In my last job, I had a HUGE office. I had a door that locked (with an open-door policy of course), floor-to-ceiling windows, two ginormous white boards, six locked bookshelves and two filing cabinets. I had chairs for visitors, and a small round table at which to hold informal working meetings.
Unfortunately, the mouths that attached themselves to the bottoms that occupied those chairs most often came in with gripes, complaints, concerns, fears, grievances. Those chairs pretty much became a runway for tears, anger, worries, and the occasional utter meltdown.
In a way, I blame that huge isolated office for my gradual informal and unintentional transition to mediator, counsellor, disciplinarian and psychologist. I blame it for my eventual descent into professional despair. But in reality, I know it's mostly because I couldn't bring myself to turn anyone or their problems away. Once someone - anyone - walked their problems through that door, those problems became mine. They stuck to the chair fabric and permeated that swanky office until solutions were found.
Unfortunately, there were far too few positive outcomes. The environment was just not conducive to success and productivity. Over the years, the futility of it all it simply wore me down.
In my new job, I sit at a desk in a pool office. Other than the executive staff who occupy private offices, everyone is assigned a cubicle. I have no door, no window, and no white boards, but I can pin contact lists and reminders to my partition wall (which only reaches the top of my pc screen). I have one lockable drawer, and one lockable book shelf. Every day, people walk by my desk, and though they stop by to say hi and chit chat I can't offer them a seat because I only have one chair, and it's occupied by my bottom.
I know what's going on because I can HEAR all the conversations taking place in the cubicles around me. Because I have a clear view of a third of the floor's cubicles. But I can tune it out enough to carry on with my work. Despite being smack dab in the middle of everything that's going on, my vantage point is way too exposed to encourage anything but casual banter. Plus, counseling, engaging in matters of policy, and trying to find solutions to world hunger are no longer my role. AT ALL.
Ironically, I'm absolutely loving the freedom that comes with having no real space. I'm loving the peace that comes with the chaos that surrounds me. I find myself smiling at and greeting everyone who walks by my workstation.
I'm loving the little things, like my Arabic 'next-door' cubicle dweller teaching me a new arabic word "Ku'ula yamn" ('every day' .... I know i've spelled it wrong ...). I basically give him a word/phrase I've heard repeated over and over and he translates it for me. My most important word find so far is "Maadre" (again, sure I've misspelled it), which translates to "I don't know". That one comes in very handy, as there are so many things I actually don't know.
I find myself catching funny snippets of conversation, and laughing out loud with the person who sits next to me when I realize they've heard it too. Like yesterday, when a new recruit six cubicles down was given the great news that his family could now join him in country as his wife and son's residence permits had been approved. And to hear him exclaim "YES!" in excitement, before reality kicked in and he followed up with a confused "But I don't have a SON."
We found out later that he does have a daughter, and it's not uncommon for mistakes to be made upon issuing residency documents, but out of context the whole situation was ridiculously funny.
These are just a few of the very simple little things that make me smile these days.
Bigger is NOT always better.