Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Workplace essentials

I have recently had cause to reflect on what I value in my workplaces. One of them has recently had a fairly large scale office reshuffle, which, combined with one of my closer work friends going on maternity leave, means that I am now in a new office (in the same building) where I don't really know anyone.

Given that my other workplace gives me an office of my own, in a hallway with people I know very well, I am not entirely enamored with this new arrangement.

I am also not very good with change, which means that even if I was going to a better office, I would probably be slightly unhappy for the first week or so. This is a personality trait I really need to try harder to change.

I'm sure I'll get over it in a week or two, but at the moment - well, I'm doing all I can to make the workplace in question as nice as possible. And this, of course, has prompted me to think about what matters for me at work.

The things I've hit upon as my top three are...

1. Order and desk organisation

It sounds a bit precious to say I can't work at a messy desk, but, well, I can't - or at least not very well. I also struggle to work at a desk that is organised in a way that seems wrong to me. I like things lined up and have a strong sense of aesthetics when it comes to certain things. (Some might say obsessive rather than aesthetic, but I shall stick with aesthetic.)

Given this, I have made sure my files and other desk-related objects are organised in a way that meets my peculiar standards. I have put up my calendar, made sure I have my own mug, and generally done what I can to make my new desk my own.

2. (Mini) breaks

I never thought breaks were something I valued, but it's surprising how much the day is sped up by a few brief non-work related conversations. Now that I've lost my usual conversation partners, I've done things like take a 5 minute walk outside mid-afternoon. It helps!

3. Food - and particularly the right kind of food

Fruit is always part of what I take to work, but the rest varies considerably. Sometimes my lunches are a balanced combination of vegetables, protein and grains, but sometimes they are carbohydrate with virtually no vegetables or protein, or, if I'm honest, an ad hoc combination of snack-type foods.

This week I've been making more of an effort.

Chickpea, spinach and capsicum salad with sweet chilli sauce

Homemade trail mix (pecans, almonds, goji berries, sultanas, dates, puffed kamut)

I'm also planning in minor treats. Tomorrow morning will be a purchased coffee morning, and I'm already looking forward to it.

Of course, if all else fails, I can remind myself that it's only 5 weeks until Christmas, and that I'm only at the workplace in question 2 days out of 5. When phrased in those terms, I really have nothing to complain  about at all.

And if that fails...well, there's always chocolate. And more coffee.

What makes a difference to your work days? Are there things you rely upon to make the day pass smoothly?


  1. In my previous life as a pharmacist, it always used to annoy me that I never ever got a lunch break - so I would purposely leave the shop for 10 minutes to chill out a little. But always packed tasty lunches!

  2. We used to take lunches that looked a lot like yours when we were working, I got so tired of cold chiller sandwiches. Small walks in green spaces, helped too. My last employers where I was for ten years was a very small architects' practice and we had a very relaxed and cordial atmosphere. Some people bake a few simple treats and bring them in to share with their co-workers. My desk used to get dumped on by other people sometimes but we had a big open space with huge desks so it was easy to keep it tidy. On the other hand, I recall when I was in teaching, sometimes I would come in and other people would be sitting and working at my desk (!) because there weren't enough desks to go round and part-timers had literally nowhere to go. I agree change is unsettling though, I do hope it all works out for you :)

  3. There are only three of us at my office but I'm incredibly lucky in that we all get along incredibly, incredibly well. My fellow colleague is now one of my best friends, and she and my boss and I spend some of every day laughing and joking and it's wonderful. Our Sydney colleague invited us to her wedding, too! I don't know how I'll cope if I ever don't have an office to myself; I currently have a huge room. You'd have a hernia if you say my desk though.... CHAOS. :P

    Also, chin up dearie! I'm sure that you, being your amazing self, will make new friends superquick and will have chatty breaks to help get through the day again soon xoxo

  4. I sympathise. I am terrible with change too and have had some many changes in the last few years that it isn't funny. I have been lucky in being able to find great managers who will support me which makes it far easier! I hate my office move about a year ago but one thing I loved about it was having a window and natural light again - unfortunately the aircon in the new office is not great - these small physical attributes make a difference to me. Amazing too how spending a lot of time with people can bring you closer to them.

  5. Multiple cups of coffee and tea get me through each class at school... it's so much better to sit and listen to a lecture when I can sip on something.
    When I worked full time, it was 12 hour shifts, so strategic break planning/ eating helped a lot! If you eat something too heavy, you feel awful.. light things like your chickpea lunch are perfect.

