I've long been an advocate for working less. The four-day work week sounds ideal to me. Shouldn't one of the advantages of living in the wealthiest country on earth be not having to work as much to make ends meet? Instead, we're constantly being told we have to work more, just to maintain our standard of living.
Anyway, in this interesting piece Peter Frase discusses the leftist vision of a post-work future. And it's pretty interesting! Basically, he believes that the goal should be less work and more leisure, rather than more work and less leisure. Which is how I feel, too! Why can't we have that?
I've long advocated a four day week. Mainly because three day weekends are so much better than four day weekends. But there are other good arguments to be made for why we should all be working less, and Bill Ivey makes some of them over at Alternet, in a piece titled "Don't Slave Your Life Away."
Click here to read it.
The Economist suggests that drinking at work is a good thing, which makes me think I should be allowed to have a beer at my desk every day at 4 p.m.
Click here to learn more.
Also, click here to visit a previous post from Anonymous on drinking at work.
It's getting harder to find a good job.
Click here to learn more.
I pose a question to you: Is it acceptable to have a drink on a work break when you are at a training?
I generally work with kids during the week. On a particular Saturday I spent my morning in a room with 200 other adults at a training about working with kids. There were no kids present at the training. At my daycare we are required to clock 30 hours at trainings or classes. At my lunch break I left with some friends from work, had a drink and went back to the training for three more hours. I was not the only person who had a drink. I saw people from other daycares partaking in a drink.
Fast forward three months later, when the next six-hour-long training is taking place and I am being brought into my boss' office to talk about how it is not acceptable to drink on a lunch break even though I won’t be taking care of children after. I was told that I would be on work time, even though work was not paying for my lunch - I was.
It took me a while to get around to reading it, but this Mac McClelland story about working in a warehouse made me think that I should never buy anything online ever again in my life. (Although, after I finish writing this, I'm probably going to go order a bathing suit.)
Every issue of Mother Jones makes me feel guilty about something, and this article made me feel terrible about all the poorly treated workers who fill my orders of CDs, movies and whatever else I buy online so that I can avoid going to an actual store.
Unbeknownst to me, warehouse work is a rapidly growing industry. Jobs are good, of course, but they're better when they pay well and don't treat their workers like garbage.
Adventures in Work
Working as a Parent Aide is a mixture of supervising visits between parents and children and providing families with needed supportive services. I have quickly learned that each family and their circumstances and challenges are different. This also means that even when I think I know how a family visit may go, I need to also expect the unexpected.
Sometimes the goals of a visit are fairly straightforward. I work with one couple and their two children, Nahla, age 3, and Miley, age 1. (All names have been changed.) The girls are fun, funny and outgoing, but they were not getting enough opportunities to interact with other kids their age. I found a community playgroup to take them to. Mary, the mom, knew that this was a great idea, but was very anxious about the unknowns of a playgroup. She bombarded me with many questions: How many kids would be there, was she supposed to talk with other parents, how would Nahla and Miley do?
In my column at the DG last Saturday, I wrote about my conflicted feelings about work.
My basic issue is that I want work to be meaningful, but not take up too much time or energy, because other things, such as friends and family, are really more valuable.
Over at The Atlantic, Brian Fung ponders the question of whether our jobs are killing us, writing, "Work can give us a sense of purpose and direction. But can it also harm our health?"
Naturally, I wanted to read further, because my gut instinct is yes - when you work too much, it can cause problems. What Fung finds is that, yes, working can be bad for our health - but unemployment is worse.
Click here to learn more.
In my weekly column over at the DG, I ponder the meaning of work - something I think about quite a bit.
Here's an excerpt:
"Last week I spoke to a group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders about what it’s like to be a reporter.
They were enrolled in an afterschool program that encourages kids to stay in school, and had clearly prepared for my visit. They asked a lot of questions, all fairly basic: What sorts of skills are required to do your job? Why did you want to become a reporter? Did you go to college?
Every time they asked a question, I found myself squinting at them, wondering whether newspapers would still exist when they became working adults. I tried to remember to mention the Internet and the fact that you can write news for websites, too. Whether they understood anything I said remains a mystery to me.
My favorite query came from a girl in the back row.
'How many hours a week do you work?' the girl asked.
'I work 40 hours a week,' I explained. 'There’s nothing unusual about that. If you have a full-time job, that’s generally what you work.'
This was news to the kids, who basically fell out of their desk chairs with astonishment.
'Forty hours?' they exclaimed. 'That’s a lot!'
I felt a little bad about breaking this news to the kids."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Adventures in Work
In my continued search for gainful employment, I now have another new part-time job!
None of my three part-time jobs are alike, but this one finds me back in the nonprofit sector. As a Parent Aide, I will be
supervising visits between parents and children and provide families with supportive services that can range from nutrition and meal planning to teaching them about positive discipline.
My orientation started out as most do. I sat down with my supervisor and received a binder of information. At first we reviewed the standard stuff like timesheets, paperwork and boundaries. Then we turned the page to “Safety Guidelines at a Glance.” These were mostly common-sense tips, such as “Choose parking that will not block you in and in the direction you want to go when leaving the home.” Then we arrived at, “Avoid bodily secretions,” which is not typically something you think of when you think of a day at work.
