Leaving behind circles on the carpet as we join the downsizing dance

One last desk to be moved, the clutter cleared away, and the keys handed back. Another door closes.

Thursday, 21st July 2022, 10:09 am

Carlyle House has been home to the Fife Free Press since 2018.

In truth, it stopped being the office we knew when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

But shutting the door for the final time still marked another line in the sand.

The circles on the carpet mark where reporters use to sit

I’ve been around long enough to remember the closure of our printing plant in Mitchelston - it’s now a car showroom - my old Glenrothes Gazette office, and, of course, Kirk Wynd, which genuinely marked the end of an era.

The Fife Free Press name is still visible on the front of Number 23 even as it is, slowly, turned into flats.

They were great places to work, filled with characters; people who had ink in their veins, and could produce newspapers with their eyes shut.

Monday saw every desk dismantled around me as I worked until it was time to give up and let them wheel my chair away to a waiting van.

Somewhere, there must be a graveyard of office furniture that nobody wants - desks too big for working from home, discarded in-trays that used to teem with paper, enough empty grey filing cabinets to stretch the length of the Esplanade, and boxes of mouse mats and computer kit last used circa 2003.

Offices have become ghost ships. Piece by piece they have been sent to be broken up.

Those which survive are smaller in size, and fewer people do the daily nine to five commute. We’re,just joining the downsizing dance.

It’ll take years before we figure out whether this shift in approach is good or bad.

We worked from home because we had to. Now we choose to - I guess ‘work in isolation’ wasn’t quite such a snazzy way of selling the idea back in 2020.

I do like it, up to a point.

It still irks me that work simply assumes it can move into your home like a lodger.

We spent lockdown with cables, screens and kit covering our dining table. Switching off and physically separating home and work was impossible. That isn’t right.

In the middle of lockdown we launched a brand new team, and I spent ten days in our Edinburgh office. I’d forgotten how much of a buzz it was - and how much I’d missed that dark humour unique to a newsroom.

I guess people starting out in their careers will know no different, but for my generation and the one before it, the office has been a huge part of our lives.

We spent as much time at our desks as we did at home, colleagues became friends, sometimes partners, we celebrated their personal triumphs and were there for their losses.

Those bonds will be very different going forward.

As we emptied our office this week, circles emerged on the carpet where each journalist once sat.

I hope the indentations are permanent.

A reminder of our newsroom and, more importantly, the good people who brought it to life until the world stopped in March 2020 and it too became a ghost ship.

All that remains is to switch off the lights one last time, and begin a new journey ...