Writing about how much I used to hate Halloween-in-the-workplace recently got me thinking about all of the other things I used to hate about working in an office.

Actually, scratch that: “hate” is probably too strong a word, isn’t it? (Answer: nope, not for me – I genuinely hated office work, but I know there are tons of people out there who love it, and who thrive in the office environment, and I don’t want to offend any of them, so…) Let’s just go with “things I don’t miss,” instead. Because that sounds WAY more reasonable, right?

Here’s a random list of things I don’t miss about working in an office…

things I don't miss about working in an officeOther people’s birthdays.

Because, let’s face it: other people’s birthdays just aren’t that exciting, are they? (Unless they provide an excuse to leave work early and drink champagne, obviously: THOSE kind of birthdays I can totally get on board with…) Especially when it’s that one colleague who starts counting down to her “special day” three months before it, and then just won’t stop talking about her “birthday week”, as if she’s the only person in the world who ever had a birthday. Because there’s only so many times you can say, “Sorry, how many days to go now? Oh, one day less than the last time you talked about it? Fascinating.” before you want to staple your head to the desk in frustration, isn’t there?

There’s only one thing worse than having to listen to people obsess over their birthdays, though, and that’s…

Being the person who has to organise other people’s birthdays.

I was ALWAYS that person. The one who has to drop everything to roam endlessly around the office, asking people to contribute to the birthday gift of Eileen in accounts, who most people have never met, but whose “special day” must be celebrated anyway. The one who has to remember who put money in and who didn’t, and to chase up the ones who said they’d contribute but mysteriously keep “forgetting” their wallet. The one who has to spend their lunch hour buying a gift for someone they don’t really know, and then wander round the office again, getting everyone to sign the card. The one who knows that next week she’ll be repeating this process, only this time it’ll be a housewarming gift for Tim in I.T., or a ‘Get Well Soon’ card for Alison-from-reception’s goldfish. And so it goes on…

(You’re starting to understand why I was never popular at work now, aren’t you? It gets worse, though…)

Secret Santa

God, I HATED Secret Santa. I mean, I find gift-buying pretty stressful even when it’s someone I know really well, let alone when it’s someone I’ve spoken to at the photocopier twice, you know? And I could guarantee I would ALWAYS get the name of someone whose identity had to be explained to me. Every. Single. Time. So every year, when Christmas rolled around, and someone said, “I know! Let’s each spend £20 on a gift for a colleague we barely know!” I always had to resist saying, “OR we could all just spend £20 on OURSELVES? That way we all get something we actually want, and no one has to spend their lunch hour in Boots, looking at gift sets the person they’re shopping for will probably be allergic to?”

And I still think that’s a better idea.

Constantly being asked to sponsor people.

Working in an office can be pretty expensive, huh? Quite apart from all of the birthday gifts, Secret Santas and whatever else someone would randomly decide to do a collection for, I found I was constantly being asked to sponsor people for various stuff.

Look, I can see you over there rolling your eyes and thinking how horribly mean I am, and honestly, I … well, I AM horribly mean, actually, but I DO happily give money to charity, and I think it’s great that people want to raise money for the causes they believe in. No, really. It’s just… does it have to be every second day? Because I’ve already given money for Eileen’s birthday, Tim’s housewarming gift, and Mr Fin’s ‘Get Well Soon’ card, and I still have to go to Boots and buy some bubble bath for Arthur the security guard’s Christmas gift. And now you want me to sponsor you to walk from here to the coffee machine? Speaking of which…

The coffee run.

We didn’t actually have a coffee machine in the last place I worked: just a plain old kettle, and fifteen jars of instant coffee. (We all had to supply our own. Woe betide anyone who took a spoonful of coffee from someone else’s jar! ) Now, I’m something of a coffee addict, so I get through a lot of the stuff, but it’s rude to just make a drink for yourself, obviously, so every time I wanted a coffee, I’d have to go around taking everyone’s orders, and then spend the next thirty minutes in the kitchen trying to remember who wanted milk AND sugar, who wanted milk with NO sugar, who wanted sugar with no milk, and who it was who asked for three-and-a-quarter sweeteners, plus milk drawn by hand from a baby goat. Nightmare.

