Sunday, 16 March 2008

The work ethic

What is a work ethic? How many hours a week is enough to say, "He has a strong work ethic?"

I used to have a fairly well paid management position. Not enormously paid, but more than enough for me to get by happily. I worked pretty hard for that money - I was in the office 6 days a week, and sometimes 7, and put in 10-14 hours a day. Doing 70 hours a week was pretty normal for me.

I don't know why I did it - there was no requirement to do it, but I think I did it because the work was challenging and interesting and there was an awful lot of it to be done. There were also quite a few bone idle buggers to be made up for.

I now have a job that pays twice as much, and requires me in the office for no more than 5 days a week, for 40 hours in total. Not bad going - twice the money for half the hours. You could say that I have scored.

This became apparent yesterday after I worked over the weekend. What got me was that it was the first weekend work that I had done for 12 months, and it felt quite strange to be at work on a weekend after not doing it for so long. Funny how working stupid hours can come to seem natural after a while.... it takes a major change in lifestyle to snap you out of it.

I don't know if workaholics are born or made, but I do know that I have it in me to do stupid hours if the work is challenging enough to really engage me.

I think I am rambling.

Let me close by harking back to the most work-shy organisation I ever worked at: a Federal Govt agency that I temped for back in the early 1990's. I lasted about 3 days.

My job was to pack stuff into boxes. Don't ask me what, and don't ask me why. They had lots of empty boxes, and lots of stuff. I packed all day long.

Right up until 4.22pm. That's when my boss walked in and demanded to know why I was still there, packing boxes. I was a bit stunned by the whole thing - I thought offices stayed open until 5pm, and that was when I was expecting to work to.

No, it was after 4.21pm, and it was time for me to leave.

I said that I would finish packing the box, tape it and then go.

No. I had to leave now. Stop putting stuff in the box. Put it down and go.

As I followed him out of the office to the front door, I passed office after office and cubicle after cubicle that was dark and devoid of human habitation. All lights were off, all computers shut down. We were the last to leave. By then it was 4.23pm, and the boss was agitated and anxious to be gone.

I found out the next day that the staff worked 7 hours and 21 minutes per day. Work out how many hours that equates to per week. They could have 30 minutes for lunch or 60 minutes, so those that took a short break split after 7 hours and 51 minutes of being in the office. The long lunch shift all left at 4.21.

And I mean 4.21. The next day, I noticed that at around 4pm, people started to turn off their computers. The really hard working ones would wait until 4.10 to shutdown, but by 4.21, all briefcases were packed and all staff were walking out the door. The manager was standing at the door with the keys, and he was out the door and locking it before the clock struck 4.22.

If someone rang at say 4.01, they'd be told that "I've just turned my PC off - you'll have to call back tomorrow", even though there was plenty of time to deal with the matter. As far as the staff were concerned, the blinds had been drawn on their minds. The work day was over.

I lasted one more day, and then called my agency and told them to get me a real job away from that fucking monkey house full of public servants in their grey cardigans, and their fucking 7 hours and 21 minutes a day mentality.

I hate them still. I hope they all died of testicular cancer.

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