Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Clean Compulsion

We have all heard the claims that Singapore is the cleanest city in the world. I am here to tell you that it is indeed true. But some people in my office (with way too much time on their hands) have taken this "culture of clean" to excrutiatingly annoying new levels.

Since moving to the Singapore office, I have had to learn to adapt to the steady stream of emails that warn me of proper office ergonomics, lost jewelry in the ladies toilet, upcoming fire drills, schedule updates for air conditioning maintenance, surveys on how to improve the cracker selection in the employee breakroom, but the all-time winner of most annoying office program is the Mr. Clean Inspection.

From the description, you would half-way expect a smiling yet muscular bald man with a shimmering golden ear ring and a pressed white T-shirt to merrily walk from cube to cube and give each occupant a friendly wink. Not so my friends. In our office, this inspection takes on ominous tones with public shame hanging in the balance.

Each quarter some poor sap... err... Appointed Inspector has to walk around with clip board in hand and give each person's cube a Clean Rating. Some of the propaganda that accompanies this nonsense includes the following: "The Objectives is to ensure a Clean desk with a cubicle that is neat and tidy so that you can work more efficiently.". The program is under the guise of employee safety, but is laughable with quotes such as these: "Employees are expected to recognize and accept responsibility for safety including safety improvements like helping keep their place neat and clean, so as not to pose a danger to their co-workers."

If anyone is in jeopardy of compromised safety because I have five or six piles of paper scattered across my desk than surely Armageddon is soon approaching. Do you detect a bit of cynicism here? May be it is because when your cube is ranked as un-tidy you then are added to a list of other dirty pigs in the office who can't find their stapler for the reams of post-it notes that emblazon their desk. That list of those who have received the Scarlet Letter of shame is then emailed to everyone in the office.

Yours truly received a black mark last quarter and I am shooting for back-to-back honors. In my opinion, a busy desk (I prefer this word in lieu of messy) is the sign of a busy and productive mind. What may appear messy to one person, is another person's complex organizational masterpiece. I, for one, know exactly where everything is on my desk and can locate it in mili-seconds. This system has been disrupted numerous times however by the friendly cleaning crew at night, who takes it upon themselves to stack my documents into nice neat little piles in a corner of my desk that is least visually offensive. But when I return to my desk the next morning, I can't find a thing.

I am soon approaching my one year anniversary in Singapore and I feel like I am entitled to an occasional rant. Surely those who read this site with some consistency can probably point to more than just the occasional one. What continues to be fun and amusing are the differences. Office cleanliness is important here where in other places it is not. It is not right or wrong, but rather just different. I have fun with these things, because if you don't smile about it, you will surely go mad.


At 2:11 PM, Blogger Ferg said...

right on, Fos - from another who much prefers a "busy" desk.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger gallimel said...

it has been absolutely awesome to meet you through your blog today!
You're very brave, inventive, outreachin person.
Keep your life the way it looks from these pages, cos it's definitely inspiring for those who come getting a glimpse of it.
Good Luck, Meli :)


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