Closing the door on office life and a way of working that has gone forever

Our newspaper’s name may still be above the door at 23 Kirk Wynd, but the Fife Free Press left the building four years. This week we closed our office in Burntisland to fully embrace the world that works from home.
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Everything changed in 2020 when the world went into lockdown. We scooped up laptops, keyboards, screens and enough cables to stretch the length of the High Street, and headed to our living rooms and spare rooms. We thought it’d be temporary - three months tops. How little we knew.

Working from home does work. There are many benefits, but I’ve long believed just because we can work from home doesn’t mean that we should.

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There’s a reason they called it WFH and not WII - Work In Isolation. One sounded new and exciting, the other a pretty grim existence, but that is exactly how it feels at times. Conference calls and Google chats are poor substitutes for daily face to face interaction across desks.

The boards which celebrate the history of the Glenrothes Gazette (Pic: Fife Free Press)The boards which celebrate the history of the Glenrothes Gazette (Pic: Fife Free Press)
The boards which celebrate the history of the Glenrothes Gazette (Pic: Fife Free Press)

Offices were always more than just about the task in hand - they were about people. The rhythm of the day started with good mornings as you headed past reception, and flowed through the chat which punctuated the routines, embraced lunches and informal tea breaks, and took you from your desk to the cafe to the photocopier and round the office until it was time to log off and head home, sometimes via the pub.

We took those links for granted, but they were essential as colleagues became friends and lifelong bonds were forged. The generation starting out now will make their own connections and create their own routines, but they will be remote and, in many cases, virtual.

While they can, and do, seek out communities of like-minded folk online, they won’t get the same diversity that we had in the office where the extroverts and introverts sat side by side, where grumps and jokers shared desk space and managed to rub along.

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Those links were essential. I’d argue they are even more important now work has isolated us so much, and also blurred the boundaries between home and the office.

Closing the office and sending the last of our stuff into storage, I came across the boards which used to be at the Glenrothes Heritage Centre which told the story of the Glenrothes Gazette - the paper where I started my career as a raw rookie back in 1981 and then returned as editor in ‘93.

It was a brilliant office to work in, and that was down to the people - they made every day fun.

The Gazette office buzzed with life and laughter, no matter who worked there - it always had the right people at the right time who made the best teams and took real joy, and pride, in their work and their paper.

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The names of past colleagues sparked many, many memories - there isn’t a newspaper anywhere that can number Ruth Davidson, former Scottish Tory leader - and singer-songwriter Jackie Leven among its number - I found myself smiling as I looked back on my years there.

The Gazette is still going, but 14 North Street is but a faded memory along with our offices across Fife. Burntisland is the full stop on that list.

I have a theory that, one day, some management whizzkid will click their fingers and say “you know what we need? Offices!” and it’ll go 360, but I will be deep into retirement by then. I suspect I got the best of the times.

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