Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid works long hours

There is a mysterious new guy in our office. He’s come from head office in the US and although he appears to be from the senior management team, for some strange reason he has pitched up with us in HR, rather than sit on the third floor with the rest of the Higher Beings.

I don’t know anything about him, but I can tell you this: he is, without doubt, a morning person. Big Bad Boss and I, by unspoken agreement, arrive in the office about five past nine. This week I have been getting in extra early as I have some private photocopying to do, but I have yet to find myself sufficiently alone. Mister Mystery is always there and he is getting on my nerves.

What is telling is that Big Bad Boss doesn’t know who he is either and is clearly just as rattled. Even Big Bad Boss has started arriving earlier in the morning. I can’t stand coming in too long after he’s had a chance to work himself up into a list of demands, so I’ve been getting in earlier still. Yet, Mister Mystery is always in first.

Early starts

Big Bad Boss and I make a pact to start coming in at eight but to no avail. Mister Mystery is always there. He’s also always there in the evening. Exhausted from the early start (I have a long commute as well), I head out on Friday afternoon at a normal time along with most of the office. Mister Mystery looks pointedly at his Apple watch and shows no sign of going anywhere himself. I can’t help but wondering if he is doing some kind of productivity study on us.

All of this is lost on Lazy Susan, of course. She gets in at 10 as always and has a host of reasons why she has to leave early, which she uses in strict rotation. I don’t think she has done a day’s work since she has been here, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I envy her lack of concern. If I were to be so slack, someone would have taken me aside long ago. I did once try to talk Lazy Susan about punctuality, but she just calmly repeated the excuse of the day and went back to what she was doing: looking at Pinterest. Big Bad Boss turns a blind eye to her hours, so I’ve stopped bothering. At least she makes me look efficient by comparison.

Mister Mystery appears to have noticed though. He looks at his watch every time Susan moves and writes something in his green Moleskine notebook. To add to the stress, facilities has issued new ID tags, which we have to use to swipe in and out on each floor. That means we have to swipe out even to go to the ladies room or the coffee machine.

Comings and goings

I deduce that is so someone can log all our comings and goings. If I allow myself to get a bit more paranoid, it could even be someone with a green notebook. I know what you are thinking: what do I have to worry about? Well, to let you in on a secret: I like to take a little power nap in the ladies when it all gets too much. I hide in a cubicle and rest my head against the wall. Five minutes, that’s all. Now, if my every, er, movement is logged, I won’t be able to do that without drawing the attention of the first aider.

It gets worse. Big Bad Boss and I are getting in before seven these days, which is quite ridiculous. Mister Mystery is still here first. Does the man never sleep? What is he doing? I am so tired I am falling asleep by lunchtime but I daren’t even go for a nap. Big Bad Boss is snappy and even Lazy Susan is making more than the usual number of mistakes.


I decide to stay and see just what time Mister Mystery goes home. I bring in some snacks and an e-book to read on my computer and settle down to some counter-surveillance. Mister Mystery finally leaves after nine in the evening. Geez. The good news is I have banked lots of hours on my ID card, so perhaps I can slack off a bit if I really need to.

It’s not like Mister Mystery is very forthcoming. Several people have tried to engage him in conversation but he just answers bluntly. If I didn’t see him eat a cheese sandwich at his desk at lunchtime, I’d say he was a robot. If it is not our productivity he is working on, it must be the next redundancy list. We already have a headcount and hiring freeze, which is a sure sign that at least a few heads will be cut. I feel like a sword is hanging over me. I didn’t get this far, to only get this far. I can hardly sleep at night; that is if I was home long enough to even try.

Finally, one day, just as suddenly as he came, Mister Mystery is gone. Luckily, no damning productivity report comes to light, and if there were redundancies they have been handled so quietly even HR doesn’t know about them. We are left to speculate about who he was. Could it be the Higher Beings just didn’t want this obsessive clock-watcher upstairs with them? Did Mister Mystery really even work for our organisation? He could have been a private investigator practising his infiltration techniques, or a journalist writing about maltreatment of employees.

Sadly, it seems Mister Mystery will forever remain an enigma, but at least we can all go back to normal hours.

Next time…Candid visits the French office.