Bring your birthday cake to work – it’s a crumb of comfort

Work is changing fast, but one sure way to hold on to the old ways is to offer round a slice of cake and a cup of tea

When I was younger the phrases around work were largely of the “You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here” variety. Office humour is a hell of a drug. “SARCASM is one of the free services I offer” propped on a desk alongside a family of gonks and three cooling coffees. “When you EXCEL they always SPREADSHEET about you.” It was good stuff! It kept us going through the dark days of the mid-2000s, before the world as we know it emerged, with its sickness and crop tops, and endless milks. And before work became so complicated and so changeable we were required to create whole new phrases and grammar to try to explain it.

The latest is “quiet hiring” – when employers ask workers to shift their roles rather than employ new staff, which is the younger sibling of “quiet quitting” – doing the minimum your job requires. That’s another one, a phrase built to help us re-conceptualise the ways we’re forced to work, especially since the pandemic, which slowly wrung out the last possibilities of joy from work’s withered flannel. My colleagues and I are currently working from home, or “WFH” (along with the new phrases came a file of correct pronunciations, and this, I can tell you, is pronounced like a dog sneezing), which means this month we have missed two deskmates’ birthdays, and so, two cakes.

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