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BOFH: Tick tick BOOM. It's B-day! No we're not eating Brussels flouts...
The B stands for BOFH
Episode 2 "He's getting a bag out of his car," the PFY says, continuing his running commentary of the bloke that's parked in the short-term consultants' parking space a couple of floors below. "It has got coloured balls in it."
"Aaaaaahhhhhmmmm, maybe he's doing that sad de Bono thing* with the hats?"
"Nope, he's getting out a big flipchart and a bag of smiley faces."
"I guess we'll find out soon enough."
TWO HOURS LATER.
"Simon, Steven, this is Doug, Sharon, Cath and Mike," the Boss says.
"They're the new company wellness representatives – well, except Mike who's helping facilitate the company Wellness project."
"Wellness? Ah. You mean like Health and Safety?"
"Actually no!" Mike gushes. "Traditionally Health and Safety is a more onerous process involved with foreseeing or dealing with unfavourable workplace outcomes, whereas Wellness is more concerned with making the workplace a more harmonious environment by addressing the larger holistic needs of staff."
"I'm sorry I went into power-save mode for a minute there due to a lack of intelligent input. You were saying?"
"I was saying that Wellness is a holisti..."
"Nah, you've lost me again."
"This... Wellness Committee," the PFY says. "Where did it come from?"
"They're fellow members of staff – along with Mike – appointed to bring a more positive and optimistic atmosphere to the workplace," the Boss says.
"Came highly recommended."
"So did thalidomide," I counter. "Tell me, Mike – does your car have an alarm?"
"I... Yes. Why?"
"So what does that say about your optimistic outlook?"
"I hardly think those two things are..."
"SO, WHAT'S YOUR FIRST PROJECT!?" I interrupt. "Are we going to put in a slide between the 4th floor and the cafe, give everyone a frisbee and install breakout areas with couches and free ice cream? Ohhhh, maybe you could make the slide end up on a couch!!!!"
"Ah no. We... are thinking about making the workplace a more enjoyable and healthy place to be – so that people like to come here."
"And the slide and couch and ice cream wouldn't do that?? So what ARE we proposing?"
"I've heard good things about fruit baskets," Cath says. "A fruit basket in every department – weekly – would mean that people got a better balance of vitamin C. And it provides a centre for people to interact socially."
"You could be right – there's something about rotting bananas that really brings people together. What are your thoughts, Sharon?"
"I'm thinking free gym memberships for all staff – or even better, converting some unused office space into a gym!"
"I like the way you think. We could use GYM signs because they'd be cheaper to print than KEEP OUT."
"I don't follow."
"When was the last time YOU went to the gym?"
"Well, I... if there were one in the building..."
"Exactly, never. They're like kryptonite to non-poseurs."
"MY suggestion," Doug says, "is we use the 'nudge' theory to adopt positive changes – like addressing unhealthy eating patterns."
"Well, we should remove desserts from the company lunches for a start."
"I'm sorry," the PFY says. "I think I've overdosed on my dandruff medication."
Doug is a little stunned so I step in.
"So it's the sugar – and I guess type-2 diabetes – that you're worried about?"
"Yes, but not just sugars – also salts and fats. We should definitely cancel the monthly Onion Bhaji Day."
"I'm sorry," I say. "I accidentally took some of the PFY's medication this morning."
"I think we might be getting a little off track here," the Boss says. "But what are you saying?"
"That your proposals are liable to be wildly unpopular..."
Now the Boss may not be the sharpest fork in the toaster, but even HE knows that these ideas are about as appetising as faecal transplant pizza and so he makes himself scarce.
Doug, Sharon, Cath and Mike go on to implement their plans with the backing of HR – plans which only take about three hours to get round the building.
"Great day for a lynching!" I say to the head of HR as the four Wellness gurus cower in his office.
"But it was a positive workplace move!" Doug whines.
"No, a positive workplace move would be to give people 50 quid for making it in on time."
"A positive workplace move would be to sling a plank out your window and send these four out for a long walk," the PFY says.
"But people want to feel better about themselves," Mike says.
"No they don't – they want to distract their attention from the endless soul-destroying monotony of doing the same mundane task day after day – a task which probably doesn't need doing in the first place. They want ice cream, and slides, couches and onion bhajis."
"So... what do we do?" the head of HR asks, looking out his door nervously at the seeds of rebellion in his department.
"1. Cut a hole in between the 3rd and 4th floor, install a slide with a couch at the end of it, and order an ice cream fridge. 2. Email the staff to say the previous message was a misunderstanding because you're implementing a monthly KEBAB Day, but it wasn't supposed to replace Onion Bhaji Day and the first Kebab Day is tomorrow when we unveil the slide, couch and ice cream project, etc."
"And that will calm people down?"
"Maybe. I'd make it a bit of a PR thing – have some giveaways, probably send these four down the slide first and slap them in the face with a cream pie to show what good sports they are..."
"Or a shepherds pie!" the PFY adds unkindly.
. . . The next day . . .
The wellness circus has begun. The head of HR and the gang of four have taken full credit for Kebab Day, the slide, ice cream, frisbees, etc and have left the actual construction and associated contractor goat-herding to the PFY and myself – even though none of this is in any way related to IT.
The five of them are upstairs doing a ceremonial ribbon-cutting exercise while the PFY and I are downstairs with the plebs.
"I feel," the PFY says, holding his hand to his forehead in the manner of a fortune teller, "that this slide is a white elephant and will never be used after today."
"I can almost guarantee it," I say, as Mike whistles down the slide – which pivots 90˚ under my shoe pressure to point out the window.
"Can anyone else sense a shifting in the morale?" I ask as the sound of a thud closely followed by the wail of Mike's car alarm reaches our ears from below.
* Not that sad Bono – but rather the "lateral thinking" guy who reheated the 1953 concept of brainstorming.