Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Stockholm Bar Top
I was surprised that they asked our Asian PR agency to help them organise the event. Yes, we were international, but, er, aren't their own Internal Communications people capable of handling it themselves? I think the reason could be that it was a huge (and important) affair for them and that they were also paying our agency a seven-digit retainer each year. In any case, my agency decided to send me over as I was the most senior in the Telecom practice and was rather meticulous in my event planning.
Of course I did see a couple of 'road blocks' in that assignment, if I may borrow language from The Amazing Race.
One, I'd yet to comprehend fully Swedish culture. Two, I'd yet to comprehend fully Swedish 'corporate' culture. So, now you see why even as I accepted the assignment, I knew it wouldn't be that straight forward a job as organising a mere launch party.
In fact, one of the first culture-clashes to crop up was the issue of drink. For some reason, the Director of Communications (our client-boss) refused to have alcohol served during cocktail. I asked him why but he did not say. All he offered was that no alcoholic drinks should be served during office hours. I could only conclude that 1) the Swedes don't hold their liquor well; 2) they go overboard with their drinking once they smell alcohol.
Well, I never really got that cleared up because the Swedes themselves confuse me. I had a client-colleague there who would ask me out for a beer at almost anytime. And when I ate at their staff canteen (which served very good Swedish food), all I saw were people drinking either coffee or fruit juice. They were all pretty heath conscious, well-adjusted and not hungover.
In any case, it was rather odd not to have alcohol during a corporate cocktail function. Beer or wine had always put people at ease through the millennia. But more importantly, it's tradition; or so I thought. Naysayers probably felt better not to have alcohol at all, worried that the odd drunk might stand up on a table or something and make a fool of himself. The bigger the function, the worst. With media folk around, it was thus better to play it safe. Since my client had indicated his wishes (he was rather adamant about it), I agreed to go along with the 'no- alcohol' rule. (Later, I would learn from another company director that the reason could be that some Swedish journalists tended to go overboard whenever there's free booze. Our client-boss director was afraid some would become drunk and behave like boorish louts!)
Aside from drink, another thing I learned during my stay there was that you could furnish your office quite differently. I know, it sounds obvious. But don't we all have offices where we sit behind a writing desk and on a cushioned chair? It's the most typical set-up. But after working with this lady project secretary named Pia, I came to appreciate not sitting down so much.
What she had in her office was an adjustable table that's set to bar top height. Instead of a chair, she had a small sofa put against the wall across her small office. So in effect, she would be standing most of the time when doing her office work. She only sat on her sofa to think, enjoy a cup of coffee, or chat with a colleague. Lovely idea, wasn't it?
Later, I was able to adopt the same approach in one of my offices. Instead of against the wall, I used the bar top table like a center island. What I discovered is that my table could function as a meeting place too, truly like a bar top in a bar! I would quickly gather the people, discuss the issue and then disperse. No need to chope a meeting room for all that and no need to sit down. And I found that people on their feet tended to think and work faster. Perhaps it is just the act of not sitting on their asses that gives that sense of urgency and get-go.
Physically, besides avoiding deep-vein thrombosis, standing (and walking) enables better circulation and gives better definition to the muscles of the leg and butt. Pia, as I recalled, had rather nice 'assets' in those departments. Sorry, I didn't mean to pay attention to such things, but I was sitting on that sofa behind her quite a few times. With my own bar top table, I did feel better not sitting down that much.
As a matter of fact, recent research indicates that sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave off two years of your life. So, quick. Get that office table changed now and throw out that chair! And what's a bar top without a mini-fridge full of beer? Or an expresso machine. See, the possibilities are endless and changes much the traditional idea of an 'office'!.
Next story: Dislocated Minds
This table I designed consists of a recycled kitchen tabletop bolted to hollow tubes of clear acrylic. Artificial flowers have been placed inside to add beauty. Other things of choice may be placed inside, turning a normal office table into a changeable art object. The table top can be repapered to a design of choice.