I spent two days at corporate head office last week. This is where I started my career, oh so many years ago. There have been many changes over the years but some things remain the same. First thing I noticed that had not changed was the wall paper. Exactly the same as I remember it almost 30 years ago. Also the same are the ubiquitous burlap looking partitions the form the cubical farms and the plastic flex hose going up to to the ceiling carrying the power and LAN wiring. I still remember asking why there were so many vacuum hoses.
One of the big changes was the lack of people. It used to be the cafeteria was always packed, even during work hours. It was a common adhoc meeting room. At any time there would be a dozen small group meetings happening around a table. Lunchtime required you to hurry upstairs to avoid the 20 minute lineup for food. Getting a table required somebody holding a spot. It was packed.
Over the last two days each time I stopped I to pick up a coffee it was practically empty. The head office cafeteria seats several hundred people and even at lunch there couldn’t have been more than 50. This afternoon I am in the second major office space we have in the city, home to a few hundred employees. The cafeteria here is literally empty. Zero. No one.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Does everyone leave the building now? Does everyone work through their breaks? Did I miss spring break week? (No by the way)
Reflecting on the empty common spaces I think we have lost an important sense of community. We don’t get to meet the people who work in other areas of the company. We don’t form a sense of common purpose. The family has grown up and moved away.
It makes me sad.