Of course, the upside of this was that it got me away from my desk for a while AND I got to drink more coffee while I waited for the kettle to boil for the second time, so silver linings people, silver linings…

Air conditioning.

Maybe I’ve just been unlucky, but every single office I’ve ever worked in has had only two possible temperatures:

a) Hotter than the surface of the sun.

or

b) Was that my nose that just dropped off from the cold?

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I started working from home and could control my own temperature. Well, I COULD, but this post is already long enough, so I won’t. You’re welcome.

Meetings

And then meetings-about-the-meetings. Then meetings-to-recap-the-meeting-about-the-meeting. Then meetings about the… I’ll stop now. I just wish I could have stopped back THEN, seriously.

Theme days

I touched on this in my Halloween post, but one of the offices I worked in was constantly having theme days, in a bid to “motivate” us. The funny thing was, wearing a ‘hilarious’ witches’ hat for Halloween, say, didn’t actually “motivate” me at all: I was my usual grumpy self, except now I had a stupid hat to prove it. I once had a stand-up argument with a boss who tried to insist that I go out and buy a red sweater to help “motivate” myself on some red-themed holiday she had in mind: I said they weren’t paying me enough to buy clothes I’d only wear for that one day, but I was really just thinking about how horribly it would clash with my hair…

Timesheets

You know when you have to log how much time you spend on each project, so you can bill the client/department for the appropriate amount of time? You’re supposed to just more-or-less make those up, right? Right? Oh GOD…

Team-building

From all of this, you’ll have gathered that I am Not a Team Player. It’s how I used to introduce myself in those “let’s go around the circle and everyone can introduce themselves” things: “Hi, I’m Amber, and I’m Not a Team Player! Please don’t make me do role-play, or I will literally die!”

And they ALWAYS made me do role-play. And I literally died. I’m dead now. And it’s all because of those terrible team-building days I used to be sent on every few weeks, in a bid to teach me about “blue sky thinking” or whatever other buzzwords they’d managed to come up with to torture us all with…

Compulsory socialising

I realise I’ve made myself sound like that person in the office that everyone secretly hates, because they’re always complaining about the team-building, and the Ugly Sweater days, and the fact that they spend more money AT work than they make FROM work. That’s because I WAS that person: no point in denying it. I did, however – and this WILL surprise you – make a few good friends during my office days, and some of them even still speak to me and everything. There was a lot I disliked about office work, but I DID mostly like the people… I just didn’t want to see them outside work all the time.

I mean, every so often was fine. The office Christmas party was a blast, and meeting up for the occasional drink or whatever? No problem, count me in. But when it got to the point where every single weekend there’d be yet another work social event arranged, to the point that I was spending more time with my colleagues than I was with my fiancée? Nuh-uh.

That’s when it hit me that office work was not for me: and OK, it took me a few more years to actually do something about it, but now here I am, and no one’s asked me to sponsor them for… well, since the last time I looked at Facebook, basically. So working from home isn’t THAT different in some respects. Ah.

Still, it might not be perfect, but working from home basically saved my sanity, which is something I like to remind myself of on weeks like this one, when I’ve been stressing out over various things, and feeling like I’ll NEVER catch up with all of the things on my ‘To Do’ list. So this post is mostly for me, really… but it’s also for anyone else who’s ever worked in an office and who wants to let off a bit of steam about those petty little things that can get on your last nerve.

Anyone

25 Comments
  1. Oh, this is so incredibly true. I despise office culture! Unfortunately still stuck there and enjoying these little moments every single day. Loving life right now.

    I’m all for a bit of fun to break the day up and use as an excuse to not face the drudgery of the to do list for a little bit longer, but when it costs me money I am out.

    B x

    1. Same – I didn’t mind contributing to stuff when I can, but in the last job I had I was absolutely broke (we’d just bought a house, then Terry got ill and had to give up work) and it got to the point where I felt like I could barely afford to go to work, because every day would bring yet another collection for something. I felt like such a miser, but it would really stress me out 🙁

  2. Oh good god yes! All of these things. I HATE all of these things! I also hate being treated like an infant, there is something really childish about the way offices work. Patronising questions, having to explain why you’re a few minutes late, “Because I’m HUMAN!”. – I still work in an office by the way. And I still hate it!

