Swaddled in that warm fluorescent glow

Liz Breslin finds some good things about working in an office.

There's this poem I wrote about people who work in offices. Not a very polite poem.

When I perform it, I like to ask which audience members work in offices. Just so I know how many people's day jobs (and thus their existences, if you believe they are one and the same) I am going to slate.

In a Wellington crowd, a fair few people raise their hands to admit to being office workers.

In a packed room in Queenstown, there was only one. I feel sure the inverse would be true with a show of hands for my Go Pro poem.

Offices. Soulless suckers of health and self-esteem. Propagators of The System.

I haven't always vilified them. I remember my dad's office: felty prefab walls and the pulse of a giant server.

As kids we used to play offices, telling our telephones to buy and sell and shouting at anyone who dared to interrupt. Can't you see I'm doing something important?

Then there was a time, a brief time, when I thought office work was a good idea. Or at least a better idea than bar work, which paid less, had unsociable hours and ruined the soles of your new trainers when the acid from spilled RTDs got to work on them. True.

Turning up as an office temp, you got a desk at which to complete the day's Guardian Crossword (only the quick version, mind), a paper copy of a handbook about how to work the phone system, which nobody really expected you to understand, and a big fat computer (with the residual marks of someone else's fingers) to do some sort of mystifying data entry. Very civilised.

Offices have moved on, obviously. Open plan, flexi-timed, hot-desked. Bursting at the seams with innovation and little bowls of chocolate things. Comfortable places to spend the majority of your waking hours.

I am trying to find some positive things in a world where we spend more time in our boxes (and in our cars on the way to and from) than in our gardens, kitchens, book-reading-nooks, playgrounds...

So please find below seven good things about working in an office, downscaled from my initial goal of finding 10.

I had to think very hard.


Used since the 1930s by conservators for important archiving of precious stuff, laminating is the No 1 way to make your office day satisfying and successful.

Ah, the smell of purpose in a freshly laminated instruction.

Warm to the touch, satisfyingly shiny, emitting a soft little hum of industry, lamination appeals to all the senses.

Well, four of them.

I've never licked or eaten a laminated sheet. Conservation, not lunch.


OK, it's not really a thing about the office itself, per se, but the array of neat little pots containing interesting food combinations dreamed up by other people is something, isn't it?

I remember seeing my first salmon and cream cheese bagel on a work experience placement in the 1990s.

It was a beautiful thing.


Those little hold-all holder things with different height compartments for quirkily shaped rainbow paper clips, white-out tape, pens and pencils.

All of them obsolete because office workers are busy tapping away in the clouds.

But that's not the point.

Accessorising well is key.

And if you want the ultimate desk accessory, you need one of those windy-uppy standy-uppy desk tops that save your back from the failures of ergonomically designed seating.

I would like a dancing desk. Or a bike machine desk add-on.

Just saying.


There are other people doing the same things at the same times in offices.

Which can make you feel more aligned with the rest of the world.

There is no-one else at home with you, wrapped in a blanket at 2am, obsessing over a curly matter of plot or character.


Office-speak has its own lingo going on.

Interfacing, going forward, outcomes. Always outcomes.

Of course, this can be true of any workplace, but ask yourself this: where else can you play buzz-word bingo?


It's a thing. See above. Sort of cheating, I know, but I am trying really hard here. See also above.


Deadlines have replaced punch cards as a productivity measure. Which is a good thing because punch cards are so has-been, so Industrial Revolution.

Deadlines give you the freedom to demand more of yourself, stay late and wave a happy, hardworking, winning hand at your colleagues as they leave.

To really own your outcomes. Enjoy your work.


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