Today, I’m spending the whole day working in some shared office space.
It’s a precursor to actually paying for some desk-space on a full-time basis. Like um, popping your cherry as a freelancer. Is it still ok to say ‘popping your cherry’?
Now, I’ve only been here for three hours, but already it’s been a nice change.
The office is in an industrial estate, so I’m at complete liberty to pretend that I’m a mechanic. More importantly, my sister (my current flatmate) has absolutely no idea where I am. That means today, I do not have to pretend that I’m sorry about the state of the bathroom, or that I have to endure another discussion about the rapidly diminishing state of her mental health. I also don’t have to listen to her scream at the mirror, or lumber around the house like a barrel of laughs that had all the laughs taken out.
If you’re wondering which sister, um, it’s the other one. Yeah, I have two sisters and it’s not the one you think it is.
Anyway, I’m not saying this is going well just because my sister can’t scream at me.
No, I’m also being very productive. I mean, this is the first time I’ve posted anything on my blog since January. Who knows what I could achieve if I actually had some clients?!
However, while I’ve enjoyed my first three hours hours here, I’ve also found that having not worked in a proper office for over seven months, I’ve completely forgotten how to behave in a professional environment.
Given this is probably a common post-working-from-home condition, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, here’s some very well considered advice on surviving in an office.
Remember these lessons when you’re next at work, or you’ll probably lose your job.
1. Etiquette Is Important
One of my potential co-workers brought in vegan cookies.
It was a really sweet gesture, intended to welcome me to the co-working space.
Now, these were big, round cookies. The sort of big round cookies that are definitely bigger than your face, unless your mother had an affair with Moonface from the Faraway Tree.
So yeah, BIG cookies.
And what did I do?
I waddled up to the table, stacked high with cookies and grabbed an entire cookie in my greasy hands.
As soon as I touched it, I knew I’d made a mistake.
Yes, I shouldn’t have taken the whole cookie. I should have broken a bit off and just eaten a quarter. But instead, I took an entire cookie and ate it all – and loudly at that.
My consistent chomps reminding dearest, co-worker no. 1, that it was a mistake to give me something nice.
This incident happened at 10:45. Since then I’ve been feeling dreadful. Not because the cookie was bad. It was great. But because I feel like a selfish prick.
I’ve even emailed apologies to my girlfriend, seeking absolution for what an ass I’ve been. This hasn’t really done anything to help the situation though. I mean, she didn’t buy the cookies, and as far as I can tell, she’s not part of the freelancing vanguard (unemployed wretches).
Maybe if they invite me back I’ll bring in a bag of baby spinach and we can all share it. I’ll even promise not to get mad when someone takes a really big handful, or accuses me of not washing it properly.
Rule 1: If someone brings really big cookies into your co-working space or office, don’t eat an entire cookie. Unless you hate the person who brought in the cookies or your co-workers. Then you should totally do it. Also, if you have a face bigger than a really big cookie, eat the cookie – everyone probably hates your father already, and that’s genetic.
2. Chairs Will Squeak
This isn’t an issue for everyone, but the chair I’ve been allocated squeaks. It squeaks every time I move, and hell, I move a lot.
Right now I’m not sure if the squeak indicates pleasure or pain. Just one thing’s for sure, whenever I move, it happens. I mean, maybe the emotion can be slightly less one dimensional? I mean, swivel chairs operate on two planes, do they not?
But back to the topic.
So, I suffer from a pretty serious condition called Ants In My Pants.
That means it’s medically acknowledged that if a chair has wheels, I’m have every right, and need to spin in it, push it back, and just be a general nuisance.
However, I’m afraid that my new workies (potential co-workers) won’t understand my condition, or might even be annoyed by it. That’s why I’ve been trying to keep my back as rigid as possible, while keeping rotations to a minimum for the last forty five minutes.
It’s absolute torture.
I also want to remove my shoes, crack my toes, neck and fingers, take off my shirt and push this chair’s lumbar support back so hard that it snaps.