    1. Oh God, yes to the “being patronised” – I felt like no matter how hard I worked, I was always, always treated as a silly little girl by some people, which was totally infuriating. And having to swipe in and out and explain what I’d been doing in the bathroom for five minutes – I mean, how do you even answer that?!

  3. It sounds like you worked in some really awful offices! We don’t have to contribute to collections unless someone is leaving; we only sign birthday cards for our small team of 5; and we make coffee/tea only for ourselves. We only have a handful of nights out a year, and we don’t have “dress-up days” or anything like that. Meetings are once or twice a month. No wonder you hated it!

  4. I loved this, and can absolutely relate to every single one. That coffee run… I’m glad I only have to make one for myself when I fancy one now!

  5. I think we’ve all been annoyed by these things at some time or another, even if we generally like working in an office. Which I do, but I like it a whole lot more now that I have a job I love then when I was a generic office drone who really didn’t want to go to the work socials or do the Secret Santa with people who were effectively strangers. Now I’m the annoying person suggesting themed days and enforcing fun on everyone (Christmas Jumper Day, anyone? Anyone?). Thankfully there’s not a whole lot of team-building (other than trips to the pub) and blue-sky-thinking around here, but the temperature is one that I will never understand. I have never worked somewhere with effective temperature control, and it’s the worst! Sometimes it goes from freezing cold to boiling hot in the space of ONE DAY. There’s just no way to dress for that.

  6. I’ve only ever worked in small offices, with ten people being the maximum, so didn’t have the same issues, but I did have a boss (when I was the junior’s junior at 15 – yes we did leave school at 15 in those days to go and work in offices) who always stirred his tea and then put the red hot spoon on the back of my hand, which hurt. After having his evil way for several days, I decided to reciprocate (nobody else said a word to him about him burning me, and I was the baby in the office) so I kept the spoon in my cup long enough for it to get nice and hot and when he lifted his cup I struck! He yelped! And spilled his tea all over himself. I think he realised how awful it was and he never did it again, I never missed his daily chuckle at my expense.

  7. Office birthdays…. GAWD. Make them stop. I’m weird, so I really don’t like huge birthday celebrations. In fact, my idea of a great birthday is to be left alone from everyone but my husband, brother, and very close friends. So what happens every year despite my protest? AN OFFICE BIRTHDAY PARTY. And every year I go home in borderline tears from the stress of it. Unfortunately, we are such a small business that I can’t really do anything about it without hurting someone’s feelings.

    I’m a total bitch about the coffee though. No, I will not make yours. Get off your tail.

    1. “I’m weird, so I really don’t like huge birthday celebrations. In fact, my idea of a great birthday is to be left alone from everyone but my husband, brother, and very close friends.”

      This is totally me: I deliberately don’t put my birthday on Facebook so no one will remember it – surprise parties are basically my idea of hell!

  8. Did you mention the bitchiness that often occurs among the women in the office? Yes… been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Really don’t miss it at all. I LOVE working from home… it’s so quiet and relaxed and I can watch telly all day if I want to. Shhhhhhhhhh…. don’t tell hubby I said that! 😉
    Suzy x
    http://www.suzyturner.com

  9. This made me chuckle. I always enjoyed life in the office until I moved into management and realised how wrapped up in office life people are. like, the tiniest, most insignificant thing becomes a massive deal. I was not prepared for the level of upset and debate having a desk move or where you place a printer can cause! And how completely obsessed people are with what everyone else is doing every other second of the day. people want to have hour long meetings once a week to discuss how long people are spending in the toilet and how unfair it is if one person has to man the phones for 30 seconds longer than someone else. I’m a really bad boss I fear, I find it really hard to pretend to give a crap about that stuff!

    1. In the call centre I used to work in they would deliberately re-arrange the seating plan every few weeks, just so people didn’t get too friendly with their neighbours – it would cause absolute mayhem: like, people totally freaking out and saying they wanted to leave and everything. Those were some fun times, for sure 🙂

  10. You see what I did with the tea/coffee run was from day 1 refuse to engage with it. Oh, there are runs, but I just act like they don’t happen because I think I’m officially meaner than you. I can only imagine what that makes people say about me, but I actually am far happier taking that than having to participate 😀 but secret Santa… There is no escaping it and I don’t hate anything more on this whole planet as far as social norms go. With perhaps the exception of air kissing. It’s up there though, oh it’s up there.

