This morning when I arrived at work I found that the break room had a sign on the door that said that until further notice the breakroom, including the water dispensers, was closed until further notice as part of the company I work for’s efforts in trying to prevent the spread of Covid-19 as more employees return to the office in a socially distant desk configuration. This was a bad move. The move had been done without any warning to those employees who are still coming into the office and have been the entire time, although starting from Friday when the chairs in the break rooms were stacked and the tables moved to the side, it was obvious to all, even the obstinate among us, that the return of more employees would mean less encouragement of people to use the breakrooms. What was to be done about such a thing? For a while, I and my fellow employees in the Finance department, of which there are a handful of us who show up on a more or less regular basis, most of us daily and a couple of others once or twice a week, kept our frustration to ourselves.
After lunchtime, though, all of us had seen the signs on the door and we were not happy about it. And as people who are not happy in the contemporary world do, we talked about it with each other. First, we complained about what it meant for the water dispensers to be closed off when most of us had concerns about dehydration in the face of the office environment. It was nice to know, speaking personally, that I was not alone in being deeply concerned about such matters personally. We discussed a course of action, relaying the sort of things that we could do if our concerns about dehydration were not being properly met, and then one of us corresponded with the managers, who are still working from home, about what had happened. We received word back that there was supposed to have been a message about it that was sent to managers, who were then supposed to pass it on to their team, but as none of our managers come into the office, such a message (if it was indeed sent) was simply not passed down to us. Needless to say, we were soon informed before we escalated matters that it was okay for us to ignore the signs and get water in the breakrooms and more or less pretend that it didn’t happen.
This might seem to be a small matter to many people. A group of early middle-aged professionals in an office environment are far from the most oppressed group of human beings that exist. That said, we live in the sort of world where issues like this happen for basic and predictable reasons. People make plans seeking to deal with laws and regulations and fail to open up the conversation or communicate matters to people who can pipe up with obvious discussions of areas where a proposed plan is going to create problems. Unplugging vending machines and blocking access to breakrooms and to potable water is not the best way to encourage high morale among one’s office workers. And in a world where everyone is prickly and quick to be irritated by the follies and stupidity of authorities, such mistakes are going to snowball into disaffection fairly rapidly. Nor does it appear as if there are any obvious ways that such a problem can be avoided if communication is done on hierarchical grounds by people who judge the importance of communicating a message based on their own interests and not based on the interests of those who find out through drastic decisions made without warning.
I do not suspect such problems are limited to a few companies or locations alone. We live in an age where communication in the planning stages of corporate and political decisionmaking is at a low, and where people are both slow to seek and take advice and quick to take offense. This leads to predictable results. When you add to these general and widespread problems the difficulties of excessive regulation from state and local jurisdictions who are power-mad at the opportunity to use public health concerns to interfere in everyone’s business, the results are even more predictable and even more lamentable. Such are the times we live in. One must keep a good sense of humor and be quick to find like minded people to present one’s concerns with to gain leverage on decisionmakers who are under pressure and who need to be reminded to consider the well-being of ordinary people whose opinions are not likely to be taken into consideration until voices are raised. But that’s life.