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The biggest issue facing us right now – office seating arrangements

When I was 3, I made my first foray in the corporate office world. My Dad took me to his office [at the time, I just assumed he had important matters to discuss with me. Not at all associated with the exasperated look my Mum would give Dad as she handed me over to his care]. From this experience I assumed that in an office everyone gets their own office and young children are permitted to redecorate the space by writing their name multiple times in red permanent marker, on as many walls and folders as possible.

Therefore when aged 21, I marched into my first internship, I was very pleased to find out that my very first desk in the corporate world was to be a beautiful mahogany corner office, with windows facing Port Phillip Bay and a separate coffee table area of “serious discussions”. There was even plenty of space for me to do as I had done when younger, and decorate my office with etchings of my name on the desk. The days where I would have no work [which were basically every day I rocked up because to be honest, I only got the job because the director wanted an extra player on her Tuesday night netball team, and it seemed convenient that studying law I could probably offer her some assistance], anyway I would sit there and stare out the window, watching the clouds roll in and the sun set.

But alas this was not to last, and as time as gone on I feel that I may have already peaked in terms of my workspace. Since this moment, my work experience might have been increasing however my desk situation has been rapidly deteriorating.

It started at my next internship where I was brutally thrust into the world of open plan offices. [I recall my younger self thinking “whaaat? Where am I meant to put the vertical garden and play pen for my teacup pig that were meant for my office”.] Ah open plan offices. Such a simple concept has, over my career, morphed into corporate staple going through many transformative periods:

  • First there was the open desk is for all employees except for me your plebs, I still get my office. You know the one, where everyone was embracing this new change but of course the directors couldn’t possibly sit “out on the floor”. They were still encased in their transparent glass cocoons –changing to transparent glass was a big enough change. These directors had earnt their overpriced, totally-inefficient-use-of-work-space offices. I’ve even seen one director with a particularly booming voice, actually EXIT his office [you know that private space he was bestowed with to have private phone calls] and walk around the floor, loudly talking to his mechanic about fixing his Maserati. No joke. Ah sometimes all you can do is just laugh and giggle at the lack of self-awareness of the elite.
  • Then the open plan office revolution took full flight – offices were completely abolished. Now it was time for let’s spend 6 months discussing seating arrangements Seating arrangements in a workplace are hands down THE most political discussion I have ever seen. You could be negotiating a trade deal between every single country in the world that’s so complex and requires negotiation over thousands of differing regulations…but that will still be less negotiation that trying to avoid the shit seat next to the printer [you know because NO ONE can stand the sound of the printer. It’s THE WORST. Seriously for fuck sake, it’s a printer. Your annoying, squeaking, over polished shoes make way more noise]. No instead everyone is angling for a seat closer and closer to the….yep you guessed it….the window. Ahhhh the window. I understand that you’d want a seat that doesn’t make you feel like you’re buried alive in your own coffin, but I’ve never really wanted to sit next to a window, particularly as it’s just a reminder of all the fun I’m not having.

But I have managed to get seriously worked up about one particular seating arrangement [I hear you say “wahh? Arani get worked up? She’s so calm and measured]. Absently not partaking in the Annual Seat Reshuffle [haha that would be awesome if all new seating arrangements were accompanied with the whole office learning a new two-step jig which they had to do as they moved their belongings]. Anyway I got lumped with a desk, known as the “receptionist desk”. Which is really cool and all, except when you’re the only girl in all male team and you’re trying to avoid gender stereotypes. In addition to my work, I suddenly became the bearer of messages for absent colleagues, a guide for anyone looking for someone and of course was asked roughly every 3 hours “umm do you know how to use to Polycom in Room 3?”…[no I don’t fucking know how to use it! It’s a fucking spaceship telephone. How the fuck am I meant to know how to use a spaceship?]. So make sure you engage in the jig that is the seat arrangement discussion.

  • So I thought cool. Open plan, that’s my life now. I’ll just set myself up here, bring a few personal items and I’ve got all I need. But then BOOM! A new era dawned and my demise from a mahogany, corner office continued as we entered the hot desking period.

Now I have to confess that the first time I heard of this ‘hot desking’ movement taking shape in our office, I actually thought it sounded exciting…kind of kinky almost. I actually thought it meant they’d be getting this sexy desks with slender legs that taunt you to come work on it [ok if you don’t believe me check out this table, clearly it’s a “hot desk” in the scheme of the desk world right?]


Ok so maybe my sense of sexy furniture has been taken to far and I might need to stop before I’m permanently banned from all Matt Blatt stores. Anyway hot desking involves not having an assigned desk, rather you sit wherever you want, then at the end of the day you pack up your things and put it in a locker. Yes locker. Yes they look like high school lockers.

Anyway, the hot desking phenomenon proved to really divide the office into three clear species. First there were the people who accepted it – they’d sit wherever was convenient, then at the end of the day they’d pack up all their stuff ready to sit wherever the next day. Then there were the messy people – the ones who’d tend to nest in one spot for months on end, leaving scraps of food, shoes and lots of paper everywhere. Occassionally they’d be told to move and they’d do it but then repeat the pattern at the new location. Finally there were the freaks – if they’re not the ones rushing in at 3am to make sure they get their exact seat, then they were obsessively cleaning the desk or hoarding what one could only assume were dead bodies in their lockers, judging by the smell and lack of space in there. The only revenge one could get on these seat hoarding villains was the odd moment your director decided she should “be the change” by embracing hot desking and sit right next to the 3am seat freak….casually engaging in polite chat whilst deliberately staring at their screens to ensure that “PRODUCTIVITY” is emblazoned on their screen.

And so now having been reduced from a mahogany corner office overlooking the sea, to a desk which is not mine and a locker that smells like rotting farts that have been bottled. I can only imagine that in just another 2 years that my ‘desk’ will be further reduced to having my laptop strapped to my waist with gaffer tape, as I’m hearded around an oval running track whilst my boss sits on the coaches seat yelling orders.

About Arani Satgunaseelan (78 Articles)
Corporate nerd. Wannabe blogger.

1 Comment on The biggest issue facing us right now – office seating arrangements

  1. Sarah Riegelhuth // February 24, 2017 at 1:50 am // Reply

    So funny girl!

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