For the first 10 years of my nursing career an office was something other people worked in, it was a place where secretaries and general pen pushers worked. We had ward offices, places where sister took you to tear you off a strip (if it wasn’t done in full view on the ward) or where you took patients and their families to tell them bad news or to give them a place to escape. When I was a district nurse, we had an office, but it wasn’t anywhere near where we were actually based. We used it to keep notes and equipment and to hold our weekly work allocation meetings on a Friday.
Now I am a person who works in an office, I am a pen pusher, though to be honest none of us actually write that much these days; Even my lovely filofax is likely to become redundant soon since I have now been given a blackberry (more of that later). I sit in a largish office with about 30 other people (give or take 2 or 3 as I don’t sit counting people) and I find the whole thing quite fascinating. I have spoken before about the clique that sit behind me. The procurement people who are extremely entertaining if insular (coffee club, friday breakfast club, in jokes), it is not that they exclude people, it is just really that they don’t notice you (unless you are stealing their coffee or milk that is).
The ethos of this office, unlike some I have been in over the last few years, is that people are there to work. I like that and to be honest there are a few people I’d like to introduce to this kind of philosophy, since we are actually paid to do a job of work rather than to talk all day. However, with my colleague (she sits opposite) off sick for the second time in just a few weeks, my working day is going towards the other extreme. I am naturally a social person, I like to communicate with people (I am a nurse and have already spoken this week of our unique selling point as nurses) and if the only engagement I have is two people saying good morning when I arrive in the office and another telling me about his model train hobby in the kitchen then to be honest I am going to struggle.
On Thursday, I spent the entire day in the office. I had a short meeting at 10am, and came back with plenty to do. I sat for an hour or so in silence getting on with the work and then in the absence of any stimulation from other people began to lapse into a kind of trance. Not only that but I began to become fascinated with the activities of others. Other than the procurement folks busy buying new defibrillator’s, cannulas and other important goods which keep any hospital running smoothly I also have people from Practice Based Commissioning. The person next to me seems to deal exclusively with the appraisals of GPs and the person next to her with QOF, between them they spend nearly all day on the phone to GPs and practice managers. This week has been a big one for these folks since QOF data was to be submitted by 31 March so that practices can be paid by the PCT. Not surprisingly it brought a flurry of panic driven managers onto the phone with last minute problems and by Friday drove the PCT person dealing with it all off to her sickbed.
In front of me sits the specialised commissioning team, which is really fascinating. These are the people who decide if the PCT will fund treatment that is out of the ordinary, or out of the area. They receive calls from patients wanting IVF, new drugs and weird and wonderful treatment. On Thursday, in my slightly stupefied state this got me thinking how much things have changed in the 28 years of my nursing career. Who would have imagined that most people would know what treatment was out there for them much less that they would know exactly who they needed to ring to try and get it. These people are persistent (and quite rightly so) but I do wish people would remember to turn down their answer phones when they are out of the office.
I went home on Thursday feeling that I had been entertained in some small way, but actually annoyed with myself that I had done much less work than I should (surfing the internet for holidays is probably not the best use of my time) so I gave myself a talking to. Yesterday I did things in hour long bursts: work, coffee, work, banana and coffee, work, get up and walk around and engage one or two people in light conversation, work, out for a walk then lunch, work, surf internet aimlessly, work, coffee etc. How people cope all day in an office on their own I will never know because sitting at my desk in a room of 30 without any social engagement is for me detrimental to me getting my work actually done.
Recently I wrote about my boss and her Blackberry. Well now I have one and actually they are addictive if useful little toys. I have found that not allowing yourself you check your emails during the evening / your day off is quite a challenge. I suspect it might be her telling me to turn the thing off in the future!
The picture above demonstrates life in the public sector in 2008 and came from Royalty Free Cartoons