Pretty near the top of things I never thought I’d hear someone say is how pretty my office is. I’m kind of no nonsense about things like my office. Don’t get me wrong— I like tchotchkes and personal touches at least as much as anyone, but I feel like time spent filing is not particularly productive, and I’m not neat freak enough to dedicate time before or after time I have to be productive to stashing paper, so my work area tends to be cluttered. I worked for a woman who had a very pretty office, about 15 years ago. Lots of plants, a couple of little fountains. Very restful. I worried about my clutter compared to her Zen space, briefly, but then started hearing from coworkers that they felt like there was a connection between the perfect order of her office and the comparatively small amount of work that came out of her office. So I stopped worrying about it.
But they rearranged our offices at my current workplace and moved me into a space that was somewhat larger than where I was, better oriented, and much, much more visible, as people come and go. It’s near a kitchen and on a main hallway opposite the most-highly trafficked employee entrance. They also knocked out the wall between the offices on my side of the building and the cubes and replaced them with glass, to make the great view of the mountains more accessible. So I’m on display and pretty aware of it.
I’ve been in this space less than one full day and have heard that it’s pretty about a dozen times. It’s nice. Same stuff as my old office, but arranged with an awareness that people will inevitably look and helping me to focus rather than continually noticing that I’m in a fishbowl. I feel more social pressure to keep people feeling good about my office than when I was at the end of a less-trafficked part of the same hallway with fewer people looking directly at me while I worked. Where I could (mostly) blow off requests to tidy workspaces when we had VIPs visiting, before, I feel like I can’t do that now.
I guess I’ve worked this way before— I spent some ill-fated time sitting in a reception area, in a job after college. I was not the receptionist, but the space was what it was, and I ended up at the reception desk. You could set a stopwatch between when I agreed to sit there and when I got flowers for Secretary’s Day. (IT WAS AN ALL-FEMALE OFFICE, I WAS NO ONE’S SECRETARY, AND THEY ALL KNEW IT!) You couldn’t bat an eye between when I got celebrated for Secretary’s Day and when my resume hit the market. I also had a pretty prominent office opposite the front door of the office of my last company, but it was slightly around a corner, and I felt much less aware of everyone’s eyes, partly because people seldom remarked on it.
I’d say that I was being paranoid, except for how often people have told me that they’re looking at my office.