Surviving The Office

10Nov08
Photo by Daveybot

Photo by Daveybot

Working 9 – 5 in a mundane generic office job can be disheartening at the best of times and downright depressing at the worst. Sometimes, the lucky few who actually enjoy their jobs just make it worse for the rest of us, for whom working in that particular office is about as far away from out career aspirations as it can get.

Still, at the end of the day, it’s a job, and a stable job at the moment is something to be cherished, whether or not it’s part of your career plan. So, whether you’re working whilst you establish your own business, until you make it as a writer / artist or simply because your chosen career has no vacancies at the moment, with my own boring office job in mind, here’s my guide to surviving some of the more frustrating features of office life!

The Repetition
Office jobs are often terribly repetitive. You’ll find yourself doing the same mundane tasks over and over again, all day, every day, which can drive even the most patient of people to despair! After a while however, these tasks become automatic, and you are free to let your mind wander. Take this time to make plans for the evening, think of new things to write, or replay the events of the weekend in your head. If your job involves talking to customers, take notice of their different accents, interesting names and the background noises in their homes or workplaces. I like to try and imagine what my customers look like, based on how they sound on the telephone.

Another thing I like to do is if I have to take notes, or check things off, I find using different coloured pens brightens up my day just a little!

The Office Gossip
I’m not talking here about the general office rumours but rather of that one person from whom they all seem to originate. Most workplaces have one, usually he or she seems to be everyone’s best friend, but their only topic of conversation seems to be everyone else’s lives. These people are often quite fun to chat to, and indeed, it can be entertaining listening to the gossip, however anything they say must be taken with a large helping of salt – much of it will be hearsay, some exaggerated and blown completely out of proportion, and it is important to remember that anything you may hear about yourself from this person may not be true either. If (s)he tells you someone’s talking about you, it’s probably not what it sounds like!

Stupid People
This makes me sound like a terrible snob, but I have very little patience for stupidity. That’s not to say I get impatient with anyone who’s not as intelligent as me, but when someone really doesn’t know what they’re doing, yet insists that they can do their job better than anyone else in the room, I just want to strangle them! There is a particular woman in my office who seemingly has no ability to learn from her mistakes. I can hear her telling the customers absolute rubbish, and talking down to them in a terribly patronising manner and it really makes me want to throw my in-tray at the back of her head at times! (disclaimer: I’m not really a violent person and would never throw pieces of office equipment really).

I have found the best way to deal with her is to point out her mistakes if there’s something that can be done about them, but otherwise just to leave her be and try to block it out. Her mistakes are not my responsibility, I have my own job to do.

Feeling Too Good For the Job
I’m not afraid to admit that I feel my talents and qualifications are wasted in the job I’m in. I see other colleagues who feel the same, but the ones who are happiest are those who simply get on with it. There’s no point in doing a bad job because you feel it’s beneath you, as one colleague does, because although you may not care if you lose the job, a reference refusal may severely hamper your chances of getting another and well, what’s the point of doing badly in an easy job? It just makes you look imcompetent.

Image by wili_hybrid
Image by wili_hybrid

I try to do the best job I can even though I’d much rather be in a job where I get to use my brain. I am comforted by the fact that I can at least then use the evenings to plan, study and write, instead of coming home intellectually exhausted.

The Drab Surroundings
Offices are generally ugly places, and the lower down on the career ladder your job is viewed as, the lower the priority redecorating your workspace seems to be. Peeling paint, greasy blue-tack marks, peculiar stains on the carpet you don’t even want to think about the origins of, these are all features of my office! All this dreary drab-ness can make you feel dreary and drab too.

To counteract this feeling, dress brightly and cheerfully, Bright colours in your clothing will give the office a little colour, especially if you can persuade others to do the same. Use colourful stationary! Pink post-its, glittery gel pens, these can make a huge difference if you’re a stationary junkie like me! If you’re allowed to personalise your workspace with photos etc. then do so as soon as possible. It’s amazing how much better it can make you feel having something or someone you care about to look at.

The Rubbish Wage
The bane of my life right now, I remind myself each time I get my payslip that I really don’t do much for the money! If you’re earning enough to live a comfortable life, without having to work to hard for it, then in our current financial climate you’re one of the lucky ones! With a bit of careful budgeting it’s amazing how far a small amount of money can go and indeed, when I get my pay I always try and buy myself something nice that’s also a huge bargain. Thus I find myself browsing eBay each month, which also kills the bordeom rather well!

My number one tip for surviving office life however, is to get to know your colleagues. Great people can make even the worst job in the world a little more bearable, and finding potential new friends is always good!

More Tips!

* Bring a notebook to work (I have a pink moleskine) to note down moments of inspiration and to make plans in.
* Drink tea, lots of tea!
* Hot Chocolate (yes, I’m slightly obsessed) can brighten up a cold winter day at work excellently!
* Wear fingerless gloves if you’re unlucky enough to work in a single-glazed office with inefficient heating like I do – they’ll keep your hands warm whilst allowing you to type easily.
* Keep a supply of lollipops in your desk, they’re great when you want a sugar fix that lasts a bit longer than ordinary sweets.
* Take a break from your computer screen once in a while, and get up for a wander to break up the day.
* Keep smiling – even if you fake it it’s apparently good for you!
* Remember that your job does not define you, and once the job market picks up again, you will end up with the career you want and deserve!

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13 Responses to “Surviving The Office”

  1. Excellent article, Vixel 🙂 Everybody who works in an office should read this!

  2. That was fantastic Vixel. Really good tips and so true.

  3. I struggled with stupid people too in my last job – sometimes you really feel like you are bashing your head against a brick wall! In this job, I’m mainly sole charge so my biggest problems are boredom and loneliness 😦

  4. 4 reederscorner

    This was great – thanks for all the tips… My personal fave was the fingerless gloves 😉

  5. A brilliant post..thank you. If I may add one more recommendation, always take your lunch break. So many nowadays work through lunch. Even if one has a sandwich at the desk, try to wander out for a quiet moment. I’m lucky in that I can sit in a park 365 days a year 🙂 no snow or horrible weather to worry about….

    I really should write a photo blog of my lunch time haunts (and it’s not always standing at the pub)….

  6. This is such a great post, Vixel. I don’t have an office job – just a work study in the archives – but I defo appreciate these tips. And it’s good to hear how people survive in the dreaded office environment. 🙂

  7. Great article Vicki. I have worked in various office environments for the past 10 years and you need to liven it up every once in a while. I keep a candy jar by my desk to encourage people to stop by and chat. Sometimes its mints or gum.

    Also find that laughter definitely helps. It is like the movie Office Space or the show The Office. The most random things can make you laugh and people show take advantage of that.

  8. I agree with you about stupid people. There are a lot of stupid customers where I work (retail) & I feel like throwing things at them too! Haha. Also, i didn’t know you could get a pink Moleskine?! I’m intrigued! Hooray for colourful stationery! x

  9. Thank you all!

    @ Werther – yes! Most definitely take a break for lunck, I’m surprised I forgot that one!

    @ Aimee Marie – It’s a Moleskine Volant, they came in lots of different colours at one point! They’re similar to the cahiers but thicker with slightly tougher covers 🙂

  10. Great tips! I hated working at my office job, and every morning, even two years after quitting, I think to myself “Thank God I’m not still working at [insert name of company here].”

  11. I’m a cubicle slave myself… You’re right, I do need to bring a notebook. So many wonderful ideas were thought of (and left behind to die) in the office.


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