Office traditions

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There was a seemingly harmless rule at Daisie that went by the name ‘snacking’. The premise was:

There’s a Slack channel called #snacked, if somebody gets access to your computer and adds snacks to the channel, you have to buy them.

It sounded like a fun bit of office etiquette on day one. And to begin with we were all pretty diligent at locking our machines, and had a good laugh when one of us forgot and had to buy doughnuts.

I’m certain the idea came from a good place. It’s good practice to lock your computer in a public space, and even though the work we were doing wasn’t overly sensitive, there’s no harm in being careful, right?

Anxiety and trust

The minute you wanted to chat to a colleague 6ft away, you had to remember to lock your machine. Failing to do so ran the risk of colleague betrayal and a hefty supermarket bill.

If you knowingly walked away with it unlocked, you’d spent half the conversation keeping an eye on your workspace, ready to run back the moment anyone twigged and edged towards it.

Not to mention the cost of the snacks, and the whole act of ‘actively gaining access to someone elses machine’.

It was a bad idea.

The thing was, Daisie is a creative collaboration startup, not a bank. It was a private office with 16 people in a flat hierarchy - the risk of a security breach was so minute, it was hardly visible. This rule might’ve come from and applied to a big team, but it sure as hell didn’t work for a small one.

It was only the other day when I walked away from my computer at Clearleft; I felt that same rush of anxiety, and I sense-checked it. There was no need to fear anymore!

But what a horrendous feeling to impose on your staff each day. I recall feeling uneasy about it at the time, but it was never more than a nagging doubt. In hindsight, I should’ve spoken up and asked for the rule to be dropped. For all I know, everyone might’ve felt the same way too. But even if it was making just one person feel uncomfortable, that’s a good enough reason to at least consider the tradition.

I appreciate how relatively trivial this example is, and that many folks go through much worse each day, but it made me think about other historic office traditions we subscribe to without question. How many do we all secretly despise?

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that.

Grace Hopper

I want to start questioning these traditions; asking if they still hold water and are fit for purpose. The world surrounding our tech departments has changed radically in the last few years, and we should be regularly challenging our existing opinions to see if they still have a place.

And in terms of snacking and computer security, a little bit of trust goes an awful long way.

Posted on in Web