Confessions of a Benefits Manager

Blogs confessions imageCandid: It started as a pain in the neck. No, I am not talking about my colleague Lazy Susan; I mean the bit between my pounding head and my achingly-stiff shoulders.

I have been battling away with the mother of all spreadsheets for a week, and now I’ve just locked up. I can hardly move my head from side to side. I have to turn my whole body, rather than just my head, moving around robotically like some sort of Dalek.

Worse still, my right hand has gone into spasm and although there is still a pile of month-end reporting to do, I can’t even type with more than two fingers.

It would be rather nice if I could dump all my work on Lazy Susan, just as she did to me when she sprained her wrist lifting her make-up bag. But when it comes to working with numbers (or letters, come to that), Lazy Susan simply cannot be trusted. If I let her take over my work, I will spend twice as long next month trying to rectify her mistakes.

She is the girl, who, when faced with a column of numbers in a spreadsheet, rather than adding a simple formula, pulls out her Hello Kitty calculator to add it up and then mis-types the result in a randomly-selected cell nearby. Trying to fathom out her work is like trying to make sense of historical lottery results.

But here I am with a dodgy neck and a bad temper, so naturally I go and talk to Big Bad Boss. He reminds me that we have medical cover so we don’t have to miss a day at our desks through sickness.

I am a healthy soul, and although I negotiated the deal with our medical provider, I have never actually made a claim before. I seek advice from my HR manager, Cretinous Craig, who is always off sick. I know the nickname is harsh, but believe me, it is fair.

Craig can’t remember what to do about claiming, or anything else for that matter, so he tells me to check my plan document. This is 50 pages long, but somewhere on page 34 it tells me that I have to go to the doctor to get referred to a specialist. Then, after every treatment, I have to complete a multiple-page claim form and wait seven weeks for reimbursement.

No wonder our claims experience is so good as sick employees probably just give up and die. Hence our abnormal life insurance statistics, I suppose. Remind me to check how many have died from stress-related diseases.

Cretinous Craig rings me back to ask when I last had a seat assessment. A what? I’ve never had such a thing, but before long I receive a visit from Stan to check out my, er, seat. It turns out that Stan works for a firm of ergonomic consultants and he will ensure I have the optimal sitting position to avoid repetitive strain injury. How useful, given the number of repetitive strains being lobbed around this place.

Stan has a shiny briefcase and shoes to match, and you can see he loves his job just by the way he stands: all puffed up and important.

He tells me to sit normally. I sit, but I am not sure it is my normal position, as it is hard to relax with someone staring at you with those beady assessing eyes. He takes out a long stick, seemingly to measure the distance between my nose and the computer screen.

I try not to flinch. He bends down as though looking up my skirt, but I suppose he is looking where I put my feet. My feet are resting on a little knot of plugs from the back of my computer. He tut-tuts and scribbles away in his notebook. He tells me to start typing something, just as I would usually. I open a blank document and type “I hate my job” over and over with two fingers. Stan fondles my elbow (ugh) and makes another note.

Finally, Stan takes off his reading glasses and looks me in the eye. He shakes his head sadly, so I know it is bad news. It seems there is something fatally wrong with my seat, and it will have to be put out of its misery.

He starts to write out a list of requirements with all the panache of an eminent specialist writing a prescription. First of all, I need a back-friendly chair with adjustable support and optimally angled seat. Nice.

Then I need a stand for my screen and an anti-glare filter, presumably so people standing behind me can’t see that I have written “I hate my job” over and over. Cool. Finally, he adds a special mouse mat with built-in wrist support and an ergonomically-designed footrest. Comfy. All I need now is a widescreen television and a drinks cabinet and I’m away. Naturally, all these gismos are available from his company at a most reasonable price.

As the total cost is more than £1,000, I look forward to seeing whether Big Bad Boss has the same definition of reasonable. However, I can play the health and safety card and I have an ergonomic assessment form to prove it, so I don’t see how he can refuse. This is really going to give Big Bad Boss a headache over his cost-centre budget. Ha, I think my neck is feeling better already.

  • Next time…Candid feels left out of important meetings

Confessions of a benefits manager – April 2007