Saturday, September 19, 2009

Getting Out of the Office

It looks like my office will be moving some time near the end of the year. We currently have a huge office and don't need half of the space. Our lease is coming up due soon, and it just makes sense to find someplace smaller. Now it just so happens that the company founder owns a building, with a suite that is the perfect size. In fact, when I was first hired in, our company was located in that building. As the company grew, we finally got too big for it, and ended up moving to our current space. Since the economy went screwy, we've gone through so many layoffs that we are now planning on moving back there. To give you an idea - when we moved to this office in 2000, we had 90+ team members, now we are down to 14.

Anyway, the tech director and I will be responsible for the move. He will be handling the "hard side" of the move - the computers, servers and cubical relocation, I will be handling the "soft side" of of the move - deciding how the new office will be laid out and where people will sit, what is going to go into storage (and what will be Freecycled) and so forth. Now here's the thing, we have 3 Vice Presidents at the company, one President and one Accountant. All of us at this time have private offices, but in the new space, there are only 2.

Those two offices will undoubtedly be given to the President and the accountant, as they have the most sensitive information. The rest of us VPs will go back to cubicles. Now believe me, I am not a very materialistic person, and I totally understand how foolish it is whine about losing an office when so many other people have lost their jobs, but I have to admit - when I looked at the map and realized how things were going to have to be, my heart sank a little...

It is silly, I know. Yet at the same time, I have to admit that I really like my office. I have artwork on the walls that makes me happy, I have my plants and all my file cabinets laid out just the way I want them. I also appreciate the privacy an office offers me - though I keep my office door open 98% of the time, if I do need a little privacy, I can just walk over and close the door. If I am being 100% honest, I also like the status the office gives me. Titles don't mean a lot in our company, but the office is a physical symbol of how far I have come - I am the only woman VP, so that matters a bit to me. Giving it up makes me just a little sad, even though I know in my heart that it doesn't change my place in the company at all.

Truthfully there are benefits. In the past, my company has offered profit sharing. With the recent economy, we haven't seen any of that profit sharing in quite awhile. Moving over to the old building means dramatically lower rents, which could just be enough to start putting cash back in my pockets - or at least getting us back on the right road toward it.

Now, how does all this relate to finance? This minor angst of mine has made me think a lot about how the economy has effected so many people in much bigger ways. I've been pondering how difficult that internal struggle is when we think we are losing status. To give up something you've never had or to defer something you've been planning on is one thing, but to lose something you've worked for - that hurts.

My situation is so small compared to people who have had to downsize their cars, homes, vacations and so on, but it has given me a taste for how bitter that pill is to swallow. In my life, I have occasionally felt like I have been floundering, but I didn't really have that "step back" emotion. I've had to struggle for money and making sure the bills were paid, but through all that I was gaining a beautiful house. Though my lifestyle has changed, it still was moving forward... if you use society's definitions of "moving forward."

In its own way, this little hiccup of mine has helped me understand how difficult it is for people to give up good things they have always had. It isn't just the loss of the thing itself, but it is also all the emotions tied in with it. Our self worth and self confidence should not be tied up in "things." How big our office is or how nice our house is shouldn't effect how we see ourselves... but it does to some degree. Especially when it is "taken away from you" by circumstance, rather than given up by conscious choice. I think acknowledging how hard it really is is one of the first steps for getting past that emotion. For myself, I can admit that I am sad to lose my personal space at work, but rather than seeing it as a step back, I can chose to view it as a chance for the company to rebuild and get stronger - which can only further my career. For others, their losses might also be a chance to create something even better and far more stable.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime I will be starting to go through my file cabinets and start cleaning out what I can. No sense moving what doesn't need to be saved. I will also be looking forward to working for a leaner, meaner company that gets stronger all the time.

Photo by: Chris Blakeley
via flickr


FB @ said...

I know exactly how you feel about moving back to a cubicle after being in an office.


Granted I was only a consultant, but still.

It does hurt. In an undefinable way. And especially someone in your position as a VP.

*sigh* Hope you get it back.

getting stuff done said...

I can only imagine how that feels as I have never had that privilege.

FollowMeDown30 said...

I currently reside in an office full of offices with no people in them, but yet they consider my jo low enough we are not allowed to move into them, instead we sit in a sea of cubicles right outside. But I am a "nursing mom" so I get to use one 3x's a day, to well, you know. Funny how that all works around here....

Miss M said...

I've always lived in cube land and I'm just happy to have my own! Here many people are forced to share cubes, as a discipline lead I rank my own window cube. Too bad my view is of east LA! We've had many office squabbles over office space, it's so stupid. This one guy was sent to another office and then came back a few months later, of course his office had been given to someone else by then. This other person ranked at least as high if not higher than the other guy. What happened? Guy #1 refused to work unless he got his office back! I felt like i was back in kindergarten not dealing with men my dad's age. I don't envy you, I'm sure you will hear more bitching and moaning from so-called adults than you'll imagine.