16 November 2004 - 4:55 PM
In the cupboard
Why the renovation of workspaces is called 'restacking' in govspeak I don't know. It sounds at once childish and tech-y, like it's something you'd do with wooden blocks or blocks of servers. Perhaps it has something to do with the cubes in which we worker-bees dwell.
There is restacking underway in my building. The whole process is somewhat fraught; one floor at a time people are being shifted to the 'swing space' on the sixth floor and crammed into odd crannies to await the unveiling of their new (better?) workspaces. In theory no group should have to be in the swing space for more than a couple of months, but the first group to be moved has already been there about four months. They were moved out of their regular spaces before anyone realised that the new carpeting for their floor hadn't been ordered. This little oversight put the restacking behind schedule a bit.
As a result, the denizens of my floor have had our move pushed back until spring sometime, or at least that is the current timetable. None of us are exceptionally confident in the accuracy of the current predictions. The appropriate people have been working hard, however, at assigning space to the various staffs which will be moving and making sure everyone has a place to sit. At this afternoon's meeting, the seating chart for my staff was revealed.
'It's not the worst place in the world,' said the asst. chief, and trailed off. 'But it's close,' someone finished for him. After a viewing of the chart, we were taken upstairs to see the swing space assigned us.
The good news? The staff will be relatively close together, all in one quadrant. Other staffs are trailed out over several.
The bad news? We will be crammed into odd crannies and uncomfortable nooks. Four of us (including me) are being moved into a former server room, without even cubes or partitions. We will (apparently) be sitting at folding cafeteria-type tables and some leftover desks. And, of course, there are no windows.
I cannot imagine this workspace conforms to OSHA guidelines. Perhaps it doesn't have to, as it's technically only temporary space. I am trying to imagine spending 3-4 months trying to work out of that broom cupboard, and not doing well. I am not the only one whose imagination is failing; my chief promised to be liberal about approving work-at-home requests while we're in the swing space.
I have worked out of broom cupboards in the past. When I was a postgrad at St Andrews, I and several other history postgrads were assigned office space in the basement of the arts centre. The offices were merely glorified broom cupboards. There were exposed pipes in the ceilings which lent the whole space that cosy, U-boat atmosphere. At the end of the hall was a 'common room' in which there was a sink, a broken kettle and a chair apparently stuffed with deflated footballs and old cutlery. The lads who shared a larger cupboard kept the milk for their tea fresh by putting the stopper in the sink and filling it partway with ice, until they realised that the uni's priorities did not include heating history postgrads' offices and the ice was unnecessary. I found a pattern and we all made mitts to keep our paws warm while we typed out our theses. Someone brought in a cast-off kettle so we could actually make tea. Someone else designed a quite decorative sign for the door at the bottom of the stairs, and dubbed the space The Bunker.
As a workspace, the arts centre basement was hardly ideal. Those of us assigned to The Bunker endured through camaraderie and good humour, and doubtless those of us now assigned the sixth-floor broom cupboard will do the same when we take up habitation there. Nevertheless, I am hoping that the people responsible for ordering the carpet for this floor have already done so.