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Manner 2017.04.17 Monday Morning Cleaning…Competition?

dummy-imageCleaning duty at work is nothing new to me. Many of the companies I worked for in the United States had cleaning rotation systems, and although some did relegate the work to outside, contracted help, more often select employees who pulled duty cleaned for the day or week. 

After a number of years of this, I am no stranger to the cleaning task list, or how to wipe down surfaces and windows so I can tick off boxes.

The cleaning system at Bigbeat, however, takes things to a different level in both regularity and scale. 
dummy-imageEvery Monday, from 9:15 to 9:30, all employees of the company clean the office together. This does not mean we clean only our own desks and personal filing cabinets, though this is expected too.

We vacuum the carpeted part of the office. 
We sweep all the wooden floors. 
We wipe down tables and windows,
organize the shelves,
clean out the fridge,
dust, wash mugs, 
take out the trash,
refill, replace, polish, and reset everything and anything.
dummy-image15 minutes may seem like a short time to get through all of this intact. With 55 employees all moving at the same time, however, so much gets done so quickly that it can be surprisingly difficult to find things to do. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, I've being caught taskless and awkward a few times too many.

After a few weeks of a short 15 minutes that felt far too long, a competition began to take shape in my head. 

The game : to find something to do before someone else does it.
The prize : to not end up in the way of other busy coworkers.
 
It goes without saying that standing panicked in a bustling crowd was not my favorite way to spend Monday morning. So, primed and motivated to win, I upped my strategy.
dummy-imageThey say the early bird gets the worm, so last week I arrived at work a full 15 minutes beforehand to prepare. My method for success was: if I was the first to answer the call, “O-souji wo hajimemasu ,” (Let’s start cleaning), I would have my pick of things, and plenty of them, to do.
 
When the call rang out, sure enough I was off.

I watered the plants. I wiped down the tables in the freespace. I cleaned windows and wiped some spots on the floor. I did it all with time to spare. 

I put away my cleaning tools and stood near the office entrance to overlook everyone moving around me. My planning had done me well. I had done a lot. And now... I was in the way, again.
dummy-imageI had won the competition, so where was my prize? My race to clean first, and quickly, had instead left me too much time to spare.

I hesitated. I couldn’t go to my desk, as others were still vacuuming around the workstations. I half-debated making a trip to the bathroom to make myself scarce, and looked about me one more time to see if I had missed anything.

My eyes widened, startled. Not only was I unexpectedly directionless, but now others were unknowingly going over the same tables and windows I had just cleaned.

What?! Had my strategy actually made me more useless than usual?
dummy-imageFrustrated, I turned to the head of our sales department to ask why all of us must clean at the same time.

“It’s to start off the week right. Through cleaning, you prepare the mind, ‘clean it’ for the work to come.”
 
A sobering answer. But...
 
“But why do we do it all together? It feels like...is there some teamwork or bonding message I’m missing here?”
 
“No, not at all! So many people cleaning all together with so little to actually clean? You can’t work together with anyone, no one does. You see that printer over there? I watched 4 people clean that last week, one right after the other. There’s no “teamwork.” This isn't about that. It's about self-satisfaction on schedule and getting your head in the game.”

Oh.

"And if we can get the office scrubbed down in the meantime, well, that doesn't hurt anyone either, does it?"

Well, no. I couldn't really argue with that. So I nodded and ducked away, contemplative.

My self-imagined competition had, apparently, been missing the point. If it isn't about what other people are or are not doing, it doesn't matter if I'm first or if I reclean the same spot someone else (and someone else just before them) has already done. It only matters that I approach cleaning with focus.

After all, it seems weekly cleaning is about separately, but simulateneously, readying the mind for things to come.


Maybe there is a prize-like "order" in that I should set my eyes on, instead, for future Mondays.
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