a hot desk policy. Given that I have never hot desked in my life, I was keen to find out more. Apparently every work station comes complete with two monitors. And that’s about it. You plug in a device and work at an empty desk, leaving any of your personal belongings in a locker.
For the life of me, I can’t fathom why hot desking is beneficial. I went to Google in search of answers. The advantages (apparently) include increased levels of communication, a chance to build bonds across the wider business, and cost savings e.g. cutting down on wasted space as not all employees are always in the office, negating the issue of empty desks.
For me, the idea of hot desking displays a lack of understanding of human behaviour. Let’s think about your typical office worker to see exactly how this would work out for them. For starters, most of us are creatures of habit, so you‘ve got to think that many people, given the choice, will sit in the same place day in and day out. They’ll probably want to sit with people they know, team members or friendly colleagues. Then there’s the arguments over having the window seat or the desk with the best view of outdoors. As minimalism is a must in the hot desking office, it begs the question, where do you keep your stapler?
I am of course slightly playing devil’s advocate, but unless you work remotely and occasionally pop in to the office and need a spare desk, surely there’s a lot to be said for having your own space? Think about all the people you know who have adorned their working space with photos of their kids and family. Do you think there’s enough hours in the day for them to do their work and then take down all their pictures and knick-knacks before chipping off home?
Out of office
As technology continues to improve connectivity, we now see the rise of flexible and remote working. While the larger corporates need to be seen to offer their employers choice in how they work, I’m not altogether sure who else is, and more importantly, I wonder if it’s a good thing? Certainly in a creative environment there are substantial benefits to working collaboratively in the same physical location. Do we really want to start working in silos? Will this really lead to greater productivity?
Understanding how people work, what their expectations are, what they need versus what they want and what helps them achieve what they do in a work environment is fundamental to our Badger People-Centric B2B™ thinking (nice seague). Tap us up if you want to hear more about it.
For me personally, it’s come full circle. Since arriving at Badger, I have been greeted by another smoking dog – Zero, the dachshund. If Zero is on your desk in the morning, then you are responsible for keeping the kitchen area clean and loading the dishwasher. In the egalitarian office environment I work in, we make each other rounds of hot drinks and there’s not a tea lady or trolley in sight. I just wish that dog would give up the fags.