It’s Monday morning (again)…and you’re on your way to work. You arrive at your workplace and the dread of the long walk to your desk makes your stomach turn. As you navigate through the desks and reluctantly say good morning to everyone you can’t help but think ‘this is so awkward’. You finally arrive at your desk and now here comes more awkward Monday morning conversations. You haven’t been out your house the whole weekend so getting used to being around people again is a challenge! Your office friend Kate comes over and asks ‘how was your weekend?’. You don’t feel like talking but it’s difficult to ignore someone that is standing right in front of you. It’s not that you don’t like Kate, you do, but first thing on a Monday is too much. You just need time to readjust. To wake up. And quite possibly refill your word bank with things to say!
However, as you’re not a rude person you smile and respond softly by saying ‘good thanks’ praying that will be the end of that. However, there must be something about your smile and peaceful energy that draws Kate in more. She begins to tell you ALL about her weekend.
(You didn’t ask.)
But it’s ok, because you do like her and she’s not so over bearing like your other colleagues. She’s actually one of the only few people in the office you can really trust. The rest are all fake and pride themselves on office gossip. You’re not about that. So you understand that maintaining this friendship is crucial for your survival in this job. Even though burying your head in your work would be preferred, your empathic side reminds you that you should be there for her. And as trivial as it is, perhaps she really needs to tell you about her weekend. You start to listen intently to her story. You laugh at her drunken escapades on Friday night. You didn’t find it as funny as your laugh suggested but it did warm your soul …a little. For a moment, you feel happy that you’re both sharing this moment together. You know you’re strengthening your friendship. It makes you feel good. You actually begin to feel less annoyed that she’s talking to you, and now you’ve kind of justified that you’re being a good friend.
It’s now 10 minutes into the conversation and she’s only on Saturday morning…you smile, nod and throw in the occasional ‘really?’ and ‘oh wow’. Your mind is beginning to wander now but you still manage to listen to key parts and ask questions where relevant. As much as you like Kate you can feel her sucking your energy more and more. You want to say ‘shut up and go away now’ in the nicest way possible but trying to figure this out proves difficult.
It’s not even lunch yet and you’ve done the most communicating you did all weekend!
After 15 minutes, the conversation naturally comes to an end. Through fears of lengthening it you dare not share what you did… Not that it would be interesting anyway. Staying at home to read, write and watch a documentary isn’t the most thrilling story to tell.
Your friend heads back over to her desk. You look up at the clock and take a deep breath. It’s 9:20am and you haven’t even switched on your computer yet…you feel behind on your work when in reality you’re only 20 minutes into your day. Your social energy is now at 70% and you still have the rest of the day to deal with meetings and more office small talk. The thought of it makes you even more tired but you plough on and switch on your computer.
After a few minutes you open up your emails. 40 unread emails! How is that even possible? You cleared all your emails on Friday afternoon. Do these people work weekends?
You open up the first email and start typing ‘Thanks for your email…’ when loud mouth John stands over you and blares…
‘Do you have a moment for a quick chat?’
A deep internal sigh and anger consumes your body. You think about bashing your head on the desk to make yourself unconscious. Or maybe you could just pretend to faint? Surely he couldn’t have a conversation with your unconscious body? Perhaps that is too extreme. But your frantically thinking of anything to get out of this situation. You can’t possibly handle anotherconversation. The last one lasted 6 hours. Literally. You allowed the first person, because you liked them but now you’re drawing a line. A big line. One that spans the whole office! Maybe then everyone would get the message!
You’re reluctant to say ‘can we speak later’ because you’re worried it will offend. Although he’s offending your personal space. Why is his crotch so close to your face?
All these suggestions seem unreasonable and yet again your empathic side kicks in and you think…John must really need help…let me listen to him and see what he has to say.
John: ‘It’ll be a quick one I promise’
You: ‘Sure, go ahead’
John: ‘Great. First up, how was your weekend?’
You: bangs head uncontrollably on the desk‘Good thanks’
John: ‘I had a shocking weekend…you never guess what happened’
You: stares into the abyss
This example is part fiction and part reality. I worked in a large open plan office for all of 4 months! The high-speed environment, the constant noise in the office was just all too much and I could never focus. I know what it feels like to be constantly interrupted whilst in the midst of a complicated task. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed before 10am because you’ve already spoken to more people you’d usually do in a whole week! It all got too much one day so I walked out! [I don’t advise that]. I couldn’t take it!
But if you do find yourself stuck in an open plan office keep your eyes peeled for my next blog on Friday “5 ways to survive and open plan office”
Can you relate? Share your experiences below