My favorite tip was, “Ask ahead of time if there are any animals in the house that you should be aware of.” This prompted a story about a Parent Aide arriving at a first visit to discover that the family had a traveling animal show that lived in the house, and that this included housing a tortoise in the bathroom and tarantulas and snakes in the dining room.
We constantly hear about the problems of underemployment and unemployment.
However, over at Jacobin Peter Frase argues that overemployment is also a problem.
"The lowest estimates of overemployment come from the U.S. Government’s Current Population Survey, which asks people if they 'given the choice, (would) opt for more income and more hours, less income and fewer hours or the same income and hours?', and gives an overemployment rate of around 7 percent, even during recessions. Golden, in the paper linked above, surveyed eight other studies and found a range of estimates of the overemployment rate, from as low as 14 percent to a high of around 70 percent. None of those surveys asked for a specific hours target, while some of them specified that a reduction in hours would be linked to a reduction in income.
The assumption that reductions in hours should be linked to reductions in pay is in some sense a political one. It’s not common now, but demands like 'thirty hours work for forty hours pay' have a long history in the labor movement. Asking for a cut in hours with no cut in pay is, in the end, just another way of asking for a raise."
The great 1931 French film "A Nous La Liberte" imagines a world where we don't have to work at all.
I'm not sure that's desirable.
But I'd be perfectly happy to work a little bit less.
I have been on the job hunt much longer than I thought I would be.
This sad fact was driven home by a couple of recent incidents. First, I spoke with my mom on New Year’s Day. She talked about all the possibilities that a new year represents, and cited a surprising fact about the economy - that it's getting better. Given that my mother can be so negative, her good cheer surprised me, but it was also depressing, because talking about the economy, when you're unemployed, can often be depressing. The phone call wrapped up fairly quickly after I was presented with that fun fact.
Two days later I had a meeting with my Employment Services Representative, Marla. Marla’s job is with Employment Security and she is tasked with periodically checking in on me and my work search progress. Meeting with her is one of my requirements to receive unemployment benefits. She helped me with my resume and provided some local job search suggestions. This was our third meeting and she started it off by letting me know that she had just been downsized and
would be finishing up in two weeks time.
We all need a little diversion in the office.
Something simple, fast and that requires some thought, but not too much.
About three months ago, two newsroom co-workers and I hit on a game that keeps them mockingly competitive while I pretend to be an impartial referee.
We call it The Game, and it's a quiz of celebrity ages that I draw up as I'm compiling our newspaper's gossip column once a week. I present my co-workers with a list of celebs in the news, usually between three and seven of them, and they guess each person's age.
It's fun, but also fairly serious. As soon as I say, "I'm ready for the game when you are," both of them stop what they're doing and look up from their computers. One takes out a sheet of paper to keep score for herself. This co-worker doesn't
have a TV or high-speed Internet at home and is unabashedly out of touch with popular culture. For example, I named Tracy Morgan and mentioned he was in the TV show "30 Rock."
"'30 Rock?' she said. "I've heard of '3rd Rock,' but not '30 Rock.'"
So I'll call her Underdog.
I don’t participate in Black Friday.
Our family usually heads out to a movie that day and avoids the holiday retail experience. A few years ago, my sister and I did go to the mall in search of an advertised great deal on Uggs. Being new to the Black Friday experience, we waited until late afternoon and soon found out that the great deal had been sold out. And I still don’t own any Uggs. Luckily.
When I was hired for my part-time position at a Generic Women’s Apparel Outlet, I was told that I would be required to work Black Friday. I almost didn’t take the job because that’s the day my husband and I leave one family’s Thanksgiving celebration and head to the other’s. I was, however, looking for a job and figured that breaking up the holiday weekend for one day wouldn’t be too bad.
A week before Thanksgiving I asked the assistant manager why the Thanksgiving week shifts hadn’t been posted. She said the schedule had been worked out, but had to be approved and finalized. She showed me the schedule and I was only on for Black Friday. I was very relieved. Then I returned to work on Saturday and saw the official schedule had been posted. With a sigh I saw that I was working my scheduled Black Friday shift, but a 4-hour Saturday shift had been added. I quickly found the manager and told her I couldn’t work that day as I would be out of the state. She looked at me with surprise and said that it had been a requirement when I was hired. Apparently, when I was informed about working Black Friday, the manager had actually meant Black Friday Weekend.
I have a lot of feelings about getting downsized, but the biggest is probably a mixture of disappointment and embarrassment. The embarrassment stems largely from navigating New Hampshire’s Department of Employment Security. The thrust of this state agency is to assist job seekers with their job search and provide unemployment compensation. There are offices located throughout the state, as well as a main office that processes claims and all the associated paperwork.
The steps to applying for unemployment are super straightforward, and yet! You complete an online account that begins by asking questions about your work history, why you are unemployed (for me, the highlight was not having to mark that I was fired due to workplace attire, workplace drunkenness, etc.) and pay history.
After I completed this, I waited to learn if I would be deemed eligible. Instead, my Unemployment Correspondence Inbox received two e-mails. The “Notice of Eligibility Issue” was simply another online survey about my so-called severance pay, which consisted of my remaining vacation time being paid out. That one was easy. Once you’ve completed it, you can’t reopen it to alter any responses. Trying to be conscientious, I even asked a department staffer whether that meant it was completed, and was reassured that it did. Two weeks later, the same “Notice of Eligibility Issue” appeared in my inbox. I completed it again and, feeling frustrated, called the main office to make sure it had been received. This time, it had.