Thursday 29 May 2008

What’s called for if not a job revolution?

I’ve been thinking (which I do more often now then ever - you get like that when an outside source is influencing your life), and what I don’t understand is the work situation. Every job ad in the world contains the phrase “think outside the box”, and stale, organized (by that I mean set or rigid) and unwilling to change people aren’t desired at the job market. A job market that in itself is just those things – stale, organized and unwilling to change. Let’s add the words “square, rigid and inflexible”.

Because the job market is organized according to a certain standard – you work 40 hours a week, which means 8 hours a day, you start at a certain hour and quit at a certain hour. Some have flexible hours, which means that instead of having to be at work at 8am sharp, they can choose to come in between 6am and 9am. If they are lucky.

Lunch – whether you take it or not, is counted off of your working hours, which means that some spend 9 hours a day at the office, while getting paid for 8.

You work five days a week – 8 hours a day – unless you work shifts or put in way too much overtime at the office.

Now to the core of the problem – not every single person works the same! We all have different abilities and capabilities, which means that person A takes two hours to complete a task while person B gets it done over thirty minutes. And no, that doesn’t automatically mean person B was sloppy and did a half ass job – in many cases, it’s the quite opposite, that person B did a better job then person A, while saving 1.5h to other things.

Person A and person B both sit off 8 hours at the office – during that time, simplified, person B gets 16 things done, while person B gets four things done. And, considering most of us are measured by statistics - how many phone-calls we reply to, how many contracts we sign, how many job tasks we complete, whatever it is we do at our jobs - it’s all tallied up to nice, even numbers, percentages, and compare worker to worker.

Person B sets the standard – s/he shows that it’s quite possible to get 16 things done through a normal day. S/he hikes up the statistics, which means the slower workers get higher demands, and as they can’t perform more then they are during those 8 hours, it’s ordered overtime. When the office starts falling behind, everybody gets punished, as everybody gets overtime – the faster colleagues have to help the slower ones. 8 hours a day have suddenly exceeded to 9 or 10 or 12 – or like in some cases, 16 hours a day at the office.

Let’s play Utopia. Let’s say that the amount of hours you put in at the office isn’t squarely decided by a norm, but by how much you actually produce during that time. Say, that instead of being counted on 9-to-5 mentality, you get counted on whether you complete your job or not – and then, if you get it done in three hours, great! If you need to put in 10 hours, then, well, tough.

There’s a lot of talking about right man at the right job – which to me is fine. And I’m fully aware this rises problems for certain people, because there will always be faster rats, and it would be very irritating to see my colleague go home at noon every day while I had to stay till midnight – but if we both have point A to point D to get through, through the day, and he just is faster then me, then why not?

Today’s collective mentality is set on helping out, those that can’t or wont – the “weaker” parts of the society. That mentality is present at the job market today as well. If you complete your job for the day, you’re often stuck helping out those that haven’t, because you all should get along and think of what’s best for the company.

This is nice, some need extra help – but if person B has to do 50% of person A’s job, because person B is faster while person A never finishes, then person B should earn 50% more then person A!

Collective protest is on, huh? Because “equal job should give equal pay”. Does it? If person B completes his/her job (100%) and then has to take over half of person A’s job, because person A can’t quite hurry up (50%), we’ve got this situation:

Person A....50%......100%....+50%
Person B...150%......100%....-50%

Today, doing a good, fast job at most workplaces is like wetting yourself in a dark suit – you get a warm feeling, but nobody notices anything. And a job well done, a deadline that haven’t made a swooshing sound as it passed right over your head at warp speed when you’re half way through the project is rewarded by – more work!

How about truly flexible working hours? Measured by the amount of actual work we put in then the time we spend by our desks? I mean, most of us would prefer to have a little less conversation and coffee breaks at the office and get home earlier, then the other way around…

Imagine this – you get to work at nine am, work for four hours, have your coffee by your desk, and then, at 1pm, when you’re done with all the tasks you had set for that day, you go home. Enjoy your life.

Now, off course, this wouldn’t be mandatory. If you want to spend hours and hours at the office, work and coffee, and work and lunch and work and coffee and work and go home at 6pm, then fine. So be it. Just don’t force me to do the same.

Then there’s the morning mentality. We’ve come a long way from farming, where we need to get up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows, yet every single business starts in the morning (well, the legal ones do).

Some people are morning people – others are evening people. They feel better in the afternoon, in the evening, get more job done the later they start… why do they have to adjust to the morning routine?

I know many will protest – some with valid arguments, others for the heck of it – but in today’s individual society, with so many things that sets us apart, internal as well as external, the sheep mentality is taking over. We put our uniform on, go sit in a booth (like veal), spend our 8 hours a day at the office and then go home. No matter whom we are, how we work, what we produce. 8 hours a day, every day. Period.

So, if we had flexible work hours, and started the world on a two-shift mentality – one for morning people and one for evening people – we would soon see the benefits. Not only does a better working environment (which would be supplied by the simple fact that not everybody gets their best job done in the mornings, with a cracking whip at them) mean more actual job would get done, but this is actually a way of getting more people into work! And anything that minimizes the unemployment is a good thing, right?

Certainly, we’d have to start taking others (then ourselves) under consideration, and not crank the stereo up to the max when we get home from work or school, because we might have a neighbour that’s sleeping in the middle of the day, just because s/he starts the job in the evening. But those are small fees for a big reward. We can’t think “I’m off work now, so I’m gonna do exactly what I want”, because then we don’t have the right to complain when the evening people get home from work at, say 3am, and turn their stereos on.

