LAUREN BERRY believes your ?office family? can get you through the tough times, and keep you laughing through the bizarre ones. Here, she details just what makes a work mum, dad, friend, and even spouse. Get ready to?identify your clan...
If you have a 9 to 5 (or more likely, a 9 to 6.30), you spend upwards of 40 hours a week with the people sitting to your left and right. These people enter your life, selected arbitrarily by someone above your pay grade, and whether you like it or not, they're going to end up knowing you well. If, like me, you have a massive mouth and can't keep a secret, they'll know pretty much everything about you. If you're more demure than me, they'll still know your eating, drinking and toilet habits. They'll know when you're sick and when someone dies (unless it's a fictional grandparent - the one who pops their clogs in every job you've had. RIP Margaret). There's no point trying to hide from them - they're always there, every day, every hangover, every bout of PMT.
I've worked in an embarrassing number of London offices. I've temped all over town, and I've noticed that most offices have recurring characters. People who can be relied on to fulfil certain roles, meaning I don't have to go home and visit the folks at the weekend. I can instead shut the curtains and enjoy a couple of days fam-free. If I'm committed to a role for a while, I've found it's worth investing some time in the people around you (for short-term contracts, I opt for hostile / mysterious / brain dead). I try and structure my working relationships to create the perfect nuclear family that I don't have at home. Below are the key players. Please note these roles can be taken by the most unlikely of candidates - not all work mums wear skirts.
You know they're your work mum if they make you cry, and then hug you better. A work mum is a stalwart of the office hierarchy. Equal parts kind and fierce, persecutor and protector. They usually dress like they're headed to a juggling workshop or for an evening class in typing. Like real mums, work mums can be a ginormous pain in the ass, but without them, things never feel 100 percent secure. Sometimes you might find that you're the work'mum. Wield that power gently; it comes with great responsibility (and get the hell out of there - you're surrounded by children).
Your work dad knows what all the handles on the swivel chairs do. They'll tell you o for using the wrong kind of pencil. They can't fix the printer, but they can get raging mad at the office manager for not calling the people who can. There are lots of different kinds of work dad; some are the fun dad who'll sneak you a fiver out of petty cash for the pint you can't afford. Some are authoritarians, and everyone has to be on their best behaviour when they get in. On the rare occasions, your work mum and dad are both out at a meeting, all hell will break loose.
Preferably the best-looking person in the office. Your marriage is based on lunch and winking. A good work husband will also sit next to you at office parties and team meetings, protect you when you don't know the answer your boss wants, and smell nice. Ideally, you will fancy them a bit because going for lunch with a mild crush just makes the day go a little bit faster.
This person is for instant messaging, gif exchanges, talking about TV, trying to make you laugh in serious meetings, swift lunchtime pints and passing judgement over new people. Work bros are the best - they get your jokes and they can get you through the day. Can sometimes make the leap from work bro to...
WORK BEST FRIEND (WBF)
If you're really lucky, your WBF has all the qualities and charisma of your ABF (Actual Best Friend). This is the most important relationship you can
have at work because without your WBF you are an island, a lone wolf. They need to bridge the gap between work and reality, they should know all the major players in your real life, they know when your aunt went into hospital and how many boys your sister has slept with. A WBF can be the best confidant because they may never actually meet any of these people, and it doesn't matter who they tell because your friendship circles are completely different. They also know what to get you for Secret Santa. WBFs can be for life; collect one from each job and by the time you retire you'll have friends all over the world who know weird shit about that small section of your life.
If you work in a big company, people probably come and go. Cling to the ones that matter and let everyone else drift away. People like the work cousins - all the people whose birthday cards you sign, whose names you can't remember and that you shouldn't swear in front of. Or the accounts department who are basically your grandparents - they might give you money, but you have no idea what to say to them. We spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so embrace the work family - they might just make the day go that bit easier.
Lauren Berry's new novel, Living the Dream (Virago, approx €16) is out now.?