“Well, it’s the end of the month,” says Rachel, stretching. “Time to get on our 5S reporting.”
At some point before I started, Lucy had fallen for this office-management system. It involved a week-long course that she had dragged Rachel to. There is a huge manual to read through, colour-coded filing systems and a monthly report sheet to be filed. In the colour-coded system. To my knowledge, no one ever reads it.
The system we’re following requires that my desk be cleaned right off at the end of the day, which is great for me – it’s how I like to do my office work anyway. But we’re not allowed to have any personal stuff on our desks or walls, which is incredibly painful for Rachel. Seeing the pictures of the hungry mouths she’s feeding at home keeps her from walking out. Plants are considered a waste and we’re not supposed to eat at our desks. Except that there’s no place else to go and, dammit, we get hungry. So we end up sneaking bites like a couple of crazed squirrels.
Lucy, of course, is exempt from all of this. Her desk is a disaster, piles of paper topped with half-empty chip bags and who knows what else. We’re not really allowed in there.
“It’s just so ridiculous,” I groaned to Odin that night as he poured me a glass of red. “I keep thinking, why don’t we just let everybody do their job the best way they know how? If the goal is to get the work done, does it really matter how we get there?”
Odin sat down and made comforting noises. We were ordering in pizza. It had been that kind of day for both of us. He knew how much I hated this system.
“And it’s just so ridiculous!” I grumbled. “It’s meant for a big corporation. There are only three of us in the office!”
“Maybe she’s hoping it’ll grow,” he offered.
“Or maybe she’s just hooked on systems.”
“Well, lot’s of people are,” he said. “My mother loves her Blissfulness Planner.”
And she does. It has a paper component and computer software. And a special carrying case! She took classes to learn how to work it. There are sections for fitness and weight loss. Meal planning. Goals. Dreams. She’s tried repeatedly to get me interested. But it seems like she spends more time planning and organizing it than she does actually doing any of the things she writes in it. And she is no closer to blissfulness now than she was the day I met her.
“No thank you!” I told Odin as the doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of the pizza.
“But it is crazy,” he said a few minutes later around a mouthful of hot cheesy goodness. “People work in all kinds of different ways. And if they’re forced into a way that doesn’t suit them, they won’t be giving their best work.”
Odin’s current employer doesn’t count his 3:00 AM brainstorming sessions (“I get my best ideas then!!”) as part of his work day. In-house work only and then only 9:00 to 5:00. So he’s either being forced out the door in the middle of an idea, or he hangs around feeling like a dick for the last half-hour, not willing to start something he won’t be able to finish in the time allotted. And he’s right, it is stupid and wasteful. I’m trying not to worry about the fact that his complaints about the system are becoming more frequent.
“It starts in school, doesn’t it?” I asked after a moment to enjoy the perfection that is a perfectly made pizza point. “We’re all expected to learn the same things at the same time in the same way no matter how our brains actually work.”
“And they’re starting to realize that different abilities mature at different times. So some six year olds are good with numbers and some won’t be ready for a year or two.”
“But those same kids might be good with language or learning about bugs.”
“I was really good at bugs when I was six,” said Odin.
“I bet your mother loved that!”
He made a face. “I wasn’t allowed to bring them into the house. Or talk about them in the house.”
“Poor you,” I said, making myself comfortable. “Tell me something about bugs.”