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The Office – No, Not the TV Show

Most of the time I am fortunate enough to work from home, but for a couple of months each year, I return to an office. I’m doing that now and always have to go through a sort of “back to the real world” syndrome. Here are some things about the office environment that I always forget and then am startled by again:

  • Offices are fun. It’s the socializing that is fun. Saying hi and catching up with what everyone’s doing, meeting the new people, marveling at the new configurations of offices, cubicles, machinery, and furniture.

  • Offices are chaotic. People run around asking “Did they change that?” “Did they update that procedure?” “How did you fill that form in?” “Why isn’t the copier working?” “Did you hear what happened to Susan?”

  • Offices are hard on productivity. There are too many meetings. Meetings are called without any apparent reason. Agendas are missing. The person who called the meeting spends 10 minutes telling us all the terrible things that happened to them recently which is why they’re overworked and frustrated. I found Seth Godin’s recent blog about meetings spot on and liked his suggestions.

  • Offices are made up of two countries. There are the people who are whizzes with the tech stuff, and those who are intelligent but become dyslexic when it comes to the deeper workings of computers and phone systems. The tech person is grumpy and keeps accusing you of not reading the documentation…which, of course, is hard to find and is written by another tech person.

  • Offices contribute to the obesity problem. There are the lunch trucks outside that dispense fast food, the vending machines that are worse, not to mention free pizza day, and the basket of candy bars, left over from something or other, that the office manager sometimes circulates. Don’t even get me started about the birthday cakes/muffins/cupcakes that seem to materialize every few days.

  • Offices form alliances against perceived enemies. Maybe it’s the boss with everyone whispering about him or her, or finding ways of undermining her authority. It is common for people in offices to join forces against the customers, the volunteers, or the donors. THEY are stupid, silly, inept, or whatever, while WE are wonderful, without fault, self-sacrificing angels. Need I say that this is not a good thing?

  • Offices are full of goodies. There is plenty of paper, pens, legal pads, big staplers, and copiers that are capable not only of copying, stapling, and collating, but maybe even of roping a steer at the same time. There are support people, from administrative assistants (they seem to know everything) to the people who keep the bathrooms clean and supplied. Most of the time, most things work well.

  • Offices are full of sharing. I enjoy having someone stop by my office to chat or share some information. It’s fun to be able to ask someone their opinion about my latest memo, letter, or procedure. There is informal brainstorming while passing in the corridor, sitting in the lunchroom, or on the way to the car at the end of the day. Lots of grins, shrugs, raised eyebrows, and pats on the back.

All in all, I really enjoy the office when I’m there. It’s fun to get my team together at the end of a big project and just kid around and laugh and let off steam. Would I want to be there all the time? No….I still love being at home, having a flexible schedule, taking a walk, being able to water the garden. But, I’m glad I can return to an office for a while each year.

What is your office like? What do you like and don’t like? How can it be improved? Where do you think the office is headed? Will real offices become rare with most of us working from home? Can we really give up offices in the nonprofit world? What would that look like?

Photo: Andersen Ross/Getty Images

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The Office – No, Not the TV Show originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at 11:21:43.

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