BOFH: Come back to the office. Your hotdesk is nice and warm
When your Christmas bonus is a gaming chair you found in the street
Episode 23 To say the Company may have overplayed its hand in the post-COVID return-to-work thing is a bit of an understatement.
Some companies decided early on that everyone should be back at work from day one. Others favored a staggered return to work, whilst others wanted their staff in at least three days a week. Then other companies said their staff could work from home so long as they had a couple of "team days" in the office each week to catch up.
Our company decided on the chaotic-neutral approach of letting everyone decide what they wanted to do without requiring them to communicate the option they chose.
As expected, many of the institutional deadwood have never been seen since. It's possible they're holding down a second job – but if they are, it'll only be for the extra sick leave.
Now the Company's getting concerned. As less people are actually showing up there's a general feeling that less people want to show up. Then there's all the new and expensive hotdesking furniture that our department purchased to try to encourage people back to the building – sitting embarrassingly empty.
One of the main issues is, of course, that people know it's easier to slob around at home – where no one can see you – than it is at work. So whilst they can reluctantly drag themselves out of bed at noon to attend a Zoom call, they're not so keen on putting in eight hours at work with their pants on.
"We're paying a lease on all these printers and no-one's using them!" the Boss burbles. "We need to get people in."
"Easy," I say. "You just need to mention the Christmas bonuses."
"There aren't any Christmas bonuses."
"I didn't say you should offer bonuses – you just need to mention the money you're setting aside for the bonuses on a couple of online meetings. Word will get around. They'll be all over you like sycophants at a Tesla launch."
"Yes, but how do we get them to stay in?"
"That's probably a Head-of-HR job. He'd maybe tease the staff by saying bonuses are delayed while the Company needs to do some … I dunno … dynamic personal performance metric recalculations? That should buy you a couple of months. Then maybe a couple of strategic redundancies to keep the proles on their toes – you know, carrot and stick."
"In this job market?!"
"Yeah, that's why I used the word strategic. Fire a couple of pieces of the laziest kindling in our deadwood selection. Make sure they've been here for donkey's years and don't have a referee from this century."
"And when a reference checker calls you, make vague hints about how high functioning they are – considering …"
"Oh you never say that. You just stop at considering and sort of trail off. Gush over them a bit, and in passing mention the company's policy of trying to find work for people with prescription medicine issues. When asked why you let them go, just say you can't go into detail …"
"And what will this achieve?"
"People will have second thoughts about their potential employability. The next phase would be to suggest the Head Beancounter's trying to work out the travel component factored into people's salaries – now they're not coming in, maybe they don't need it. Then there's the office restructure.
"What office restructure?" the Boss asks.
"The one where the Company drops workers and sheds a floor of the building."
"No one's told me about that."
"It was probably discussed at the same meeting as the bonuses. In any case, we'll be back to full numbers in no time."
"Ah. Right," the Boss says, the penny dropping. "Only …"
"… ?" I ask, wordlessly.
"I don't know, but … isn't there … less furniture here than there used to be?"
"Of course! There'd need to be if we're consolidating. We need to make room for the extra furniture from the floor we're vacating."
"But … that was just a pretend thing."
"Yes, but people would see it was never going to happen if we kept all the furniture."
"But it was new furniture!" the Boss gasps.
"And that's what makes it so convincing!" I counter.
"But we only just bought it!"
"I know – and once word gets around that we've been dumping brand new furniture in the street for anyone to grab, people will really get worried."
"YOU DUMPED IT IN THE STREET?!?! IT WAS BRAND NEW!"
"Well you said we had to do something."
"You have to get it back!" the Boss snaps. "That was a huge portion of our hardware budget."
"No, no, it was a huge portion of MY hardware budget. You don't have a hardware budget. You have a miscellaneous budget, an office supplies budget, an entertainment budget and a fake bonuses budget."
"Whatever. We need to get that furniture back."
"We can't – it's gone. Those gaming chairs went like hotcakes."
"You have to get them back!" the Boss blurts, knowing full well that whilst purchasing items from the wrong cost center is verbal warning material, losing those items falls into the summary dismissal category.
"They're gone! Maybe you can buy some more with your office supplies budget," I suggest.
"I don't have that much money in my office supplies budget!" he gasps.
"Well how much do you have?" I ask. "We could look on eBay. Meantime we'd take all the new furniture out of the small offices and put it into the open plan area, then drag the ancient furniture from the basement and put it in the small offices – that way it'd look like we'd not dumped any."
"I'm not sure that would …" the Boss starts, not wanting to lose the top-of-the-line gaming chair that he thought no one would notice.
"Yes, but we can replace the small office chairs with stuff from eBay in due course."
- BOFH: We're an industry leader … in employing idiot managers
- BOFH: You'll have to really trust me on this team-building exercise
- BOFH: You. Wouldn't. Put. A. Test. Machine. Into. Production. Without. Telling. Us.
- BOFH: I'm so pleased to be on the call, Boss. No, of course this isn't a recording
The Boss reluctantly agrees to this and allocates a chunk of his office supplies budget to me to buy replacement chairs as funds permit.
The PFY, meantime, is helping the Beancounters install that new office furniture we sold to them earlier in the week.
So it looks like maybe there is a Christmas bonus after all …