What’s the best thing about working in smaller companies?
It’s being around people who can use the company kitchen to make simple snacks and refreshments without injuring themselves.
Who can get stationery out of the cupboard without jamming their head in the door hinges or getting staples lodged up their nostrils.
Who laugh at the dangers of residual heat in the toasted sandwich maker. Ha!
At bigger companies, these things take a fearsome toll in human life. The edges of the corporate fast lane are littered with the broken wreckage of those who got their tie too close to the paper guillotine. Or those who got trapped in the compactus that can move any time.
If the producers of the next James Bond movie want to continue with the ‘gritty reality’ theme, M should send him into the Compactus of Doom to hunt down his old petty cash receipts.
“Without those receipts, 007, we cannot approve any more fuel bills for those damn Aston Martins of yours. But I must warn you – that compactus can move at any time, and your fingers may be jammed upon closing.”
Once upon a time, the only thing to protect you from office danger was your own good sense, and the safety skills your mother taught you: don’t run with the scissors and so forth.
But at large companies, there’s always one person who doesn’t trust your good sense. They work undercover. Let’s call them Laminator Lady.
They have PowerPoint and a laminator, and they’re going to use them. And speaking of your mother, that’s the theme of the first message that appears in every office (including the traditional spelling):
“You’re mother does’nt work here so please make sure you leave the kitchen clean.”
Fair enough. But like serial killers, they can’t stop at just one. They get a taste for it, and when they find out how easy it is to put up signs undetected, they strike again and again.
Really - could there be anything funnier than a finance worker who’s cut his tie off while guillotining the balance sheets?
There’s a few essential elements for the classic laminated office sign.
Signs should contain at least one ‘grown-up’ word to convey some serious authority. Words that nobody has actually said since 1956. Though if you worked next to Laminator Lady, you might unmask her secret identity when you hear something like:
‘Whilst you’re going to the café, can you pick me up a packet of Tic Tacs upon your departure?’
And if you want to add the ultimate, Magna Carta-style decree of authority, you add the sign-off:
In an era of scant regard for management, these capital letters strike fear into Gen-Y slackers, ensuring that from now on they Pull Their Socks Up.
We’re not suggesting that all safety signs are bad. They make perfect sense if you work around heavy machinery or in warehouses, where you’re in genuine danger of being run over by a forklift driver with a hangover.
But where does it stop? At a company where I used to work, Laminator Lady had sneaked into the men’s bathroom, and placed this little gem at eye level. In World War Two it was ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’. Now the dangers are closer to home.
You could argue that reading distracting signs could actually add to the whole drip problem.
Thanks to our undercover agent at Largecorp for the kitchen and stationery shots. They’ve had a series of very active, toasterphobic Laminator Ladies.
“They’re always called Vicki, for some reason,” he says.
And if you want to see a really compelling piece of safety communication, set aside 9 minutes and watch this German forklift training video from a few years back. Starts dull, like any training video, but it really gets moving at the end.