Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid experiences a distanced office environment


There are days when I wish I was still working from home all week. I have come in on a Monday morning to see that facilities have had another go at moving the desks around to keep us safely apart. Gone is my nice corner next to the plants. Instead, I am in the middle of the room, practically in another department. The desk I am closest to is someone from internal recruitment. It may be a safe distance away, but it is still very much in earshot.

The recruiter, let’s call him Gobby, has been on calls since I first got in. He has a booming voice so we can all hear him telling a candidate what a great organisation we are to work for and how we offer market-leading benefits. Well, I can tell you that we don’t, but that is what we say on our careers page.  He bangs away at his keyboard with the sounds settings on loud. I keep hearing the ‘bling’ as he hits the wrong key or double clicks where a single one will do. Bling. Bling. What is wrong with the man?

It is still morning, always a delicate time for me, when Gobby rings up a call centre. I know this because he puts it on speaker. I soon learn it is experiencing an unusually high number of calls right now and Gobby might like to try its internet site Gobby just leaves it on speaker while he gets on with another task. The answer message plays two minutes of irritating electronic music and then repeats again: it is experiencing an unusually high number of calls right now and did he know he could try their internet site. Gobby is not bothered that he is number seven in the queue. Candid very much is.

I begin to count the number of times the message repeats. I get to 25, when Gobby finally hangs up. He has another call with a candidate. I don’t think the person stands much chance: they don’t sound like they have the right experience for the job. This I can tell from a distance of 15 feet, that is how loud it is. Finally, the call ends and I tentatively hope I can get on with the pensions update I have been trying to read for the last half an hour.

Contacting payroll

Gobby calls our payroll company next. Uff. Why doesn’t the man use his headset? I hear him select option one for customer service, and option two for corporate accounts, but then something goes wrong and he has to start all over again. This time he gets through to the right department, but they are not answering. A jaunty little tune fills our office space for about five bars and then a message. All of its advisors are busy right now, but accounts can be checked online at Alternatively, Gobby may want to download the app so he can check his payslip wherever he goes. Please. Just let him go somewhere.

Gobby decides to wait. It is still on speaker when he leaves his desk. The jaunty little tune repeats over and over. I am just about walk over there and hang up for him, when Gobby returns. But he still leaves the message playing out. I put on my headset and find some music to try to drown him out. I would normally listen to something ambient, but it would take acid rock to mask Gobby. Sadly, it turns out I cannot concentrate on the pensions de-risking market to any genre.

Commenting on redundancy

Gobby is now on a call. Another candidate? Whoever it is, he is telling them how the recent redundancy programme cleared out a lot of dead wood, although most of HR are still pretty useless. I do not know who he is talking to, but it was loud enough to let everyone around nearby what he thinks of them. It is really not OK to bad mouth the people who were let go. Yes, it is true that in the past there have been little reorganisations designed specifically to remove problem individuals, but this time it was just a numbers exercise. The people who left may have a tough enough time getting other work in this economy without someone spreading rumours they are dead wood. His remarks about HR, I’ll admit are fair. Just look at the organisation development team, though I wouldn’t say it out loud. I am not thinking so highly of the recruitment team these days either.

After lunch, I notice that Big Bad Boss has his door closed. I wish I had a door, though I expect they can hear Gobby on the floor above in C-suite. Where was he before, I wonder? It is amazing what an impact one loud man can have on my wellbeing. I am ready to reconsider my career options altogether. But it is a tough market out there, and I would have to talk to recruiters like Gobby to get another job. It is all so depressing. Even Big Bad Boss has commented. He thinks it would be better if the HR data people were nearer. We need to work with them more often, and more importantly, they are quiet.

Sure enough, come my next week in the office I find that is exactly what has happened. Big Bad Boss has had a strong word with the facilities director and peace has been restored to our little part of the world. Recruitment has been moved back to the underworld they came from and we now have HR systems as our closest and quietest neighbours. It is not often, but every now and then Big Bad Boss does have his uses.

Next time… Candid helps with the bonus scheme.