Tag Archives: work life balance

Work-Life Balance and the Single Person

I’m starting to see what a lot of other single people, perhaps, already have learned–other people don’t think single people deserve work-life balance.

Now, I haven’t had anyone say this to me in person. But I have approached my current job a little bit differently than I have approached other jobs. I have indirectly let it be known that I am not one of those workers of whom you can just take advantage–that’s my friend Clara. I’m not worried about being the perfect employee or losing my job. I let people know that when the clock hits that time at the end of the workday, I’m gone.

Recently, a lot of changes have been made at my job. Essentially, everything I liked about my job is either now gone or likely will be very soon. The only thing that is still in the “very soon” category is a change being made to what time I have to be at work in the mornings and what time I get to leave in the afternoons. Nobody has told me that is about to change, but I’m not stupid. My job duties have completely changed, and the people I work with are totally different people.

They have me training with this guy, whom, I can tell, doesn’t seem to understand what my hours are at work. He’s the kind of guy who is very into his job, very dedicated. I’m not like that, especially not now that my employers have f*cked my job all up with these changes. Plus, I’m a contract employee and he’s not…so why should I be dedicated when my employer is not dedicated to me? You think this is true for every job. You also think it’s true that changes occur at every job. But neither of these things in a regular job is like how they are in a contract position. There is absolutely no stability in a contract job in any sense, no regularity or uniformity–you do whatever they want whenever, regardless of what you’re told in the beginning about the position or what you’re told while working the position. Contract jobs might as well never have job titles, at least not in IT, because the title won’t apply for long (if ever). And then to top it off, most contract jobs eventually end, usually in a year or less. Now that I understand this about how employers yank their contractors here, there and yonder with no regard for them, I will not be taking contract IT jobs ever again.

Given all of this, it should be of little surprise that I care little about what the company’s needs are, what their customers’ needs are. I will probably be getting tossed out of the company after my contract is up, regardless of how well I do, and I wouldn’t necessarily like to have my contract renewed there anyway. I plan to move to another city/state, and that has been my plan for a while and I am applying for jobs in those places…even have one interview lined up. So, I care about putting in my 8 hours and then getting the hell out of there. And even with a permanent position, frankly, I’d be the same way and have been the same way.

Every day this week, I’ve had to let this guy who is training me know that I get off work at X time, because he talks as if I’m going to still be around after that time or like I have time to stick around a little later and do XYZ. I flatout told this guy, “My supervisor said my hours are still the same, so until they say different I’m out at [X] time.” This afternoon, one of the other guys I now work with, this creepy guy, assumed I would still be around late, and my trainer heard me tell him what time I leave. Immediately, my trainer was like, “You’re ready to go home, aren’t you? Do you have kids you’re taking trick-or-treating tonight?” because it’s Halloween in the US.

Look, I know what that question really was–trying to find out if I have kids and is that the reason why I am adamant about leaving work at a certain time. Because having kids is the only legitimate reason for running away from your job, don’t you know. Especially if you’re a woman. My friend Clara lets people know she can’t stay late because of her son all the time or she’s leaving early because of her son, and people accept that. But with me, people are wanting to know why I “have” to leave at X time.

Three things:

1) Halloween is a fake holiday. It’s one of the most pointless days I’ve ever known. I especially can’t stand how there are grown adults who “celebrate” Halloween; they need to grow the f*ck up. Nobody should pay any attention to it, in my opinion, so it’d never have a thing to do with why I’m leaving work.

2) There’s so much wrong with thinking only parents have a legitimate reason to run off from work, including the fact that they probably are actually the main ones who need the damn money if they’re going to see any overtime pay from staying late. The average single person just has bills. Parents have bills and expensive-@ss kids. Yet parents are actually the main ones always trying to leave work early or on time. This guy at my job basically has a newborn, and ever since he had that kid he has never again worked a full day not called Monday (our busiest day) on the job. Yet he says he doesn’t have enough money. He’s an hourly contractor…hmm, he’s leaving after 4-5 hours of work…wonder why he’s not making anything.

