I know this might seem a bit strange, but I really like sitting in reception areas. It seems that other people regard them a necessary inconvenience but I find them fascinating places. The flotsam and jetsam of the world pass through. You get members of staff, some with their cheery comments to the receptionist and others, heads down in their own worried world. Then there are the ‘suits’ usually grey with an uninspiring tie or the women usually in something black. Some are VIPs who must be impressed and others who must be endured. They all pass by the receptionist.
This area is a microcosm of the culture of any organisation. On the one hand it is the formal face of the business. It is also a window on staff culture which shows you how colleagues behave towards one another. In the centre, conducting affairs is the receptionist.
They come in all shapes and sizes. I did a programme for a French cosmetics company where they performed like pouting ballerinas. Immaculate make up, not a hair out of place with their polished unblemished skin. All instructions were given in a slight French accent, always accompanied with a small Gallic gesticulation, usually a flick of the index finger towards where they wanted you to wait. When they thought no one as looking the act was dropped and they reverted back to their East-End accents.
At the other end of the scale is the subcontracted security guard, highly trained as a bouncer but not much else. Park outside the white lines of the bay at your peril! He has followed you all the time you have been on the premises with his security cameras so he knows these things. He insists you fill in all the forms – including some of his bits too! Few people linger and he looks bored and a little lonely.
I have met some wonderful receptionists. They make my short stay in ‘reception world’ a delight. Their ability to make anyone who passes through feel welcome and special is an uncelebrated gift. One of my favourites is at a call centre in Norwich. I enjoyed her company for about ten minutes as people went in and out at lunch time. Every single person who passed through was acknowledged and made the effort to respond. She set the tone for the whole building. She even filled in the forms for me. Wonderful!