Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We Are All Worker Bees...

I've come to the inevitable conclusion that when it comes to days off, I'm just plain greedy. I just had a three-day weekend and despite the fact I got a whole extra day off, part of my mind is thinking, "wish I had another day off."

I acknowledge the fact that I should just shut up and be grateful for the fact that I a) just had an extra day and b) have a job to go back to after my three-day weekend.

I can't ignore the fact that I don't want to be at work, however. I can't ignore the fact that outside, it's a grey, oppressive day in which fog hangs thickly over the land, the sky is gloomy and dank and I would much rather be lying in bed being lazy.

However, here I sit at the very start of my workday, waiting for motivation and excitement to kick in.

I think I might be waiting a while for that. I am, after all, at work.

Nevertheless, there isn't a day off for us day labourers until Thanksgiving. That's a long time away from now. I think there's a Columbus Day in October but, alas, my company does not recognize it.

It seems to me that the National Observations/Days Off From Work are a little unevenly spread on corporate calenders. I mean, in November, there's Thanksgiving and usually the Day After Thanksgiving.

In December, there's Christmas, even if you don't really celebrate. This is followed by New Years'. Often, New Years' is followed by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Then there's nothing. Nothing really until Memorial Day. Some companies, mine, for example, let us have Good Friday off. To avoid religious implications and controversies, my company calls it "Spring Break Friday". But, really, it's Good Friday.

Nevertheless, there's a really long dry spell during January, February and March in which the long winter months drag on and on because there's nothing to really break them up.

After Memorial Day, the official 'start' of summer, there's Independence Day in the middle of summer. Then there's Labour Day at the official 'end' of summer. I rather like the 'bookmarking' of the seasons. I think perhaps we should have another day for the beginning of Autumn, use Thanksgiving at the middle one and allow Christmas to be an overlap for End of Autumn/Start of Winter.

We need more days in February and March and, perhaps, even April because some companies don't acknowledge Easter at all. Even ONE day in there would be a bonus.

I know, I know, I'm dreaming. If you read my blog on Friday, you've already read my griping about the stinginess of companies and their PTO policies. Thus, it's unlikely that my suggestions for more days off will ever go anywhere.

I can dream, however. There's nothing wrong with that. While I'm at it, I will dream of working for a company in which workers are respected. I think too many companies credit themselves with their benevolence in allowing their employees to have a job. That is the employees reward for working. I agree, in the grand scheme of things, there is a template for the workplace:

1) Employee gets a job.
2) Employee shows up to work and works.
3) Employee benefits company.
4) In exchange, Employee gets a paycheck.

Now, in a simple world and, in the world of business logic, this is the normal model for a company. The receiving of a paycheck should be reward enough for work.

The problem is, this is a different world, a different generation than when that model was developed.

There are days when I think of the Days of Yore in which children left school at fourteen and went to the factories or homes where they'd become servants. Those days, working wasn't something you got to contemplate, ponder, consider...it was something you just did. Kids worked, parents worked until they couldn't. It was the only way to support a family. Every penny mattered.

I read a lot of books, a lot of Thomas Hardy, a lot of Charles Dickens, even more recent novels in which the caste system of society was dependent on if working was an option or not. If you were rich, it wasn't necessary to seek employment. You got to ride on your horse all day, take care of matters of the Manor, talk to your stewards, arrange fancy dinners. If you were less rich, you usually worked but had a position of honour, a doctor, a lawyer, something that required education.

If you had little or no money, there was no education. There was only work. There was only employment to bring in a paycheck. There was no leisurely job seeking, there was the interviewing for a position and hoping you got it because it meant money coming in.

So, yes, I confess, when I think of the Days of Yore and I whine about my job, I feel bad. I have a job. I have a job which I essentially chose. I've changed jobs many times to find one that fit. I have a steady paycheck, steady weekends and a regular schedule.

And still....I complain.

