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Towers of boredom

Office-life-is-crap stats

% of employees who feel their office prevents them from performing to the best of their abilities: 38

% of employers who feel that a pleasant office is a major influence in attracting/retaining good workers: 78

% of office employees who can’t see out of a window: 44

% of London office employees who work in an air-con office: 81

Source: shit organisations that we can’t be bothered to credit. Soz

 

Targeted drive-bys

Call Alan Qaeda
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WORK
The new factories

Mundane, modern office life is turning us into automatons, and it’s all in the pay of corporate arseholes

Turn up, sit down, beaver away all day at some exhilarating spreadsheet in a massive under-exploitation of your skills, go home, repeat ‘til you’re 50. Oh, and no more than 25 holidays a year, the bulk of which you won’t be able to take until November because you’ll be forced to juggle too many ‘projects’ and ‘products’. Too many people from the middle and working classes are increasingly resigning themselves to such a life of sucking corporate cock, even though they hate the job, the robot existence, the office culture and, ultimately, themselves for sticking with the tedium. Office life is so demoralising that we’re all wasting away into a shallow acceptance of this rubbish existence, where dreams, aspirations and aims go unfulfilled as the primacy of economics — got to pay the bills, still got student debt, need money for pubs and clubs — goes unchallenged. Time to question our fates, I think, before the world becomes one big call centre.

Meeting up with three mates from a previous job recently in Clerkenwell, London, the usual mood of welcome reacquaintance was replaced with more sombre tones. Why? They’re all sick to death of their mundane 9-5 existence. Opposite, Gavin was frustrated with the total disdain in which his input was viewed by his seniors; to my left, Lee was about to leave the continued uncertainty of working for a ‘new economy’ company; to my right, Cat was totally fed up with going from one faceless PR company to another...and finding that the usual corporate bollocks rules everywhere.

I’ve been chasing a scaled-down version of my journalistic dream for four years. And it feels like 44 years already. Bouncing around from one mediocre post to another, setting up desk next to another bunch of managers all seemingly hullabaloo with their daily displays of mutual masturbation. I never thought that such a profession would bring with it such ritual tedium. But it’s become clear that the type of job is irrelevant; it’s the overpowering odiousness of the office that determines the atmosphere. If you’re lucky enough to work under progressive management in a purpose-built development with spot-on air conditioning, do exactly what you wanted to do and live without self-loathing or wounded ambition, then vacate this rant now. If like the rest of us, you’ve found yourself unwittingly among, and in the pay of, corporate pricks where the profit motive far exceeds the concerns for personnel, then this may ring true.

So it may be all shiny PCs and state-of-the-art office ‘solutions’, but in the New Factories these are merely the latest tools of submission. And it’s no surprise that, at some new offices, staff have to clock in and clock out — the old tools of the warehouse and the factory being revived for the unsuspecting computer-literate generation. Flexi-time clearly not that flexible, then. Really, it’s just the most blatant method of senior staff trying to ensure compulsory attendance. This insistence on the herd mentality, and the subsequent loss of individuality, is paranoid atavism against the thankfully, growing trend of staff working from home, which is the surest way of assuring some degree of corporate loyalty: people tend to react favourably when they realise others have confidence in their abilities and convictions, people react badly when they’re looking over their shoulder for the wrath of the foreman, sorry, the head of sales, the communications chief or the editorial manager.

"Our systems had stopped working, jammed with the odour of copy machines, Tipex, the smell of bond paper and the endless stress of pointless jobs done grudgingly to little applause. We had compulsions that made us confuse shopping with creativity, to take downers and to assume that merely renting a video on a Saturday night was enough. But now that we live here in the desert, things are much, much better" Douglas Coupland, Generation X

Thus the chief effect of this glorious 9-to-whenever-it’s-done office existence is the alienation of individuality. There are two main ways in which this development manifests itself — people who realise the process and instinctively react against it, and those who don’t even realise this strange corporate conversion is happening to them.

I’m definitely in the first group. As a chief sub to whom everything is directed, I’m expected to be more active, engaging in meetings with advertisers, marketers and, worse, lovely ‘clients’ from big banks. But I do the basic subbing and organisation job and leave all the rest to those that relish it. But this is alienating in itself, as the staunch refusal to get involved in all this means I’m as quiet as a mouse in the day — safer to say nothing than to get locked into some asinine strategic business discussion. I only return to self on departure. The other day I unusually tried to be helpful, offering suggestions for the magazine’s website, as it looked awful: the internet ‘guys’ weren’t interested in my ideas as they didn’t correspond with their own. So fuck them, they won’t be getting any more ‘input’. The email is the only salvation at work — and it’s definitely not for work. For the many who can’t afford to join Tony’s computer crusade at home, it is arguable that our recently-developed dependence on the electronic post helps to bind us to the office: there may be some truth in that.

