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Between the Out of Offices

Posted on Thu, 2017-10-05 00:00 by Claire Carmichael

I’m not ashamed to admit that there is a certain level of pedantry that is required to manage a database and I do it with enthusiasm. A particular favourite in the list of maintenance activities is after every out-bound mail; I put my glasses on, my headphones in, I boot up a playlist and start reading the “out of offices”. 

As I work my way through the one or two line emails, sometimes my mind can wander and I push myself back from my desk and consider the individuals on the other side of the emails.

The “I’m on holiday, returning Monday” is the most frequent. I wonder where they’ve gone, picture the sun loungers and the best-sellers there’s been no time for the other 50 weeks in the year and how relaxed and positive they will be when they return to their work. 

Then there are those “On Parental Leave, returning mid-2018”, I imagine a new life, the sleeplessness and the necessary change in priorities; the inevitable challenges their business will be facing over such an extended absence. Again, upon their return, there may be a push for flexible working, adjusted working patterns and a wealth of new life skills that bring positive change to a team.

Sometimes there is even an “After 20 years, I have retired from the business” where a deserving individual has permanently changed their focus to the improvement of their handicap, learning the piano, to hill-walking with their grandchildren or finally seeing Niagara Falls. The wealth of experience and knowledge lost to a business can have a significant impact on its function but can also be a great opportunity for change within a team. 

Every one of these messages is not just a potential adjustment to my rows of SQL data, but a reminder that we all have lives outside of the office.  There are periods in our lives where we live to work but there are times when we work to live – to go on that life-changing holiday, to raise our families or to be able to retire a few years early. 

Most of us spend more waking hours in our workplace than in any other room – and when I’m crunching through data, it really matters that I work in an office where I can make a good coffee, chat with colleagues who have become friends and grab five minutes of respite in one of our rocking chairs! 

Our Glasgow team were at a drinks reception to celebrate the opening of a client’s new office this week.  We designed the office and it’s a fantastic space in a great building but the most important thing the client said was, “I’ve never seen so many people smiling, and people to talking to each other who would never have spoken in our old office”.

Most of us are in that long period between holidays, the hard yards earning the money to raise our families or maybe even those last couple of breathless laps to retirement.  It matters to us that we work with people that are engaging, collaborative and more than just colleagues because we don’t hop out of bed every morning desperate to work.  We do it, at times, because it’s simply our job.

The right working environment has an impact on creating communities within a business, people who talk more, smile more and work better together.  That’s what makes the periods without an “out of office” that bit better – and more productive.

​Thanks to Spotify for the following soundtrack and image: 


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