Far too many businesses are trying to gain for themselves by making us feel terrible – all this “free time” we have now, and all the things we “should” be doing because we can’t be out and about the way we used to gambol.
They’re also counting on us being so desperate to earn a living that we’ll take even less than we earned before the pandemic. “You’ll get nothing and like it” is their refrain.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how poorly most companies treated their employees in the first place.
Remember, without people to actually do the work, the company cannot exist.
If they hire people that do the work badly (which, if they don’t pay properly, that’s all they will get in the long run), they will go under.
Instead of listening to statistics by businesses for businesses, let’s look at personal realities, and use those realities to reshape how we are going to navigate both our work world and our social world.
Not everyone likes to work remotely. Not every job CAN be done remotely.
As an introvert, I realized how often I was forced to behave like an extrovert in a typical work setting, and what a toll that took on my health and my productivity. It didn’t matter if I turned in three times the work ahead of schedule – if I wasn’t in the building so the managers could interrupt me, ruin my productivity, and repeatedly put me in situations that caused stress and discomfort, it wasn’t “real work” and I wasn’t being a “team player.”
During the pandemic, the stress wasn’t from working remotely. It was that every foray off the property held the literal prospect of death to me or someone in my family. And, as time went on, it was the external pressures from those who wanted, again, to lower my productivity and add discomfort to feel powerful and force me to be “part of the team.”
I am perfectly capable of being “part of the team” without setting foot in the office. There’s this thing called Zoom (which we’re all tired of at this point). There’s email. There are scheduled phone calls (I only do phone calls by appointment). As long as I collaborate and hit the deadlines with quality work, I shouldn’t have to be forced, repeatedly, into onsite situations that cause misery in order to make someone else feel powerful.
I realized how many unhealthy compromises I’d made since I moved here. Far more unhealthy compromises than I’d ever made in the decades I worked in theatre and film production.
In the weeks leading to the Stay-at-Home, I was even talking with potential clients who insisted that I work onsite – even though I knew it would make me miserable.
So the past few months have made me redefine both what I want and what I need from work, and I encourage you to do the same.
I went into the arts because of the passion I have for the work. I loved my time working backstage and on set. Now, I love my time writing. I don’t consider the fiction and plays the “real writing” and the marketing/business/consulting a “day job.”
As far as I’m concerned, they are all of a piece.
Make a list of what you NEED from you work.
—Enough money so I’m not scrambling from payment to payment and don’t have to worry about basics like rent, food, utilities, health insurance, car, emergency vet bills, etc. It also must be reliably paid, not put off with excuses. Pay me per our contract.
—A sense of purpose and passion from those with whom I work. This can be small business owners who love what they do; or larger companies with a bigger mission. But there needs to be more to it than bottom line profit.
—Alignment with my values. I am not going to work for people/organizations/businesses I believe cause harm/fuel hatred, bigotry, racism, and misogyny. Even though those businesses usually pay more than those in alignment with my values as a person.
—Creativity. My job needs to let me use the creative part of my psyche, maybe in ways I didn’t expect to use it.
—Autonomy. Too often what is called “follow up” is actually “nagging.” If we’ve set a deadline, you will get what you need by that deadline. Suddenly asking for it a week early and bugging me about it doesn’t get it to you faster. If the deadline has changed for some reason, tell me it has changed and why it’s changed and we will deal with it. But don’t nag. Communicate clearly. And don’t micromanage every moment of my day.
—Humor. I love to laugh, and a sense of humor is important, especially on tight deadlines when there’s a lot at stake.
—Clear Communication. Don’t come at me with passive aggressive behavior. You want or need something? Be clear about it. Don’t lie to me, especially not by omission.
—Respect for my boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence. I do not have to embellish. If an emergency comes up, I will take on additional work outside my regular scope or outside my regular workweek; but it needs to be requested with respect and not become expected. I have a life that is separate from my work and just as important.
—Room for growth. I want to learn and grow both personally and professionally. I don’t want to be pushed into additional tasks because the company is too cheap to hire enough qualified personnel. I want to grow within my own scope of duties. I want encouragement to share ideas and have opportunities.
—Fully Remote. At this point in the game, that is what I want in the foreseeable future. It was a “want” before; now it is a need.
If any of the above list is missing, I am miserable, and know I need to change my work situation.
What do I WANT?
That’s a little different. The wants are what make the job special and exciting.
—Paid holidays and vacations. Which means, when I’m working freelance, the money and the ability to book that time without pushback.
—Variety. I like to write across different topics and in different areas – blog posts or articles or social media posts or courses or press releases or strategic plans. Anything that is scripted, be it for a video, a speech, or radio/podcast, and I’m in heaven.
—Positive Colleagues. An overall positive work atmosphere, even if it’s via Zoom or email, matters. We all have tough days, or even tough stretches. But if one particular person is ALWAYS unhappy, it starts to create a ripple effect of stress.
—An environment where everyone is encouraged to use their strengths and improve their weaknesses, rather than being thrown into something that’s a weakness without support or training.
—Encouragement to connect beyond the work, and get to know my colleagues as human beings. What do we all like to do when we’re not working? What are our other passions and causes? How can we work together to build a better world?
—Recognize and value the work. Recognize and value the work of everyone in the organization. It’s not about a fancier title. It’s about daily treatment and being paid fairly.
—Encouragement for learning opportunities and creative opportunities, even if they don’t immediately benefit the client.
—No more “at will” work. Most of my clients and I are on specific contracts, which is great. I do have a couple of clients that have me on retainer, but it’s “at will” and I need to change those parameters.
I’m sure I could make a more comprehensive list – and I’m working on it. But as I restructure my work life during the ongoing pandemic and figure out how I want it to look post-pandemic, these are all elements that matter to me.
As this list evolves, I will take steps to bring anything out of alignment into alignment. Then, I will grow, change, and respond to the world, and will adjust more. Which is a good thing.
What are your needs in a work situation? And wants?
How have they changed over the past few months?