4 May 2015

Office nomad

After taking voluntary redundancy early in February, I recently returned to my old workplace as a temp in a different team. Although this provides the comfort factor of being in an organisation where I know both the people and the processes, one aspect of this new role has presented a challenge: my immediate physical environment.

In my previous team, we enjoyed one special perk due to the nature of our work: we each had a dedicated desk, while the majority of our colleagues had to 'hot desk' - though, in reality, most gravitated to the same spot every day and many got upset if someone sat in 'their' seat.

As a result, I was able to cave in to my need for order, knowing that my belongings would remain exactly where I'd so carefully placed them. On my Mondays off, it was rare for anybody else to use my desk, and I only faced any real disruption when I returned from leave. Then I would have to clean all the surfaces and equipment with sanitising wipes and tweak everything back into position, before I could settle down to any actual work.

My new team, however, are required to be flexible about where they sit and I was dreading how I'd cope with these arrangements.

On my first day, I was shown into the office by someone who, as far as I'm aware, doesn't know I have OCD. My embarrassment about asking for wipes overrode my revulsion at having to use a phone, keyboard and mouse that I hadn't cleaned. Although the wipes are provided for that purpose, very few people bother with them, and I'm always self-conscious about being seen using them.

As well as contamination issues, I also had to deal with the clutter left behind by previous occupants - hardly anybody adheres to the corporate 'clear desk' policy and many leave out personal belongings, such as family photos. 

In the past, when I was seconded to another team and faced the same problem, I simply pushed back the mess to create a tiny semi-circle of clear space, which became 'mine'. My compulsions have only ever applied to my flat, my car, my desk. Now I just restricted those boundaries still further, to my space. Providing I kept control of that area, I could - just about - block out what lay beyond. I would have to take the same approach in my new job.

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The next day, I found the wipes and resolved to arrive at the office early from then on, so that I could select, clean and tidy a desk in time to start work at 9am. It's a compromise, but one I'm happy with - 10 minutes of compulsions in order to reduce my stress for the rest of the day. Frankly, just having to operate as a nomad is quite enough exposure for me!

In fact, a new office accommodation policy takes effect tomorrow, under which the existing rules have been tightened up: staff won't be allowed to lay claim to a particular desk or display any personal items, and will be obliged to leave their work area clear at the end of the day. 

This will make my life a little easier, but I wonder how my colleagues will cope now that they have to break their routines?

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