Working in an open plan office in my profession can be a challenge. Many of the documents I read are confidential, along with the papers on my desk. I have to lock away contact information for participants of sessions I run, not to mention the concern of colleagues overhearing discussions with and about local Councillors.
Yet all of that is manageable. What I am yet to identify the etiquette for is greetings.
On my floor are (without exaggeration) hundreds of people, all working on similar or related projects within the directorate. Due to my job involving cross organisational, directorate and team support, I actually have worked with or am known by a worryingly large number. This is not a bad thing, as it allows me to know about loads of the goings on in the Council, and means others know about me and my team.
Generally when people walk past my desk and catch my eye they nod a cheery hello, with some stopping to talk for a bit or to impart some knowledge/gossip/opinions on Spurs’ chances of finishing fourth (still not as good as hoped for in my opinion, but that’s for another blog). Again, not a bad thing, albeit quite annoying if I have a lot to do.
The challenge for me lies when I venture away from the relative safety and protection that my desk offers, be that to go to a meeting room or just to stretch my legs. I find myself walking past colleagues, most of whom still aim to at least catch my eye and often to spend even more time chatting and smiling. I’m not saying there is anything special at all about me either discussion-wise or in the looks department, but it’s just the way things are.
This leaves me with a dilemma. How much time can I give to any of them? And what form should that contact be? Is it enough to catch eyes and nod, or should I be looking to check in with them all?
My fear is that this constant chat and subsequent positive feelings escalate to the point where I walk along with my arm stretched to one side whilst my route is lined with cheering, whooping colleagues waiting for their turn to be high-fived.
A remote and unlikely fear perhaps, bit just as likely as a spider laying its eggs in your ear overnight, and I still worry about that.
I’m hoping that a polite nod will continue to be enough as we’re due to move to a more densely populated building soon, and I just haven’t got the time to be crowd-surfing between meetings.