Lighting Up Cubicles

I’ve never fancied working in an office.

Maybe it’s the whole stationary thing I don’t like about it, constantly stuck in your little cubicle waiting for the clock on the corner of your screen to read ’17:00′.

My whole working life has been spent on construction sites amongst the crumbling drywall of renovations and the acrid dust of new builds. As an electrician of some 30 years or I’ve been fortunate enough to ride out two ball-breaking recessions and manage to hold onto most of my business connections in the process. Despite the old adage of there always being work electricians being true in most cases, I know plenty of plumbers and brickies who have failed to adapt to the times and found themselves jobless as a result.

I’ve mostly worked for myself throughout my career, apart from the first few years spent as an apprentice. During the first 10 years of running my business I was able to make valuable connections with other tradesmen who shared the same ethos and attention to detail me, this meant that whenever a friend of mine was in need of a sparky I was the first one they called. Similarly, if ever I was on a job in need of a plasterer or plumber, you can bet that I’d be the first to recommend one of my good mates.

Working life on the construction sites of Great Britain probably hasn’t changed much for the last few decades – which is both a good and bad thing. The discourse that rules these workplaces are still¬†male-centric to a great extent. Chatter, in between work related talk, can usually be sorted into a handful of categories: football, women and politics. Of course these topics are likely to cross over from time to time, which will usually result in a site wide discussion breaking out, leading to the halting of all major work. For those who aren’t aware, this is how construction projects fall behind schedule…

Up until recently the British construction site had been my second home, that is until I received a corporate contract for a number of offices in the centre of London.

A digital marketing company had decided that their office workers were not working under the right lights, so it was down to me to fit new office lighting (change to new Services page) that would improve morale and (most importantly) drive better results.

I’d have preferred to work during the nights, whilst the office staff were out, but the powers that be decided that I should carry out the job during office hours. The disruption would apparently ‘challenge the workers to produce better work’, something that I somehow doubted.

Stepping from the dust and the grime of the building site to the pristine world of an upmarket London office was a culture shock that I wasn’t prepared for. I’d expected to draw attention, a paint spattered 50-year old blue collar worker wandering through a white collar world, but in fact the opposite happened. Throughout the entire 2-month period, barely a word was said to me by any of the office workers. Coiffured twenty-somethings tapped incessantly on keyboards, tightly-dressed assistants busied themselves with calendars and interns ferried coffees from desk to desk.

Although we might have been working in the same space, it was clear to me that we would forever be worlds apart.