Fluent hours. Fluent days. If everything would work on morning shift and evening shift – banks, shops, daycare, hospitals etc – we could actually make this work, and start enjoying our lives. Get the job done, instead of sit on our ass at the office and listen to it grow. Work, not time.

In many cases, a job means imprisonment for many – no matter what you do during the time you spend between the four walls, you have to sit your time off. How’s that efficient? How’s three coffee breaks, all longer then the standard 10minutes, because when people get together and start talking, they are not going to sit and watch the minutes tick off – and no, nobody will end mid-sentence just because his 10 minutes ran out – more efficient then one coffee break, or no coffee breaks, and shorter time at the office?

Now you might argue that this would be fine and dandy if everybody had the same capability, which I’ve already argued they don’t. I’m far ahead of you on this.

If person A has lower capability to perform then person B, then lower the expectations. Just as long as you lower the pay. You should get a dollar a task and not a dollar a minute. And, if you can manage to get 10 things done during the reasonable timeframe, then you go home with 10 bucks – if you can’t manage more then 3, then hey, 3 dollars are okay too.

Pay me for the job I do, not the time I sit off at the office. And pay my co-workers according to the same standard. Here’s another useful hint – everybody will always feel underpaid, claim they are worth more and go on strike. We are – we are all worth more. But if the nurses get more paid, then the teachers will follow, and then the factory workers and then the cashiers and then the lawyers and then the… yeah, this never stops.

Chart it. Pay according to education level, work experience, ability and capability. And task. Not time. I promise you, in Utopia, we’ll be happier.

…now… Utopia… well, we can always dream!


Anonymous said...

I wish I was paid for my education, experience and work load. I am a chef, nurse, taxi driver, office worker, car detailer, peace negotiator/mediator, teacher, headmaster, good cop, bad cop,maid, mechanic, gardener, banker and a mum lol. Two of these jobs I do get paid for.

Anonymous said...

nunyaa I hear ya.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess my job bears more similarity to your ideal than you'd imagine.

I get a basic+ commission, which means, and if I'm doing well for the month, there's always a good chance of knocking a few afternoons out of the equation and spending a nice afternoon catching up with e-mails and having a peaceful pint.

So it is possible to some degree.

But I have some sympathy for where you are coming from- but I would say it is a wider principle.

We need to do tasks, not have a time serving scheme.

I keep wondering about a General Strike on an international scale- white collar workers included.

Maybe it would be the shock the system needs.

Anonymous said...

The sad fact is that most of us are overpaid in the West.

What you earn and how you are treated is determined entirely by how crucial your work is and by how many people there are who are able to step into your shoes at short notice.

Anonymous said...

Well you have raised a lot of good points but there are not easy solutions.

In private industry there is often reward for the high achiever in that he/she is the one who receives the promotions and the big bonuses if that is part of the equation.

In a unionized situation often work quotas are at the lowest common level rather than the highest in my experience.

One of the problems with flex hours is that you have to be able to contact people in other businesses and so you have to be available when they are available. This is a big issue in a large country like ours with five time zones! Maybe there is only one person in a small company who does a particular job, so which hours do they work so that they are available to those requiring contact with them.

In an industry which covers 24 hours like a hospital there is always constant coverage and some people do choose to work only night shift for example since that is not very popular. I hated to work the 8 am shift but loved the 2 pm shift. But we all rotated through everything, including the weekends.

I think you need more than one post to come up with a working situation for these problems for what works for one job would never work for another. Probably people have even written theses of hundreds of pages in length about this whole working hours situation.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed made me think about the inequality of the roles we play based on gender as well.
The majority of 'caring' based jobs are done by women...child care, aged care, nursing (though because of the pay increase and status more and more men now become nurses)...and in Australia, women in child care are some of the most underpaid workers ever, but child care is the most emotionally, physically and mentally draining.
Imagine if we paid people based on what they give back to society...imagine if teachers were paid more than fashion models and the women who clean hospital wards and bring hot drinks to old people, imagine if they were rewarded more than say, the people who sell real estate for a living.

Utopia or deluded!??! ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I liked what kate said. Very good.

My last job was a base+ commission retail sales job. I did well, better than many in my office because I used the techonology to my advantage. I simply could set up and sell wireless phone faster than the others, and it made some co-workers angry. What could I do? I wanted the sales...I learned what they didn't want to...and some felt I was stealing sales from them because of it. Because they were lazy.

I think working different shifts is a great idea, I've always been a night owl myself.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting thoughts here.

Anonymous said...

I like the principle behind this (especially as a generally speedy worker), but it kind of assumes a certain type of job, working relatively solo.
However, in my current job as a psychometrician, the speediness of my task is very dependent on the speediness of the person I am testing. If one person is a contemplater or ESL, I can be running around all day to catch up and skipping my lunch.

Anonymous said...

Heart, just one thing that sometimes occurs to me...

I mean, I hate having to get up in the morning. That six o'clock cacophony from my phone is never welcome.

But I always count my blessings that I'm PAID to chat to people, pretty much. Yes, have a bad month the job can be a drag, but I can't think if anything else that they'd actually pay me money to do, and I'd actually enjoy.

Isn't hat a bit unfair? I'm getting paid MORE money to do something I enjoy, than a lot of people are, to do stuff they hate?