Movers wanted; only IT experts need apply

Employees' frequent moves from cubicle to cubicle are a source of more work -- and amusement -- for the IT staff

Like Milton in Office Space, the cube dwellers plod along, carrying all their workplace possessions to their new locations. Call it what you wish -- musical cubicles, department continuity, employee harmonization -- it is more work for the IT staff. At least it's also a source of comic relief.

Despite having very little personnel turnover in our office, it seems we've moved people around more times than Windows has been patched.

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Of course, in IT, we usually find out at the last possible minute. We stopped asking why long ago. Sometimes there are organizational changes, sometimes there are equipment changes, and sometimes there are personality clashes. And sometimes someone just needs to move to a warmer or cooler spot in the office. Often, as with the Microsoft Office interface, nobody knows why things need to be changed -- they just are.

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Typically, when such change occurs, no regard at all has been given to whether or not there are phone or Ethernet connections or even sufficient power. People just need to move. They, their computers, their phones, their cables, their tape, their Swingline staplers -- it all needs to move.

For cabling, we've long since given up on plastic zip ties -- we've had to cut them too often. Velcro is our product of choice now, frequently getting a workout beyond its design specs. The wire covers on our rack have been on and off so many times they are starting to wear prematurely.

No move ever seems to occur on a Friday, when we have more casual clothing on. In fact, I've often felt that I can instigate a move simply by wearing a brand-new shirt.

Mgmt: "Nice shirt."

Me: "Thanks."

Mgmt: "Oh, by the way, we need to move Mary to the desk near the copier today."

Me: "Isn't that the one by the phone jack where the copier tech spilled toner everywhere?"

Mgmt: "That's the one."

Me: "We never made him clean it up because we said it would never be used, right?"

Mgmt: "Yeah, well, no hurry. As long as it's done by 5 o' clock."

Once in a while, management will tell us to do the "secret move." This is far and away our favorite. The premise here is that we will move a user after hours -- so no one will notice. These are usually worth the extra 15 minutes we have to stay late just so we can observe the surprised looks the next day.

Occasionally, cubicle migration is instigated by dissension among the ranks. In these cases, the instigator is quickly identified by the way they walk. Rather than exhibiting the brow-beaten trod of those cast from their old location, the instigator struts, head held high, their goal achieved. Sometimes this movement causes a domino effect, working its way through a department like a funny YouTube video, as employees shuffle into a compatible order that appeases management, without affecting their fragile hierarchy of cubism.

Such is the way of the cube dwellers. Briefly taken from their natural habitat and placed in a new environment, only those with iron wills and multiple power strips will survive. Friendships will be broken even as new alliances are forged. Those with mini fridges will surely outlast those with extra storage.

As for us, with our new but dirty shirts, the IT staff will continue to bundle, unbundle, then bundle again another row of cables. We label a phone port for the umpteenth time and return to our desks. Our desks are easy to find: They've been in the same spot for 10 years.

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