Confessions of a benefits manager: Cabinet of curiosity

Candid sets out to detox her life, and decides that boosting her personal energy calls for a radical redistribution of office furniture

I am all fired up after reading a book about how to detox my life. Yes, that’s right, my whole life. This book doesn’t stop at mere diet and digestive processes, oh no. Everything that stands still long enough must be examined for unhealthy pollutants. Having ditched my latest boyfriend, and dumped three of my more venomous friends, I am ready to take on any contaminants in the workplace.

I make a start on my desk, looking to see what impact it is having on my energy. Well, naturally, I only have to sit here to feel bored and despondent, but that is just how it is around here. Apparently, I must remove all traces of pending work from the surface of my desk to feel better. Sounds a good plan to me, but what they don’t say is what exactly I am supposed to do with it in the meantime. I could put it on the end of Lazy Susan’s desk, but she has an allergy to work, and usually goes home with a migraine if any gets too close to her.


What I really need is another filing cabinet. Then I could get everything all super-organised. I peer into Big Bad Boss’s office hungrily. He has a bank of filing cabinets, and I bet there is nothing in them. Mind you, I know better than to ask for one. They came with the corner office, so those cabinets have a special veneer of status.

The book tells me to clean my workspace with an essential oil spray to remove any trace of pollutants and negative energy. But my desk is still not clear – I have a computer, a printer, a rather large phone and a fax machine. There is barely room for a pencil sharpener. In any case, I daren’t let Big Bad Boss see me cleaning, because before you know it, he will have cancelled the cleaners and we will have to do all our own. I give the keyboard a surreptitious wipe and hope for the best. I am quite sure it will take more than a spritz of lavender to change the negative atmosphere in this building.

Lazy Susan

Everything in sight should be useful or lift the spirits, the book declares. Well, that rules out Lazy Susan and my manager for a start. I decide to bring in a big plant to help screen the view of Big Bad Boss. Plants absorb negative energy too, apparently. I know how they feel, poor things.

The book has lots of helpful hints about colour-coding and titling to help get my filing sorted. Administration should be in blue folders, financial reports should be in green and anything personal in pink. I love the idea, but the trouble is, the stationery cupboard has been locked since 2002 and only Scary Mary, the departmental secretary, has the key. You know how a doctor’s receptionist sees her role as preventing as many people as possible from seeing the doctor? Well, Scary Mary is like that about stationery. You have to fill in a three-page justification form for a new pencil, then she will examine your old one, and refuse anyway. I will have to make do with re-labelling my old files.

The book says labels should speak to your soul and lift your energy, so, for example, instead of a file called ‘sales contacts’, it should be called ‘fascinating people’. I rename my executive incentive file ‘hush money’. ‘Travel expenses’ becomes ‘jolly lolly’ and ‘pension reports’ are now ‘snooze food’. I am really getting into this. The trouble is, to keep my desk clear, I really need another filing cabinet.

Big Bad Boss

At that moment, Big Bad Boss comes over to send a fax. Yes, it is the department machine taking up valuable space on my desk. I look pointedly at the fax. It is some sort of confirmation he is sending to his golf club. I think I might have some leverage at last. I suggest that, given his seniority, he must need to send more confidential faxes than the rest of us, and maybe it would be better if the machine was in his office. He fidgets a bit. He doesn’t want it, but he doesn’t like me nosing over his faxes either. It is too heavy to lift, he objects, rather lamely, I think. I tell him not to worry, I will sort it out while he is at golf. Sorry, did I say golf? I meant while he is at lunch.

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I call straight down to Gorgeous Greg, the one with the biceps, who works for facilities. He comes straight up. I wonder if he is always so responsive. Together, Greg and I heave the old fax machine onto one of the filing cabinets in Big Bad Boss’s office. It looks OK, but it is now a bit crowded. I am sure he could do with some extra space next to it, to stand in while he is faxing. I flutter my eyelashes at Greg. In a moment, we have moved the adjoining cabinet out of Big Bad Boss’s office and next to my desk. It is not heavy because it is, as I suspected, empty. And with the new cabinet between me and Lazy Susan, I can hardly see her spotty face when we are both sat down. Bonus.

When Big Bad Boss gets back from, er, lunch, he glances at the new office arrangements with that little frown that usually precedes a nasty outburst. Luckily, there is a return fax from the golf club on the machine. He says nothing.