  11. We actually introduced birthdays for our immediate team this year, because there have been a few “big” birthdays lately – and because the team seated next to us celebrate each other’s birthdays. But things like that should definitely only be for small teams where people know each other really well and want to make the day special, otherwise it just becomes an unsustainable money-sink.

    The sponsorship request thing is the bane of my existence though. I work for a big multinational organisation, and CANNOT GET MY HEAD AROUND the impetus some people have to send news of their latest marathon or bike ride to an all-city, all-country or all-team email address. I mean, sure, wanting to raise lots of money for your charity is great I guess, but we’re ALL inundated with these requests on Facebook from people we’ve actually met!

    ARGH.

  12. Oh my gosh I loved this post. I thought it was just me! I even told my boyfriend today that I must be some kind of cold-hearted person because I just can NOT get excited about everyone’s birthday, all the babies that get brought around the office and disrupt everything for an hour, etc. etc. I’m so with you on celebrating my own birthday too so not only do I not want to celebrate everyone else’s …I don’t want to celebrate my own. Thankfully we don’t have the coffee run thing in our office but they do in our UK office and I always feel weird when I visit because I don’t know what everyone likes. I just end up forgoing my tea to avoid the whole thing. I’m starting to think more and more that I really need to find a way to work from home too! 🙂

  13. Huh, there are a lot of things you don’t like when considering working in an office. I agree with you on some of them but there are some differences, for example I like Secret Santa: free to make a surprise while free to fail 😉 The a/c is on my black list too, and the non-productive meetings. But team-buildings are nice and somehow useful, we get to know who we shouldn’t care about..

  14. I’m an outgoing social person but I would hate all that stuff! My workplaces have always been making your own drinks, no collections for money aside from very optional charity type things, and signing cards when people leave.

  15. Loved this post1 I’m so glad that I’m not the only horrible person around! I work at a retail store and I work night shift partly because I don’t want to deal with those kinds of things. 😛

  16. Loved this post – so funny!

    And the enforced socialising is definitely a thing for me. We’re a social team, but I’m missing the team drinks right now. Because I’m tired, and I just don’t feel like it! I’ve not been in a good mood all day so I’m going to continue to not be in a good mood there, and why bring everyone down with that when I don’t have to?! But yep, whenever I said anything along those lines I could definitely see that I was still expected to be there and it’ll probably be demanded tomorrow as to why I didn’t go!

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

  17. Having to pretend you’re working – but actually not being able to, because the company does not pay for single offices, but only for 50 people sharing one room. Some phone call on the right, some people chatting next to you, someone entering the door behind you … How can you concentrate on your work in such an atmosphere? Never.
    Homeoffice forever…..Finally some peace…….

  18. I used to love all this things and they are the thing I miss most. Although I love to much to work from home to ever consider going back to a 9-6 job.

  19. We had one of those secret santa things at my school a while ago and I was the ONLY one who opted out. Every one in the class was just staring at me like I had just murdered someone right in front of them and was now dancing on the corpse.
    When the big day came the teacher temporarily FORGOT that I wasn’t doing it and saw me sitting at my desk waiting for the gift giving to be over. “Oh, Elizabeth, is you’re secret Santa not here? What’s that- you don’t jave a secret Santa? You aren’t doing it? Oh.” Cue the murder-corpse-dancing look.

    Truth is I had noble intentions. I was, and still am, the girl who forgets her homework and has to quickly do it at the beginning of the lesson it was due. The girl who started every lesson by frantically asking “DO WE HAVE HOMEWORK?!!” And dying of shock when we did.

    My secret Santa would have been getting a coloured pencil from my pencil case (and it would have been sharpened down to a stub, because I ALWAYS forget to buy new pencils!) wrapped in some coloured card I had ‘rescued’ from the recycling bin. Little did they know it, but by not participating I was saving Christmas…

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