The Campaign for
Free-Range Office Workers
Jenny sat down at her
Harsh florescent light
reflected from white painted walls and glared
from shiny, melamine surfaces. Jenny adjusted her
dark glasses to minimise the risk of snow
She glanced at the tightly
packed rows of fellow workers. All were silent,
lest trivial, non work-related banter might
resonate through the huge, open-plan workspace
and reach the ears of their efficiency-conscious
Jenny reminisced about the
old office. It was true that it had been rather
cramped, but there had been many nooks and
crannies in which normal human interaction could
occur. She recalled how Mavis and George had
conducted their adulterous affair, undetected,
for many months due to access to the boiler room.
The former seclusion of the photocopier had made
it a simple matter for Jones from Finance to
generate ubiquitous images of his bum.
Now that all office areas
were plainly visible, those staff not signed-off
with stress could do little other than toil at
The sole respite came from
periodic requests for employees to move their
cars. Most car parking had been dispensed with by
the company, for economy. This had meant that
latecomers were compelled to block-in earlier
arrivals. Relocation of vehicles to allow egress
had become a very frequent occurrence.
Initially, this had been
experienced as a major annoyance to all, but had
quickly become a joyous opportunity to leave the
dispiriting environment of their workplace and
chat with colleagues. Smoking had previously
afforded such relief, but that palliation had
been ended by new Health and Safety rules that
forbade smokers to light-up within six miles of
the new premises.
Employees exploited their
automotive salvation by parking in complex
configurations to entrap the maximum number of
their fellows. This was assisted by an iPhone app
which computed the most disruptive next parking
location for a given arrangement of cars. Should
anyone have a very urgent need to depart, then
there was also an iPhone app which calculated the
minimum number of car moves required to allow the
liberation of a given vehicle.
Jenny had just taken
another Valium when she noted her boss escorting
two visitors along the lines of workstations. She
had to think for a moment where she had seen them
before, but quickly recognised Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall
and Jamie Oliver.
She overheard her boss
proudly explaining how the new open-plan
workstation arrangement had improved office
efficiency by thirty-five percent. Hugh and Jamie
had said nothing, but looked thoughtful and
That evening, Jenny was
surprised to see the celebrity chefs on the news.
Hugh expressed outrage at
the conditions in which office workers were kept,
suffering overcrowding, no natural light and no
opportunities to express their natural behaviours.
We wouldnt keep
chickens in conditions like this, Jamie had
A tsunami of public protest
had followed, which had forced employers to
radically revise the storage conditions of their
staff. Some companies turned this to their
advantage by labelling their documents as having
been produced by free-range office workers with
access to sunlight, smoking facilities, secluded
boiler-rooms and concealed photocopiers.
It is now for those who
commission office services to support such
innovation, rather than buy cheaper expertise
from countries with uncertain standards of worker-husbandry.