That’s because we can’t divorce the experience of the physical space from the human sphere it occupies. It’s the same with wellbeing. We don’t lie awake at night worrying about the imbalance of primary and secondary settings in our allocated neighbourhood. Instead we’re pacing the carpet at 3am, catastrophising what someone did or didn’t say or do. Or, more likely, what we anticipate they’ll do or say, or won’t. Our paradox therefore becomes: my workplace experience was great other than for what happened.
How we can expect to extract a positive, even memorable experience from somewhere we attend regularly – even if it is for the much-vaunted ‘two to three days a week’ – is a challenge not to be underestimated. And where are we going to store these memories? Our Insta account will be heading for junk status – ‘Here’s Kat fetching a new notebook from the stationery cupboard. It’s got a green cover. Her last one was blue.’ As will using precious brain space for anything barely resembling a typical day at the office. Unless of course it relates to people – our interactions – because, just as we’re prone to fixating on the trials, we celebrate and treasure the surprises, humour, coincidences, intimacy – the human stuff.
There’s also something about experience that plays to uniqueness: the very essence of the gig, the one-off, the event you just had to be at. Not a picture or object, or tangible representation of any form. Pure frozen emotion. Which naturally exacerbates the potential for the joy of the day’s proceedings being inflated by those present to fuel the FoMo of those who didn’t slip out of their slippers. We need the unremarkable day-in-day-out routine, endlessly punching the amber smiley face button on the panel at the airport toilet. It allows the sporadic, magical moments to flourish, to inspire.
What we’re here to do is to make the humanity of the workplace possible, to create the potential and opportunity for positive experience. By doing so, we’ll also, of course, create the possibility for the negative, and the stupefyingly mundane, too. But we shouldn’t overreach our claim. We’re not alchemists. Or, like Lord Percy in the ‘Money’ episode of Blackadder from 1986, we’ll make green. Strangely, I can recite the whole scene, 35 years later. Which reminds me, did I tell you? Kat’s new notebook has a green cover.
Neil Usher is Chief Workplace & Change Strategist at GosSpace AI, and Author of The Elemental Workplace and Elemental Change