The world is changing — fast — and you don’t often realize it until it slaps you in the face. That happened this week. I’m starting to plan for an office move, and that means figuring out a new office layout. I’m going to a smaller office, and that means getting rid of the table and keyboard tray I use for my computer. As I needed to get a smaller computer table, I asked our office assistant. She pointed me to a website where I could get a new table (or I could go to the warehouse and rummage around). It was at this point, I realized I was living in a different era.
I wanted a simple table with a keyboard tray, possibly with a riser for the monitor so that I could have good ergometrics. What I could order, however, were standing desks with motors to rise or lower them; keyboard trays were an options. Standing desks. You mean I need to do something other than sit at my desk all day.
I also asked about boxes for the move; I was told that we no longer do that. Now we get reusable plastic bins.
As for whiteboards: Now, when I started, we had real chalkboards. But then we went to whiteboards, which were, well, white. Now we have these Quartet Boards, which are glass things all fancy. My old whiteboard? Going into the trash.
We’re being encouraged to downsize and get rid of paper. I’m getting rid of two four-drawer file cabinets and a 3′ bookcase. We’re being encouraged to print less and review on the screen more. Many are moving to open offices, or offices where you camp and share your space.
I understand why this is all being done. We need to use less paper and cardboard, and standing is much better for your health than sitting all day. Cognitively, I know this is a good thing. But it is also wasteful. Think of all the perfectly serviceable furniture and boards that are being tossed and not reused; manufacturing energy going to waste. We used to have Steelcase desks that lasted 50-80 years. Now tables less than 10 years old are considered obsolete and are being toss. Everyone wants the newest and greatest; the whole notion of “reuse” is disappearing. It makes me think of an article I read recently about trying to move to a new apartment without using anything new. You used to be able to do that when you changed offices. But upgrade mania has overtaken the workplace.
Emotionally? It’s making me feel old. I’ve gone 30 years in the workplace with traditional desks, and traditional computer tables. I’ve gone 30 years reviewing documents on paper and marking them up. I’ve gone 30 years of having historical files of paper that I could go through. As they sing in Working, “It worked for me then, what’s wrong with it now.”
I am increasingly feeling old, and am increasingly understanding how seniors feel the world is moving too fast and passing them by. I know that I must keep up with it, but it is shocking when you think you’ve been keeping up, and discover you’re out of date for the modern workplace. This could very well be one reason why older workers find it harder to fit into new tech.
It’s very disconcerting, but I’ll eventually figure it out (and probably grow to like it). Inertia is a hard thing to overcome.