It’s a real issue. That’s why I’ve decided that as soon as everyone vacates this room, I’m going to swap this chair with somebody else’s.
Assuming that they invite me back, I will also invest in some socks that look like shoes.
Rule 2: If you end up with a squeaky chair, swap it with someone else’s when they least expect it. Also, it’s 2020, we really need better professional support for those who suffer from Ants In Their Pants.
3. You Must Look Busy
When I work at home there’s absolutely no need for me to look busy.
As my own supervisor, I know it’s totally fine if I spend entire afternoons standing in the garden thinking (no, not smoking, who the hell do you think I am?!).
However, right now, I feel compelled to impress the three people in the room, that I totally do not know, but I’m temporarily sharing this space with. I’m doing this by typing as furiously as possible. That’s right, I’m currently smashing my keyboard so hard that the succulent next to me is quivering. Finally, a living organism is impressed by my might.
I’m not actually doing anything useful though.
That’s because my desk is positioned at a great angle and no one can see my screen – so the joke’s totally on them!
It’s a strange situation, because I actually do have work to do. However, it’s been three hours and I really don’t have any intention of doing it.
Why? Because I know that if I start doing something useful, there is no way that I can maintain writing over 120 words per minute, and all three of the people around me won’t continue to be as impressed.
So yeah, that’s why I’m writing this stupid blog post and working on the script for a brilliant new film called Drag Snails – as ever, great job Henry, great fucking job.
Rule 3: People’s opinion of how good you are at working is much more important than whether you’re actually working (who didn’t know this one already?!)
4. People Will Do Anything To Make You Feel Less Important Than You Truly Are
As I’m typing this, it’s slowly dawning on me that I really haven’t achieved anything over the last three months.
Sure, I released 2019’s bestselling zine, Watch Out! Your Dad’s A Tory, and developed some economic models for calculating the cost of policing in England (yawn), but I haven’t really done anything else.
Wait, maybe if I include writing and recording a very, very good song dedicated to my girlfriend’s best friend for her thirtieth birthday, I can convince myself that I’ve actually done a lot. If anything, I’ve done way too much.
I mean, this list is probably very intimidating for most people.
Bones a’ creakin’
Hungover for days but
You ain’t even been a drinkin’
Friends a’ married
G#Excerpt from Thirty Candles, Hungry Hungry Henry
Ain’t no longer bein’ parried
Until I remembered this great song, sitting in a co-working space for three hours had started to damage my perspective of myself.
Despite achieving more than most people probably achieve in a lifetime in the space of three months (becoming a bestselling author, legendary songwriter and arguably a revolutionary), the co-working space was making me feel like I hadn’t achieved anything at all.
It was a strangely humbling experience, as I’m sure you can tell.
Rule 4: Try not to let other people’s less important achievements diminish your super important and impressive achievements. If you do, they won’t let you work with them any more.
5. Never, Ever, Avoid Invitations
I just turned down an invitation to lunch.
Why the hell did I just say that I didn’t want to have lunch?
Everyone’s going to think that despite my intimidating muscles (ballooning paunch), that I either cannot afford lunch, or am desperately trying to cover up that I can’t eat conventional food and only gain nourishment from broken hearts.
Damn. Who knew?
Rule 5: Always accept invitations to eat and make sure you always eat the same type of food as your co-workers. Declined invitations make people really suspicious of you and may lead them to believe that they’re better than you are.
However, yeah, working in an actual office is great.
I mean, I haven’t spent all day pretending to be busy by re-washing my clean clothes and watching YouTube videos about John Romero to ‘be inspired’.
So I guess I’d like to commit to it.
Assuming they accept me, all I need now is a full-time intern to act as my receptionist and for the next four hours to be more successful than the last three.
Oh yeah, and for my potential co-workers not to catch on to how actually, they probably don’t want to work with the type of bastard who would spend their first day in their co-working space writing about how they’re not really the type of person anyone would want to work with.