Working nine ‘till five

During my week in the gallery, I was getting up at half past seven, doing half an hour or so of computer work, walking to the gallery at 9, being there until 5 and then walking home. I found it utterly exhausting. It didn’t help that I worked nine days without a day off, which shouldn’t be normal for people with regular day jobs.

I’m used to being able to do bits and pieces of domestic work around my other work. Where other people might get a tea break or a water cooler moment, I might do the laundry or get the washing up. It means that when I end work for the day normally, I’ve done whatever I’m doing on the domestic front as well as the economic front. Coming home in the evening with all of that yet to do is emotionally wearing as well as physically tiring.

I’m a big fan of walking and cycling to work. I acknowledge that it is hard to do this, especially in bad weather or when you  are already tired. Many of the things that are more sustainable – cooking from scratch, buying locally sourced everythings… take time and energy that I wouldn’t have if I worked this way every day. I already knew that many aspects of conventional work aren’t easily combined with sustainable life choices, or with healthy choices for personal wellbeing. There’s a lot of difference between knowing something as a theory, and living it for a while.

I’m a big believer in making what personal changes you can, but I acknowledge that not everyone gets much control over how and when and where they work. Not everyone can go self employed, or can wrangle to work from home. Personal shifts alone won’t deal with things that are ingrained in our culture.

I also note that I wasn’t fantastically useful for much of that time. I’ve done a lot of public facing, events, retail, front of house kind of work – which can be sporadic – quiet while you’re waiting for people to show up, and intense when they do. But in terms of quality of work done for time spent… I wasn’t great. Compared to what I get done in a few hours working quietly at home, I wasn’t very productive. In some ways that’s the nature of this kind of work. But, how many people are turning up to put in the hours every day, and not paid based on what they do? How much time, life and energy are squandered while people show up for the required hours?

One of the great things about being self employed is that most of the time, it’s about getting the job done, and not about how long it takes. Unless your job is primarily about being available to help other people in some way, then time spent is meaningless for most work. How many workplaces will let you go home when you’ve done what needed doing? How many employers will reward speed and efficiency by simply expecting you to do more?

There’s only so much you can do as an individual to change any of this. I feel strongly that we need to be talking a lot more about why we work, and how we work, what we reward, and what we expect from each other.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Working nine ‘till five

  • Christopher Blackwell

    It fascinates me how little employer consider the people working for them. I run a liter shop, but there are things that I can not do physically any more so I hire people for a few hours work, each week. I pay more than average $15 per hours here in the hop and more for driving me around for shopping, after all I have them at beck and call for three or four hours during doing my shopping.

    But it is a bit beyond that in I consider getting out of the way as needed when the lady cleans my shop. So when she gets ready to vacuums my desk area, I get out of the way and clear any stuff off the floor before she vacuums. It is a small thing, but most of it is making it easier to do her work.

    She dusts of the geodes that I sell and straightens up the displays. But my main duty is to get out of the way and let her do what she knows to do. If I need a nap, I go do it, usually I wake an hour later, but she knows to wake me if need be.
    she gives me her time and I pay accordingly. If I make mistake in figuring out her pay, she knows perfectly well that Iam not going to be upset if she corrects me. I thank her for her work, and even for corrections.

    Basically she and other occasional workers don’t need me hanging around bossing or directing them. It is a simply matter of each cooperating with the other.

  • thevirtualhealingroom

    This is so incredibly on point that it’s hard to say anything intelligent in response because you’ve covered it all so beautifully. Agree with you 100%, and what you’re referring to is “productivity-based performance assessment/management,” in HR speak, as I understand it. Because, of course, you’re right: with the current clock-punching model we are largely beholden to, being a superstar performer only begets more tasks piled upon you… hardly a reward worth wishing for, unless you wish to climb the thankless corporate ladder.

    What I struggle with, as a “9 to 5” employed person with a small side business, creative projects, family to take care of, desire to live lightly on the planet (in much the same way you described in your post), etc., is the constant guilt of not feeling like I’m doing anything properly. I have to constantly remind myself to be grateful that I’m privileged enough (in various ways) to be able to pursue all of these ventures simultaneously and to bring my best self to each aspect of my life in each moment. Staying in the present moment is the only way to do this; otherwise, extreme overwhelm can render one totally incapable of doing anything at all (at least that’s my experience of thinking about all my responsibilities at once!).

    I congratulate you, sincerely, on finding a balance that works for you so that you can live in your truth. Not everyone is brave enough to do that, so BRAVO for practicing that radical honesty and following through on the callings of your heart. ❤

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