  6. I am 100% for desk and office organisation and order! I cannot work when it is messy.

  7. "I am also not very good with change ... This is a personality trait I really need to try harder to change." < I love this :)
    I don't eat breakfast at home so I eat a muesli bar at my desk every single morning. If I don't get that muesli bar, for the rest of the day something is.... wrong.
    I also can't have big stacks of unsorted papers on my desk for longer than a few days. All my papers have to be either actioned, filed or recycled. I don't understand how people can cope with big messy stacks for months on end - what if there is important unfinished work in there?

  8. I'm currently in what can only be described as a non-social workplace. For a very social person this has proved to be a very serious challenge for me as for the first time in my life, I've felt lonely at work. I'm coping by making a particular effort to engage with people in any way shape or form and also to utilise social media etc so that I have some contact with others during the day.

    I also try to get out of the office each day like you. Just a walk up to the post office, or pop into the city is great to clear my head.

    Finally I'm big on treats. I always have my mid-afternoon sweet (lebkucken at the moment, so good) and occasionally on my walk out buy a hot chocolate or something. I eat a very healthy salad lunch every day so I figure I can treat myself.

    Mind you I'm also really looking forward to when we reach the point where we can employ some hopefully more sociable people.

  9. Hahaha, for me, I have tons of things which are important and including your list as well.
    But I do need good ergonomic mouse, pad, keyboard and sitting posture, as I can really sit there for long hours and I may experience discomfort after that.
    Oh ya, I do need lots and lots of water to make sure I don't get dehydrated as well :)

  10. I do like a tidy desk to work at even at home.
    and if that doesn't work, yep there's chocolate and coffee here to ;-)

  11. I didn't know you used to be a pharmacist :)

    It would annoy me if I didn't get a lunch break too, even though I usually eat my lunch at my desk. But knowing I can take time out if I want makes a big difference!

  12. Thanks Joanna :) I like the sound of your last workplace, although not so much the shortage of desks and associated sharing of yours! Relaxed and cordial atmosphere with baked treats sounds pretty delightful though - especially if mixed with walks in green spaces.

  13. Thank you Hannah - I do keep telling myself I didn't know my last set of work friends before I started working with them either!

    Your current colleagues sound delightful - very cool about the Sydney wedding invite. And I am jealous of your office, but not of your desk! :P

  14. Would the constant supply of Lindt 85% make up for the desk in your eyes? :P I onyl wish I could go to her wedding, but I have gospel rehearsals and a wedding the following weekend so it's all too hard to get to Melbourne :( (where the wedding is).

  15. I find that those small physical attributes, which might be ignored if it was just for an hour or so, take on so much more significance when you're with them for most of your waking time. I'm glad to hear others relate (although am sorry you've had to accommodate multiple changes over the last few years - hopefully no more for a while, unless you move to a light office with a window *and* good air conditioning!).

  16. Oh definitely on the hot drinks - I think that should have been a fourth point in my post! I drink rather a lot of tea.

    12 hour shifts would definitely require strategic planning. You should be set for any future job after that!

  17. We would make good co-workers :)

  18. Yes! Exactly! And I love the muesli bar example - those seemingly small things can become very important.

  19. That is hard - I hope you get some more sociable people soon too (pity you can't make it a selection criteria!). I like how you've tried to cope with it though, and I think it's a nice reminder for me that others end up in these sorts of workplace scenarios and do survive. I never expected to find loneliness at work something I'd struggle with, but I think once you've experienced the social and friendly alternative, it's really quite a big thing to then miss out on.

  20. Most definitely for the water! Plus, that way you get bonus trips to re-fill your cup or bottle (unless you have a jumbo bottle, which I don't) :)

    Thanks for stopping by, too, it's great to discover your blog!

  21. Good to know they are reliable and universal stand bys :D

  22. I think, actually, that you would make up for the desk in my eyes - but I wouldn't turn down the 85% Lindt :P

    A Canberrean invited to a Sydney girl's wedding that is being held in Melbourne? My head hurts slightly! It's a shame you can't go though; hopefully she'll share lots and lots of photos to make up for it.

  23. Aw, you! SQUISH! :) xo

    I'm so sad not to be going! it's a 300 person Jewish extravaganza, and I was so hoping to go! Sadface.

  24. I turn to the Internet. And crying in bathroom stalls. But I advise the first more than the second.

  25. Appropriate advice :) At least the second is always available though. It's good to have a back up.


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