15 April 2017

Moved In

The office move went smoothly, and when we arrived at the new office a week ago Monday, everything was waiting for us in our cubicles. I had very little to unpack, just a few reference books and my water bottle and coffee mug. I set up my computer, and there were IT people around to help us figure out which printers we would be using and get connected to them.

The office itself is substantially nicer than our previous space. We're now in another concrete building that was built around the same time as the library where our office was previously, but unlike that building, this one has a more conventional design with decent window area. Our section is on the south side of the floor, so we have natural light coming in pretty much all day. The other side of the floor has a more interesting view, but there are other buildings of similar height pretty close by, so less natural light is available.

Our work spaces are arranged so that our desks face the wall with the windows. To the side is a low storage unit with two horizontal drawers on one side and shelf space on the other. Behind is a taller cabinet with more shelves, more drawers below the shelves, and a locker-like compartment to the side with a hook inside, for storing one's coat and other belongings. The tops of these units provide convenient surface area for displaying personal items, and I've found that the top of the lower unit is an excellent place to stow my bag during the day. There is also an under-desk wheeled file cabinet with a cushion on its top surface, for impromptu desk-side discussions or something. And all the cabinets and shelving units, including the banks of file cabinets along the walls, are white for added visual brightness (most offices choose gray or black for such fixtures).

The walls of the cubicles are not as high as those in some places I have worked, and not as low as those in others. They are topped with frosted glass panels about six inches high that serve two purposes: they visually extend the height of the dividing walls, while allowing a little more outside light to pass through and reach deeper into the space.

The desk surfaces are light-colored material that is made to look like blond wood. I've had cubicles with this type of surface before and I find it pleasant, and it also happens to match my desk at home. The entire desktop raises and lowers electrically, making it easy to find a comfortable and ergonomically preferable position for working. I had to experiment a little to find the right arrangement; I have a long torso, so placing the desk surface at the right height for comfortable typing (forearms should be horizontal) made my monitor too low. A little-used book under the monitor base solved that problem. But if I want to stand for more than a few minutes, an anti-fatigue mat is necessary.

Oh, and the chairs! The chairs in our old office were horrible. They were upholstered units with rubberized armrests, but they were really conference-room chairs and not intended to be used for desk work. I used to have to get up every 45 minutes or so because their inferior padding caused my tail bone to ache. (It's a good idea to get up and move around during the work day, anyway.) Now we all have Herman Miller Aeron chairs, considered one of the best task chairs available. Coincidentally, I bought a used one of these for myself a few months ago, when I was still working at my other job. So I now have Aeron comfort day and evening.

We also now have an attractive and much more functional kitchen with plenty of seating. There are two large refrigerators and a separate, smaller freezer. There's a Keurig coffee machine (relocated from our previous office), and now a Nespresso machine to go along with it. Neither of those are my thing, but they seem to make other people happy. Unlike many employers, mine does not stock the kitchen with snacks. Just outside the kitchen are small rooms for having private phone conversations.

While all of this is great, not everything is wonderful. My biggest gripe, and one I have had at various workplaces for decades, is that the overhead lighting is too bright. With the abundant natural light and desktop task lighting, overhead lighting is hardly even necessary, and yet we still got stuck with it. I think all of us were under the impression that the overhead lighting would be LED, but it's terrible old fluorescent lighting. The fixtures are long and narrow, suspended from the ceiling perpendicular to the window walls; at least they didn't use the typical ceiling-mount fixtures with reflectors that make the light even more harsh.

On the plus side, we have discovered that the lighting is dimmable; on the minus side, one switch controls the lighting on the entire side of the floor, so dimming the lights affects the other department occupying the space adjacent to us. I think we will be able to work something out with them, as they seem to share our feelings about the brightness.

Overall, the new office space is a definite improvement. I'm still getting used to sitting in an open area with several other people working around me, and to filtering out random noises from various sources. But I have my trusty, American-made Grado headphones, Spotify on my iPhone, and my iTunes library on an old-school iPod Classic that was retrofitted with a solid-state hard drive, giving it four times the capacity of my original unit. Now all I need is to have a dimmer switch for the lights installed at my desk...

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