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Ramblings on the topic of WORK

December 2018

When I get some time, I’ll tell you all about it. Too busy saying goodbye to the world of work right now.

June 2019

I am beginning to get some perspective on this work malarkey. I’ve been on the escapee list for 5 months and so far have not regretted my decision – not even a tiny bit. I just added a blog post about the shape of my own career, which started well, stagnated (for ages!) and then took off properly when I was in my mid-late forties. I had to find the right combination of elements in the role. I was good at internal finance and management, but also liked client relationships and – to my own and everyone else’s amazement – was pretty good at sales as long as I completely believed in and understood what we were selling (which at that point I did). I recognised which parts of my previous roles did not suit me. I also realised how to ditch those parts, or at least bring in other experts to do those with me or instead of me completely.

August 2019

My God! I’ve accidentally earned some money for doing something I really enjoyed doing (once I got over the inevitable ‘I can’t actually do this’ imposter-syndrome stage). Something I learned to do when I was 19 and miraculously, with a bit of emergency revision, have retained the capability to perform. I’m now officially a translator and proof-reader – although I might leave it a while before I advertise this widely because I still quite like being ‘retired’.

September 2019 – the remembrance of valued colleagues

Following on from my astonishment at earning some money again, I have recently finished a 7-day translation assignment, alone in my home-office. Once I’d accepted the work, it was basically me, the dictionaries and the other web-resources needed to understand the subject-matter. All very interesting, intellectually challenging and satisfying – but at times, terribly lonely. When I felt I was falling behind, or stuck on a particularly difficult passage, it wasn’t that I actually needed someone to tell me the answer, but that I just needed a little empathy. I only realised this when I sent an email update to the person who delegated me the work – an old friend in fact – and received back a simple response which showed he was having similar frustrations with the style of a related piece. A little joke about the subject-matter. Plus a small story about his family. This made a big difference – now we’re in it together. 

When I was employed, I preferred to go into the office every day rather than working from home. The main plus point was the interaction with colleagues. I don’t simply mean in meetings or formal discussions – after all, in these days of Skype and similar technological wonders, communication doesn’t have to be done face-to-actual-face any more. No, what I realise I valued now I don’t have it, is the inadvertent sharing of mood – frustration, amusement etc. Sitting next to someone having a difficult call and sharing their pain through facial expression, swapping funny stories from our latest meetings on return to our desks, small updates on each other’s families or last night out. In a zoned hot-desk environment, I tended to sit next to or near the same people most of the time, but with a random rotation of others I knew well enough to share in this way. These small interactions kept us going in tough times and built the team when we were having fun. 

October 2019 – realising a longstanding ambition

Once again – how can this be? I’ve just issued my first invoice for ‘standing around, pretending to take a photo, running away and screaming a bit in a wood’. Who knew that work could involve something other than sitting at a desk or in a meeting or answering bloody emails? Oh joy, oh joy. (Working as a film extra/supporting artist – see also here, and here for other examples)

November 2019 – You want all of me?

Someone who is still a wage-slave (although not at my old employer) mentioned this concept witheringly to me last week. This was a work ‘thing’ going the rounds before I left, ie. encouraging employees to be themselves, and to take the whole of those selves to work with them.

My friend seemed to see it as one more stress factor in the modern work-place. I’m sure that the idea behind it is a good one and is intended to encourage successful diversity. It has, of course, been much mocked and endlessly discussed in HR departments and by bewildered colleagues, wondering whether they should demonstrate their fondness for Strictly by waltzing to and from the coffee machine, or turn up with their children’s dirty underwear to wash in the office sink, or indeed continue their marital bickering on their personal mobile whilst on a high-level Skype conference.

Yes, for sure we need to be more tolerant of diversity, and someone’s sexuality, religious beliefs, family responsibilities or other personal interests should not in any way cause them difficulty at work. But if everyone brings everything about them to work, that will potentially remove some of the necessary filters which prevent overt discrimination, because of the possible friction between viewpoints and preferences. I suppose there would still be a code of conduct to be followed – I’m overreacting of course, but you know what I mean (?).

Whilst in fact I was quite happy to relax a bit at work as I approached retirement and share more of my personal frustrations and also my humour, I was absolutely not prepared to share any political thought nor did I expect everyone to share with me their sexual proclivities, animal allergies or taste in country music. I also tried quite hard to avoid crying in the lifts, and only occasionally banged my head on my desk – in fairness, the latter was mostly for effect and was part of my humour sharing. People rarely mentioned it…

In summary, I always thought it would be easier if I could leave some of the heavier bits of myself at home rather than dragging them along the South Bank each day…

Perhaps it is just as well I don’t have to take any of me there any more.

January 2020 – airport work

One year on from leaving my job. I’ve been trying to think what has had to change to adapt.

I’m sure there are many things – but one which has just sprung to mind is that I’ve had to learn how to pass the time in airports without the following: constant reference to my work emails; arguing (or sometimes just drinking!) with colleagues; or manically trying to find a quiet spot to join a conference call. I recall several quite critical phone calls conducted in airports. This all seemed perfectly normal behaviour at the time.

Now I have re-learned the art of reading a newspaper, watching a box-set on my iPad or maddeningly doing that check-in thing on Facebook.

Abiding memories of airports when working –

  • discussing my firm’s service delivery in obscure parts of Africa whilst seated in an almost equally obscure Russian airport business lounge watching snow tractors dancing on the apron
  • fine-tuning contractual clauses with a client’s lawyer whilst sitting in Frankfurt Airport business lounge, desperately hoping not to be called for boarding before pinning down the key financial penalty section, and trying hard not to say anything aloud which would identify my client to any earwigging fellow loungers
  • spending fully an hour standing in some miserable concrete stairwell in Donetsk airport (before it was bombed, so I imagine it got a lot more miserable) trying to persuade a young colleague that the service we had just pitched to a client was actually a really good service
  • a senior colleague no more than three years younger than me referring to me as his mother to the OneWorld lounge desk staff as I graciously allowed him to come in as my guest. I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN THIS ANDY!
  • messaging with my secretary whilst stuck on a transfer bus in an airport waiting for the plane to be cleaned (or some such nonsense) and crying with laughter at a ‘comedy’ email she sent me back from a past boss of hers. One of the funniest and cleverest rants about work I had ever seen which reminded me to see the funny side of my own predicament too – especially as people were now eyeing me suspiciously and assuming I was drunk
  • following in line through the departure gate to get on the aeroplane which had been switched to a different model at the last moment – Colleague 1 – upgraded to business, Colleague 2 – upgraded to business, Colleague 3 – upgraded to business. Then, friendly gate-staff  to me ‘I expect you will be too…oh, no, sorry’ and having to walk past all three as they luxuriated with their warm hand-towels and drinkies in what appeared to be old-fashioned Star Trek-style captain’s seats. 

February 2021 – after nearly a year without flying anywhere at all, due to Covid-19, my earlier descriptions of airport working and learning how to adapt to travel without the encumbrance of work are now somehow rather poignant. I am currently torn between a desperate need to spend time somewhere new and a reluctance to expose myself to mass transportation. I suspect the fact that BA has a considerable sum of my money in voucher form will ‘encourage’ my return to the skies.

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