He and I need to swap hours. Working 4-5 hours most days is my kind of schitt. They should have put someone like him in my new position (and they could have, but didn’t–wonder why?), where they’re talking about working overtime (which I loathe) and Saturdays (which is just sacrilegious and damn-near something to walk out the door over, especially if you love college football more than anything, as I do). Plus, let’s be real–who is more hands-on with babies and kids, moms or dads? What the hell does he need to be at home all the time for? All he’s going to do is say, “Here, hon, the baby is crying” or “Here, hon, the baby needs to be changed,” hand the kid to the mother and then go sit down in front of the TV or the computer. Sorry, men–I have had this kind of convo with dads before, and you guys just have no idea how little dads help with or do for their kids compared to the kids’ mother.

Ironically, the exact reasons why I don’t have kids are because I don’t want to have to care for anyone–financially or in any other way–and because I want a life and because I want my life to be about me. That includes work–I don’t want a life that is about work. This is where “work-life balance” comes in. Everyone I know who looks on the bright side when it comes to working overtime is a parent–usually, a man–and it’s always about the money.

My observation about women has been that women who have kids tend to know on some level that their life is not theirs anymore, it’s not about them–so they don’t even think that way. They think in terms of what their kids (or husband) need, what’s best for their kids. Kids need things that cost money, however much time you’d rather spend with them. My observation about men is that the vast majority of men care more about making money than the vast majority of women do, for a variety of reasons–probably the three biggest are status, attracting women and what they were taught about being a man growing up. As a single female, I have totally different concerns, concerns that really don’t involve making money. These different concerns leave me trying to figure out how to explain to the moms, dads and single men I know why I value my free time far more than I value the extra money I’ll get by working on Saturday (the extra money being something I don’t value at all). Yet all of them will be home on Saturday or enjoying some activity outside the home and outside of work.

3) Why do I “have” to leave at X time? Because that’s what time I’m scheduled to leave. And I have every right to leave at that time. Whether or not I have kids is immaterial.

One more point before I go–not too long ago, I was reading an article online where the author wondered why people speak of “work-life balance.” Is working really so bad and do people hate their jobs so much that they need to categorically separate it from the rest of their life, the author wondered. At that point, I wondered where in the hell this author has been her entire working life. Seriously, she must be part of the lucky 10-15% of people who loves their job. Ever notice how it’s always writers with real writing jobs, always entertainers who have officially “made it,” always people who work in the media, always people who make big bucks who love their jobs? Gee, I wonder why. No wonder they can’t relate. I know they didn’t start at the top, but the point is they’re there now and now they don’t “get it.”

Pay me a ridiculous amount to dish sports on ESPN three hours a day, and see how much I love my job. Pay me to write ridiculous articles about how I can no longer relate to mere commoners who need work-life balance because I make enough money to actually pay bills and eat as a writer as opposed to having to write on the side like 90% of writers do (myself included). Or how about those ridiculous articles about “do what you love for a living”? You do know that the average person “loves” things that either don’t pay, don’t pay enough to make a living or require expensive schooling only to be shut out of jobs because that person has never had a job in that industry, right? Oh, I forget–you no longer relate to the mere commoner because you’ve got the rare cushy, enjoyable writing job that actually pays bills.

Over the past week, I’ve confirmed that, yes, work and life have to be separated for most people, including myself. I am largely in that category where what I’d love to do generally doesn’t pay enough to make a living (writing and/or technical repair). I would agree with people who say to find a job you can tolerate, but that’s easier said than done. So, my best solution is to find a job I can actually do for the most amount of money I can get, because if I’m going to hate every job I get at some point then I might as well focus on the money. It’s not easy, because caring about money isn’t my nature. But I made more money at my last job, and the positives to that were now I have surpassed my initial savings goal and am on to my next savings goal (which I am close to meeting)…and I have still been able to buy everything I want (except a Mercedes), take trips everywhere I’ve wanted to go and enjoy myself outside of work. Although I hated my last job, it created a pretty decent work-life balance and I never had to work late or on Saturdays.

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Employers Might Be Winning Now, But That Will Change

Since my job has so much down time, I realized I had to find ways to deal with it so that I won’t spend hours there torturing myself by looking at the time every 2 minutes. I really do not want to get accustomed to doing very little on the job, because I know I won’t be at this place for years and years. And I don’t want to get used to sitting at work, surfing the internet. But this is pretty much what is happening–I’m using the internet to pass the time in between calls.