However, I stand by what I said before about living in a different world and a different generation to the Days of Yore. This is a different era. It's an era in which the Western World has been allowed to become free. Yes, there is always going to be a class system in which the rich folk hold the power but it's also a world where anyone can become one of those rich people. It's a world in which we are permitted to choose a job that suits us. If we don't like it, we can leave.

There's the rub. That's become a refrain for employers, "If you don't like it, leave." It's a way of threatening employees, of making them remember their place in the world. They're only a worker bee. They need their job and if they don't act like a worker bee, that job might be taken away.

I argue with this threat. Granted, it's harder in an economy where we are grateful to have a job. It's also different depending on what field you're in, what position you hold. I can only speak for myself.

I work for a small company that develops products and then tries to sell it. Our products are ones that takes creativity, intelligence and skill to develop, test, enhance and release. We employees are all skilled in our respective area and we want to do a good job.

Yet on a day-by-day basis, sometimes it feels like I'm trapped in a cage. In a strange way, it's akin to being on a production line. Each day is the same, I am a prisoner of my responsibilities.

The problem is my responsibilities are dull. I've tried to change it...to no avail. There's never any time for new projects, new ways of spicing up a dull routine.

The sad thing is I'm not the only one who feels this way. There's a general hang-dog pall that often hangs over the office; no amount of Awkward Bagel Days and Forced Social Interaction can help. Our Management tends to feel that we are lucky to have jobs and that we're whining if we grumble or complain about things in the workplace.

I can't help but see it from a worker bee point of view. They need us. We are the ones that keep the work flowing. Sure, Management is necessary but without us, they'd have nothing to manage.

There are companies that have 'rolled with the changes' of a society that can choose where they work. Most of them or software companies or technology companies that recognize that the old Business Model of "Workers get a Paycheck and Shouldn't Need Job Satisfaction" is defunct. They give their employees incentives for staying at their jobs. I'm not talking about money because, as I've proved by my job-hopping over the years, money isn't as important to me as enjoying my job.

And this is recognized by companies like Google, Atlassian, Pixar...companies that need their employees to stay sharp, stay loyal and give back. It's not about money anymore. Yes, that's the driving force that inspires most of us to work in the first place. However, there's another element to it: Enjoying how you earn that paycheck.

So these companies have found ways to get their employees to give back by helping them enjoy their jobs. These companies have fun working environments with places for employees to go to brainstorm, bounce ideas off one another, have fun. This is as simple as a ping pong table where employees can go to take out frustrations. They have hours in which employees can work on individual projects because it inspires creativity. They make the company a fun place to work because they recognize that humans aren't as productive if they have to put their nose to the grindstone for 8-hours a day with no break from routine.

These companies don't make the employees feel bad if they do play ping-pong at work or take a break to do something else. It's part of the perks of working for the company.

That's the key word: Perks. It can be as simple as free soda or as complicated as having a game room where employees can go when the work isn't flowing.

It doesn't matter. It's not about what the perks are, it's about companies recognizing that perks are necessary to keep the worker bees happy and make them give back as much as they can. It's a way of letting your employees know that they are appreciated for more than the fact that they're a body with motor functions. It's a way of letting the employees thrive in an environment that isn't a necessary cage, only a way of earning a paycheck.

I'm a dreamer. I'm an idealist. These things I know. I'm also an employee and a human and I know what makes me work best. I need variety, creativity and freedom in my job. When I don't get this, I feel like I need to look elsewhere. When the economy sucks, I'm trapped. When I'm trapped, I know it and my workflow slows. It's a vicious cycle.

Once again, I've managed to blog about something of which I had no intention of blogging. It just slipped out. I know my dreams are lofty but all I'm really asking for is for mutual respect between employees and employers.

I also know I'm being horribly tactless to those who have lost or might be losing their jobs; a fact for which I apologize. I have no right to whine about being bored when, again, at least I have a job. Yet, what I'm really writing about is a world that is NOT suffering from a crappy economy and which jobs are plentiful and easy to come by. I know it's the not the world in which I currently live but it's ok to dream...right?

Happy Monday.

1 comment:

Fe said...

don't forget about President's Day... some people actually get that day off. :-)