10 Good distractions
The inescapable awfulness of modern office life, with all its clock-watching drudgery, soul-crushing novelty ringtones and life-shortening colleague “banter” is not all bad. Sometimes there’s cake. You have to jump through a few hoops to get it, but, you know, cake. There’ll be a whip-round and you might have to hand out a few coins, but that’s okay. The real hardship is coming up with an original message for the birthday card you’ve been asked to sign. If “Best wishes”, “Thinking of you” and “Regards” have all been taken already, just plump for “Congratulations”. That done, you might have a moment of awkward standing around to endure before the release of the surprise sweet. If you can wolf down a slice before being corralled into cleaning up the debris, there’s no greater treat.
9 Bad distractions
If you find yourself seated next to the office printer, you have responsibilities. Don’t act like you don’t know. You’re the Grand Overlord of IT, Chief Remover of Paper Jams and Director of Listening to People Gripe About the Crummy Day They’re Having. On the plus, you get to hold the warm paper that comes out of the printer against your face any time you want. It’s like an office hug. You’ll become adjudged to being the person most likely to understand why the conference call technology doesn’t work every single time.
8 Tea rotas
You’re the only one who gets the brews in, the only one who washes the spoons and the only one who adds money to the biscuit fund. And you’re not going to do anything about it. Because making the tea is a racket. Like protection money against the office gossips. As long as you’re delivering tea and biscuits a few times a day you won’t be talked about. And in an office, you need all the friends you can get.
Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Wikipedia – with an office computer you have mankind’s entire artistic and cultural output at your fingertips. Despite this, you’ll have exhausted the possibilities of browsing by around 9.23am and be left with the options of knuckling down to a hard day’s graft or watching the clock tick along until home time. Clock it is then.
6 Air conditioning
The struggle is real. Your office is clearly too hot/too cold and everybody else is trying to make you suffer out of spite. No matter how many times they turn it up/down you need to go back and correct it again.
Talking to the person sitting next to you over email is like taking a helicopter to the top of Mount Everest. You get the same view, but cut out a lot of hard work, grunting and unnecessary oxygen use. Plus, you can keep your headphones in and listen to all your favourite podcasts while you do it.
The discovery of fire, the writing of Shakespeare’s plays and the invention of sliced bread. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re not being talked at by a self-satisfied drone with the sole talents of being able to book a meeting room and spout corporate jargon at you. Refuse all meeting requests and it won’t make even a single percentage point of difference to anything you do today. (Don’t blame us if this backfires).
3 Personalised workspaces
A person’s desktop can tell you a lot about them. They horde crumbs, crisp packets and foul-smelling cheeses. They are devoid of personality and have obsessive compulsive disorders when it comes to lining up stationery. A person can lie, their desk never can. Judge carefully.
People who are not sick are pretending to be, people who are sick are pretending not to be and germs – both real and imagined – are being sent around the room. Keeping hand sanitiser on your desk and cleaning your keyboard once every few months is perfectly normal. Wearing surgical masks and flinching away from snottier colleagues may be frowned upon.
You can’t work with them, you can’t work without them. Whatever you do, if you write a list of all their annoying habits don’t let them see it. Oh, wait…
Will Milner is a regular contributor. He’s banned from our office.