Laughter is the Best Medicine VNews from across the Pond:
January 5, 2007
The £7 million guide to a tidy desk
by Michael Hornsell
Red tape has given way to black marker tape for thousands of bemused civil servants as part of a £7 million paperclip revolution aimed at ensuring that they keep the tools of their trade in the right place.
Office workers have been given the tape to mark out where they should put their pens and pencils, their computer keyboards and to indicate where to place their phones.
National [Health] Insurance staff have been chosen as guinea-pigs for the latest phase of the “Lean” programme brought in by the logistics consultants Unipart. The programme prohibits workers from keeping personal items on their desks.
Revenue & Customs declined to say how much Unipart had been paid for the project. But a PCS spokesman said that the project was costing £7.4 million nationally.
He said: “... We had a situation in some offices in Scotland where staff were asked, ‘Is that banana on your desk active or inactive?’, meaning were they going to eat it? If not, it had to be cleared away.”
Kevin McHugh, PCS branch secretary, said that some staff at Longbenton shared a desk, and had had to rearrange their workspace, regardless of the tape. “If the person coming in after you has longer arms, he will have to move the markers,” he said. “This office has been open for 60 years and people have managed to find their pens and staplers without consultants helping them.”
A spokeswoman for Revenue & Customs said: “It is only right that those staff who now share desk space with their colleagues are given advice and support in deciding how to make the most efficient use of the space available.” She said that staff could still move things on their desk to positions that suited them best.
“Lean is all about how we can work more efficiently to deliver an even better service to our customers, providing support and appropriate levels of management to busy staff while providing real value for money to the taxpayer.”
George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, joined the criticism of the project, blaming Gordon Brown. He said: “On the day that it is revealed that nurses are being sacked and operations are being cancelled, we hear that Gordon Brown is spending £7.4 million telling civil servants where to put their paperclips.
“People are wondering where their money has gone, and now they know.”