corporate plants

Joanna: 'Stew...'
Stewart (whose grip on other languages was tentative and whose favourite foreign phrase was the mysterious 'schappa la dente'): 'Comment allez-vous?'
Joanna: 'J'ai un question.'
Stewart: 'Steady.'

I notice how some team members use headphones to insulate themselves from the noise of group interactions (and, thereby, exclude themselves from those exchanges). The laptop screen captures the attention; absorbs it. The headphones wrap music - or silence - densely around. Another blanket. The stress ball occupies the hands and much of the available tactile sensation. The occasional barminess of an unsilenced mobile ringtone intrudes. Nobody tuts.

On the central desktop (the real one, not the virtual one) no telephones sing. A grey, three-footed BT device balances on top of two oranges in a silver-coloured wire bowl. Its large central pad reveals it to be a loudspeaker-enabled conference phone and not part of a dubious gift exchange between the crew of the Starship Enterprise and the governing council of Planet Nebulon.

There are, of course, no tissues on the central desktop. There is a row of small green corporate plants in a stained old plant tray behind the door on a safe. The plastic box of Lego survives from the early team-building session. There are two small fire extinguishers and a copy of what the UK Health and Safety Executive deems you should know about current workplace legislation.


A problem familiar to anyone who's ever worked in an open plan office. Putting several people round a big desk promotes communication and interaction. Often work requires focus and absorption. Communication becomes disruption. We either walk on eggshells or wrap ourselves up, like a hooter in a muffler.

Hajime Nakano


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