Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Time challenged

I have the greatest respect for those people who manage to work 50 or 60 hour weeks and still squeeze in a life. Today, I did an 11 hour day. I got to work at 9am and left at 8pm and didn't really take a lunch break. Oh, I ate lunch, but I didn't really stop working. (I normally eat lunch at my desk and use the time to surf the internet - not today.)

Except for when I nursed, I've always worked in time-based businesses, selling knowledge and people's time. Since my job is to do the invoicing, I spend quite a lot of my time staring at time records. Most of my colleagues at Site do 50 hour weeks - I resent doing 40 (we work 2.5 hours more than standard UK hours). And yet.... whenever I'm working on the time billing, an avaricious part of me pipes up with "If you were a contractor and did those hours every week, you could earn £xxx per annum".

As if... For a start, I'm staff (and in today's economy, I'm glad I have a little job security. Most of my colleagues at Site are contractors. When the project finishes later this year, they'll be out of work). But I have my plans in place if I ever do end up as a contractor: Monday is for me, Tuesday for the Taxman, Wednesday for the mortgage, Thursday for the Emergency Fund, Friday for investments. I dreamed that up a long time ago, way back when I worked in Practice and spent my days preparing VAT Returns for a portfolio of computer contractors.

The other factor is time. I don't mind doing 10 hour days - I've done them often enough - but I resent being forced to. In my old job, I'd regularly work to 8pm on a Tuesday, 7pm on a Wednesday and Thursday. I had to. It's what I needed to do to get the work done. However, I could take time back when I needed it. (Long lunch break? No problem.) I didn't resent it, although sometimes I wondered where my evenings had gone.

Here, all I think about is what time I can leave; how soon I can get my life back for the day; how many hours I have left before I've done my 40 for the week; when I can escape. I think it's down to the atmosphere in the office - I don't have the same problem when I'm at Site. In the Site office, it's "us against the world". We're a team and we pull together.

I've given up trying to analyse what it is about this company that I don't like. In my last company, you were there for life. Not here. Old Mr A believed that you were his people and did his best to offer his staff some tokens of his appreciation: contractual Christmas bonuses; a grading structure where everyone on the same grade got the same perks; a subsidised staff restaurant with a full bar; a tuck-shop. (Old Mr A died in 1989. When I joined the company 10 years later, it still operated as he'd left it. Things have changed a bit now, but most of the staff are still lifers.) There is no comparison to this company. This is just a job and most people are only here until they can find somewhere better. Me included.

- Pam

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