Friday, 26 March 2010

for the love of lamination

so i'm just finishing my second week of gainful employment and how quickly one reverts to type. while i take my half hour lunch (as a contractor i feel much more aware of productive time hours and am uncharacteristically nervous of being branded a work-shy fob) i am guzzling down a gorgeous pret sandwich washed smoothly back with a can of ginger beer. the days of home-made soup have passed, and the promise of a packed lunch hasn't yet materialised so each day i guiltily, excitedly, stand like a proper business lady-type-grown-up infront of the shiny pret shelves and gleefully decide which one to launch into with shameful gusto. my only sadness is that they've stopped stocking diet coke in cans. this is a terrible decision; diet coke is one of my life-loves however it does need to be from a can. if it is from a bottle, plastic or glass, it tastes totally different, a little bit shabby. but a gleaming, slightly frosted can of diet coke is a joy. so i've reverted to ginger beer which is actually very nice and i wish i'd thought of it throughout pregnancy #2: fraught by nausea which only abated with the consumption of waitrose traditional pasties, oddly. in the six days i've been here i've tried four sandwich varieties and the ham and mustard with more than a smear of butter is winning so far. it is dijon mustard: another one of my desert-island essentials. sometimes i take a teaspoon to the dijon mustard jar; there has to be one in the fridge as well as an emergency supply in the cupboard. i particularly like it with poached eggs, cheese and biscuits, roast chicken, gammon and omelettes. however i'll happily eat it with almost anything.

but enough of this food fest; today's post is meant to be about the public sector and an intellectual review of the differences to corporate life. so a key difference is the love of lamination. since i started in this office i've been enthralled by the volume of laminated guidance, smoothing my flow around the space so that wherever i am i am never short of thoughtful tips. in the loo i am gently advised to "leave this space as you'd like to find it", that "loos are scared of the dark, so please turn off the lights", to"please not turn off the taps too tightly", to ensure that i "think of the environment in usage of towels" and to note that "the hot tap is hot" and some quite detailed descriptions of what articles should go in the bin. the only missing advice is where to wee so i go in the sink.

moving through the office, noting everyones' laminated names on their desk areas, we arrive at the kitchen. i know this is the kitchen, not the sick-room, because both are carefully labelled in case i mistake the kitchen units for the medical bed and try to fold my body into the fridge when taking a moment away from my non-ergonomic desk arrangement (more later) on one of my every 40 minute strolls around the office (also more, sadly, later). having thankfully avoided the risk of accidentally lying down with the "please ensure your food is in date" goods it is with a happy heart that i note i must "hold your cup close to the tap to avoid splashing", and straight after usage "wash and dry immediately to avoid bacterial growth". i could go on, at length, but feel you're getting the general idea of work-place as parent.

to my mind the risk of this is that people lose all ability to think for themselves and in this environment anything that could go wrong is clearly the fault of the three (THREE?!) office staff delegated to look after this office space of 60. i knew that i was accepted when, on day 3, i was approached by a team member brandishing my own special laminated name plate, which i was instructed to put on my desk to ensure that...and at this point, to his credit, the health and safety rep did lose his thread and wonder exactly what the short-coming of not having my name on my desk would be. but he gathered himself and advised me that i'd have a 30 -40 minute introduction to the health and safety of the office. i did blanche slightly and mention that i was just a contractor and only involved in the use of a computer but apparantly it is a statutory requirement.

so i now have a new ergonomic mini-bean bag wrist rest; nice. budget please? and my chair was swapped for one less likely to cause "long term upper back issues; then what would the true cost to the government be?". i was checked for three right- angles while i sat: back to thigh, thigh to calf, elbow to forearm (nearly resulting in an acute angle, pointing-finger to tall finger). and i know how to operate a pair of skis for people in wheel chairs needing to evacuate the building down the stairs (i can look but not touch as am not formally trained) and i've walked through the emergency exit route which goes quite close to the pub, i noted.

now to anyone reading this that has spent a lot of time in the public sector you might be nodding and wondering what the point is. my background is all private sector and i have to say i have never experienced an office management to team ratio of 3 : 60. i'm not saying that this doesn't have it's advantages: one day after being here i had an active email account, computer login, access to all relevent drives, working telephone, and a desk. these things usually take a few weeks to finalise the details of in the private sector, because they join a queue of working issues. however if there is no queue then i guess it can get done quite quickly. i'm not sure what needs to be done once the new joiners have been dealt with, ergonomic bean bags distributed and office stationery updated. but there are probably some other things.

so i'm time limited today, my half hour is up, and i haven't even mentioned the children (#2 wants to live with the nanny, #1 is being less adaptable and running rings around her: more another time) but my first few weeks back into work have been surprisingly smooth and so long as i don't eat up all my earnings then we're back in the black, which is more than can be said for the government right nowl; i wonder why?.....


  1. Love pesto myself. Can't get enough of it and will happily eat it by the spoon in the manner of your dijon consumption...the desire for a pret sarnie / salad at lunch time is also what is pushing me back into the workforce quite frankly! You can tell the food-related stuff is what resonates most with me, no surprise there...Lizziexx

  2. OMG - 3:60 ratio? That's incredible. I too am in the private sector and am ever so slightly jealous of the attention you have received! As I write this I am sat on a chair which if I have it at a comfortable height, the arms do not fit under the table so I have to reach to type or perch on the edge. Therefore I lower it to pull the chair under the table, which means I am typing with my hands near my chin :-)
    So jealous! Brilliant blog again Kate - had me in tears. Jen xx


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