I love sports–particularly football (American) and basketball–but there’s only so much sports news, articles and opinions I can take. So, I have started reading blogs. Today, I found this one post that instantly gave me a blog topic. I have read so many articles and blog posts online that show a vast difference between the way employers and the people who do their dirty work–managers, supervisors and the like–think and the way employees think. This is even more true when you get down to new-school workers, i.e. people who are recent graduates entering the workforce or only in the workforce full time for a few years at best.

The link above is yet another ridiculous piece that seems to be coming from the point of view of the enemy. It is a more narrow version of things I’ve read, as the primary example is about some dumb kid who thought not having soy milk was a serious issue, leading to a post that many perceive to be about employees having issues with perks. I really don’t care about perks, for the most part. I certainly miss having water coolers at work, which I had at my last job but don’t have at my new job. My new job has sodas, but you have to pay for them. That would be fine (except the paying part) because I love soda, but I have gotten into the habit of not drinking soda unless I can also have water to kind of offset/balance out having soda and/or to wash the sugary taste away. It’s kind of ridiculous to me that they have soda and not soda and water, but, then again, this is the South and as a region we haven’t at all reached the point that the rest of the US seems to be getting to in terms of seeing anything wrong with sitting around drinking sugar all day. Obviously, I hadn’t planned to say anything to anybody about this.

I also don’t particularly care about benefits, either, but I also don’t have children. This is something that I see as perfectly reasonable to worry about and maybe even expect if you are married with kids. I know that all my life I had been led to believe that jobs pretty much were supposed to offer benefits, and my parents act as if a job not offering benefits should be a dealbreaker.

My issue with pieces like this is the section of the post in which the author goes into “more blunders by new employees.” This section reminded me of my last job. Do you know how I left my last job? I quit. If it weren’t for my parents, I would have quit months before I did, and I would have quit without another job lined up. But I got fed up to the point where I stopped saying to myself and fellow co-workers who also hated working there that I need to get another job…and got another job. I got the call from my current employer on a Thursday afternoon as I was leaving work, and I walked into work the very next day, quit and didn’t return.

Here’s the rundown using that blog post:

Constant Overtime

I didn’t work constant overtime. We had peak seasons when we knew we’d have to work 12+ hours a day, maybe 10 hours on Friday if we were lucky. The job was advertised this way, so that was fine. The ad basically said we’d work 12 hours/day during peak times and then work around 8 hours/day otherwise. To me, if you’re told from the get-go that you will work a lot of overtime and you take the job, then you can’t complain. It looked good to me because, relatively speaking, my pay already was decent for where I live and overtime really was going to make it good.

What I came to have a problem with is the back and forth between overtime and barely getting 30 hours–peak time or not–plus never knowing what time I’d get off work and the start time changing sporadically. None of this was expected. The overtime was advertised as something similar to, “You’ll work from 5:45am to 5:45pm.” This is not what was going on. Except for one short-lived experiment, there was never a time through my entire employment there when I knew exactly when I’d get off work. Plus, we’d start work at 5:30am for a while and then they’d inform us on Friday, “From now on, your start time will be 6:30.” And then maybe a couple of months later, “From now on, your start time will be 6am.”

Exceptionally Late/Weekend Overtime

Long story short, the answer was no. They didn’t require us to do these things, but we could and they would ask. Uh…no. Especially during football season. Whasamattawitu? Ubettagonesumwhere!

Understanding Your Job (or Not)

Your job is what you are asked to do by your boss. This could include learning new software or assuming duties that not part of your original job description. While this can be frustrating, it is not uncommon.  What can be frustrating is that you are now evaluated on new skills which you may not be your strength. If you realize that you are not able to handle the new demands of the company including new skill sets but also perhaps mandatory overtime or required business travel, update your resume and seek employment elsewhere. 

What’s the point of job ads describing positions and duties, then, especially since most employers don’t say up front that the description might change or isn’t all-inclusive? Does it make sense that employers can lure you in by telling you that you’ll be doing ABC and then you end up either having to do XYZ or quit? Why, then, can’t we send in resumes with a degree from Harvard and CEO experience at a fortune 500, then show up at work and inform the employer, “Oh, I actually didn’t finish college, and I’ve only worked in fast food joints until now–deal with it”? Why does the fit have to be right for the employer but not for the employee?

