It seems, from the regular emails containing instructions about the delivery of packing boxes and the matching status updates confirming the allocation of my new work area, that I’m about to move to a brand new office. Our beloved old Building Five (or, to use the correct terminology, “Bldg5”) is about to be redeveloped to provide new facilities. They’ll probably even concrete over Lake Bill.
Obviously nobody told them that my current office is actually five thousand miles away, which is probably why the packing boxes still haven’t arrived. And I’ve yet to find out where my new work area will be. I hope it’s by a window. During the last four and a bit years as a full-time ‘Softie I’ve got quite used to looking out at the trees and the garden while I potter about doing my daily documentation engineering tasks.
Building 5 is one of the original and iconic star-shaped buildings where Microsoft’s campus started out, arranged around the lake affectionately known as Lake Bill. Supposedly the unusual design maximizes light and window space to provide the optimum working environment, though I reckon they just did it for a bet to see if people would get lost. I found it a nightmare trying to navigate once inside. The corridors meet at strange angles and it’s almost impossible to maintain a sense of direction. All the times I’ve been there I’ve never managed to emerge from the same door more than once unless I follow the signs to reception first. Though it will be a shame if they decide to demolish them.
But the move has certainly prompted some discussion amongst colleagues for whom the relocation will have a more fundamental impact. Some of them have long had a “proper” office in which they can equip themselves with all the peripheral accessories required to massage recalcitrant text into succinct guidance. Moving to “team-based communal work areas” is certain to have an impact.
I know that, when I’ve spent the occasional fortnight ensconced in a team room within the mother ship, I never managed to get any real work done. I suppose it’s because for the last 35 years I’ve always worked alone, in a car as a sales rep or in my home office as an IT consultant and technical writer. I just can’t cope with noise and activity around me; even the cat asleep on my desk tends to cause loss of concentration (though that’s probably due to the volume of her snoring).
I often marvel, when I do visit people’s offices on campus, how they have made them into a home-from-home with photos, posters, shelves full of books, and other assorted paraphernalia. There’s an urban legend that suggests your office space includes half the width of the corridor as well. I can remember visiting Building 41 a long time ago and seeing some strange extensions of the occupants’ personalities hanging from door frames and the corridor roof, as well as the occasional life-size Captain Kirk or Mr Spock cardboard cut-out standing guard.
It all seems very odd until I look around my own home office and realize that I’m just as bad. Walls covered in photos of trains, airplanes, and all the cars I’ve owned; various awards and certificates; pin boards covered in masses of notes (most of which I have no idea what they mean); and piles of unused computing peripherals and other junk covering every spare foot of desktop. And a guitar and a telescope behind the door. They’ll need to send me at least fifty moving boxes if I’m going anywhere.
Though I doubt they’ll even notice there’s an empty desk allocated to me in some dark and dismal corner of a distant team room. It’s not likely I’ll be there very often – it’s a long way to come home every day for my tea…