‘Is there life after death?’ is a theoretical question that lacks immediate relevance (knock on wood). ‘Is there life after graduation?’ is a much more urgent question. Once you exchange your happy-go-lucky student life for a nine-to-five existence at the office, are you even still alive? That is what I am currently trying to find out during my internship. This is the first episode: the open-space office.
‘Working in an open-space office is unhealthy’, an article on the NOS website that I read several years ago claimed. An open-space office is a large open space with desks grouped together in the form of islands. The desks are flexible workspaces and do not belong to a single person. But in reality, these offices are inconvenient, noisy spaces no one wants to be in, never mind getting any work done. So, nine-to-five internship in the open-space office. Here we come.
When you become a member of a student association, you must learn the unwritten rules such as ‘don’t stand with your back facing the bar’ and ‘use informal language rather than formal’. The unwritten rules of the open-space office are not yelled at you by seniors, as is the case at a student association. You are expected to figure it out.
I feel the energy to enthusiastically make my introduction drain from my body like urine after a night’s sleep
Flex-desks. Everyone can pick a place to sit. Being the new one among hundreds of office colleagues, you seek a random desk at which to sit. Feeling slightly encumbered by my existence, I select a desk.
‘We have an infiltrator! Hahaha!’ I hear someone joke about me a little further away. ‘Are we fighting for spots again?’ someone else says. I feel the energy to enthusiastically make my introduction drain from my body like urine after a night’s sleep. Officially, it is a flex desk, but unofficially, it is the fixed spot of someone in another team. Seniors imparting the rules by yelling loudly in your ear is not pleasant, but learning the unwritten rules this way is awkward. Getting up and leaving also seems weird, so I stay put. For many hours, I work among colleagues who still refer to the organisation with a name that was abolished seven years ago. It was a long day.
Getting up and leaving also seems weird, so I stay put
Now that the roles are clearer, the open office is actually a very nice place. An ergonomic Valhalla with phone booths, focus booths, plants, windows, coffee, fruit, water and an abundance of special meeting rooms. And I get to see and meet different people who work in the organisation. In conclusion, does the open-space office make me more or less alive? The answer is: It takes some getting used to, but: More!
In the next edition: office humour.
Steven (25 ) is doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and is currently doing an internship at a research institute for economics. He enjoys hitting the squash court and is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.