When I had my job completely changed at my last place of employment, I tolerated that job for my parents before I exploded two months later and told my manager and supervisor that I would quit if I wasn’t going to be doing what I accepted a job with them to do. Although I got my way and my supervisor all but begged me not to quit, I was just completely done with that place (for more reasons than just what’s mentioned here) and nothing could have changed that. I had an entire week off before I started my new job, and that was the happiest I’d been in a long time.

Why Employers With This Mindset Will Lose

For one thing, as I said, there’s a difference between someone coming into a situation knowing what’s up and then whining, and coming into a situation having been told one thing and then everything’s changing. Telling someone, “If you don’t like it, get another job”–that’s not the answer, especially if you’re misleading everyone or thinking you have the right to change things whenever you want. An employer might think most people are going to deal with it, but, whether the economy gets better or not, this is going to cause quite a bit of turnover. Who does turnover hurt? On top of that, the employees who stay who thought they were getting certain hours and that turns out to not be true…well, they’re going to be unhappy employees. Unhappy employees make crappy employees more often than not. So, what this employer has is employees leaving and employees staying but unhappy and unmotivated. Again, who is really hurt?

This is exactly what my last job was like. I didn’t know anyone who liked working there, and when I quit it had reached the point where a lot of people were either leaving or applying for other jobs. And the majority of people leaving were the really good employees. But the enemy was always either whining about us, whining about the work production and standards, or trying to figure out how to motivate us. They couldn’t figure out the relationship. Also, the two things the majority of us wanted–better work-life balance and more money–were, according to them, the two things they couldn’t give us. They felt there was no way they could give us a more normal work schedule or even the 5:45-5:45 many of us were told when we were first hired–we had to stay until the work was done. I mainly wanted to be able to know what time I’d get off work on a regular basis. I’ve got that at my new job.

Young workers nowadays don’t put up with crap, either. Personality-wise, I’m a little more of a cross between old-school workers and new-school workers. But I know that new-school workers not wanting to deal with overtime, changing job duties, jobs that don’t make them happy and many other issues is not always about a sense of entitlement. New schoolers just don’t have as much of a reason to stick with a job they don’t care for, unlike old schoolers. A lot of young people today are not getting married and having kids in their 20s, like me. And many of us can live with our parents, like me. The only reason I need a job is because of student loans–and, frankly, my parents would pay those, too. Although I owe a ridiculous amount in student loans, the fact that this is my only concern allows me the flexibility to look at jobs that pay a lot of money but carry a lot of stress or would make me miserable and take a pass. I did that with practicing law, although that was also at least somewhat about not being able to get a job in that field. I think had I gotten a job in that back in 2008, I would not be practicing today anyway because I would have hated it and would have seen no reason to keep putting up with something I hate.

My parents always take my tax information to their preparer and have my taxes done for me. They told me that the preparer looked at the amount of money I made from my last job and commented that I make good money (which is only good money relative to the kinds of people who live in my area). But I took a job making less money than I made there in order to get away from the stressful, maddening environment. And the money I make is enough. Each month, I can basically take one paycheck and pay student loans, then take the other one and buy a geek gadget with plenty of money left over. Being happy matters more to new schoolers than money or anything else does.

I also didn’t even make it to a full year at my last job. In fact, I’ve only stayed at one full-time job for more than a year–a year and two months.

This is the new normal, which is another reason why employers are only hurting themselves if they approach employees with an “if you don’t like it, quit” attitude.  New schoolers will quit. They’ll work two months and quit. In fact, they’ll work one day and quit. If I were more like a new schooler, I’d have quit this new job by now because it’s boring, some of the clients are jackasses, I don’t like feeling like a receptionist when I am supposed to be a tech geek, it’s not exactly what I expected and I’d rather work part time–oooh, five whole reasons to quit. And this is becoming so normal that many employers are fine if you’ve only worked somewhere for a year or two before interviewing with them. That would look bad back in the day, but not so much anymore.

The thing is we’re going to get to the point where new schoolers outnumber every other type of employee. This culture of leaving jobs if they don’t like a good bit of what’s going on there will continue to take over. That’s going to mean that if employers want more retention–especially of the best employees, whom I recently read are the most likely to leave jobs when unhappy–better long-term workers and to spend less money on hiring/training newbies, they’re going to have to get down from that power-trip throne they’ve been on since this latest recession officially began.

Employers are going to have to start caring that employees want a life away from their jobs and want to be happy at their jobs when they’re at work…or else their precious bottom lines will suffer.

 

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