The second group, of unwitting office robots, transform from acceptable anonymity to annoying arseholes within months of employment. They’re easy to spot, the runt of the litter at school, only went to university ‘for something to do’ and in their rabid enthusiasm for their role as Junior Sales Manager don’t see the whole risible artifice of the office life (even the titles are overblown to make you feel important). Before you know it, they’re like any Jo or Josephine Bloggs down the Slug & Lettuce, boring their mates, full of enforced jocularity and an unerring faith in their prospects at the office. And like the patrons of those wackily-titled-but-bland-as-fuck pubs, their relentless uniformity and utterly predictable social options marks them out. We KNOW who you are! They’re the types who’ll email you (and your boss) on any trivial work development, will call you when it would be easier to travel the 10 yards and speak face-to-face and of, course, have no grasp of normal English whatsoever. They’ve been dehumanised, and they don’t even know it:

((www.tvgohome.com, 11.05pm. Wanking for Coins: Rowland Rivron takes a look at the world’s most desperate and degrading careers/no.3 Marketing Executive/Tony Warburton has been working in marketing for ten years, and is now mentally and physically incapable of describing a single human emotion without using the word ‘product’ in the same sentence…

Do you have an ultimately meaningless job? Have you spent years learning to converse in dense marketing jargon, only to wake up one night in a clammy sweat, haunted by the certainty that your life’s work improves the lot of humanity not one iota??...The Killjoy team would like to hear from you now…)

And there are variations on these hapless beasts, if not with the same meek surrender to the corporate culture. There are those out there who actually like this risible language, unbending corporate loyalty and…knock, knock IS THERE ANYONE IN THERE YOU STUPID MONKEYS?? But people do, they actually like all the flatulent language. Recently, I had a call diverted to me (thanks!) by some PR manager of a West End hotel, offering incentives for clients from my company. He prattled on in some unknown jargon for about 15 minutes, oblivious to my attempts to tell him I wasn’t the relevant person. I won’t be ‘touching base’ with him again.

In the end, they’re the same as the "I don’t care" merchants, those who shamelessly employ these tools for climbing the corporate ladder of success — literally ‘wanking for coins’. It’s a reverse of the management/staff exploitation, and honest enough in itself, but not something I’d ever be able to live with. Again, they’re easy to spot, thus easy to avoid. The problem is when you’re at some work do for the free booze and you get introduced to the Mr Keen, the Mr Brain Dead or the Mr Power Trip. "Would it be terribly rude if I stopped listening to you?" It’s also laughable how important these types consider their job to be. Listen, selling ad space or developing client relationships makes you — and the company — some cash, but as Tvgohome says, it’s "ultimately meaningless". I strongly believe that anyone can do many of the functions of the modern office, but some choose not to as they see it for the alienating spiritual atrophy it is.

So we’ve been honest with ourselves, we’ve accepted that it is an execrable, moribund existence, banal beyond reason — WHICH IT IS. Why then are we unwilling types bothering with it?.

Like many things, it’s easier to spot the problems than to extricate yourself from the mire. And the prime factor has to be the debt cycle that modern twenty-somethings get themselves into. It starts at university, where you’re actively encouraged to take on loans and build up overdrafts (especially with the educational rape of tuition fees), then continues as you discover the new costs of the graduate life. I haven’t set foot inside higher education for five years, but I’ve still got Student and Graduate Loans that will be with me for another half-decade. Then there’s the rent, transport costs, living costs....I know I’d get far more job satisfaction on some independent music/sport/whatever title, but it’s not going to pay the bills.

And we don’t help ourselves out do we? Post Acid House, the growth in the culture of going out, and the correlative of increased consumption of booze and drugs (even more so among females) means that we’re continually looking to finance the next session, of whatever variety. And unfortunately, that need must partly be due to the mundane existence of the office life itself. "Christ, I’ve had a shit week, boss is on my back, I’m going to get pissed out of my head/stoned as arse/mashed beyond reason/delete as the mood prefers on Friday evening. Nowadays, we need this nihilistic, hedonistic release even more, and people’s attitudes are often ‘fuck the consequences’. So we need disposable income.

And maybe we can’t shake the guilt. We feel that we have to use our education and training, but with the way many courses are structured now, that inevitably leads us into an office. The guilt isn’t often all ours either. There’s also the parental expectation to deal with. "Ooh I’m so glad he’s found himself a nice office job and he’s wearing a suit". I’m not, Mum, I HATE IT! "Hey, son, we’ve invested in you in all these years, and we want a return on that investment." Sorry Dad, I didn’t release I was a faceless commodity. Nevertheless, parents like being placated, and life’s all about concessions, otherwise we wouldn’t have sold ourselves down the river in the first place.

So, we’ve got to pay the bills and earn money to shit up the wall in an alco- or narco-haze, but even that’s possibly all a smokescreen for the way this whole sorry, enervatory office existence saps the creative lifeforce out of you. It’s time to stop resigning ourselves to an eternal daytime spent ‘liaising’ with people you’d always conspicuously avoided. And the way this alienating and aspiritual environment is going, it will drive everybody home. Such regimentation may well become the foci for minor civil disturbances, followed by practically all staff given the choice between office and home (like management often already have). Are offices the antithesis of social intercourse or just its current manifestation, and thus will the office come to serve the purposes of domestic niceties? There may be hope for us yet....

Comments:

Brilliant! Says what I always been thinking. All those poor trapped little slaves in offices..

[ Mark Kane 08/03/2006 04:11:36]

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