By Bernie Bell
I was talking with a young person, about the tyranny of the machine in today’s society, and she told me that she picks up messages on her phone, from work colleagues, which have been sent at all hours of the day and night. And not personal messages – work messages, sent at maybe 2 in the morning. She explained that it’s because in today’s world of work, people feel that they must be ‘productive’, and they must be seen to be productive. And not just productive – but 110 % productive. So, they work at all hours.
She is a sensible girl, who is in bed asleep at that time, or out enjoying herself! I don’t know her as a work colleague, but I do know that she is hard working, as well as being interested in, and committed to, what she is doing, and I’m certain that she makes a good job of what she does.
She picks up the messages, when she is ready to – but does not let herself be dragged into the madness.
We were speaking of how this atmosphere can change a workplace, and, in fact, be counter-productive.
I told her of someone I know who works in a government department, where each individual doesn’t actually have a desk of their own to work at. They are expected to arrive each day, and those how get there first, get the ‘good desks’. The idea seems to be, that, with the new technology, paperwork is minimum, it’s all done on computer, so, all they need is their laptop.
So, they are expected to clear their desk each evening, then get in as early as possible, to claim a desk the next day.
What a way to start your working day – getting up extra-early to get there early enough to take part in a scramble to get the ‘best’ of the desks. Apparently, this is known as ‘hot-desking’ and is becoming reasonably common-place.
It can’t be productive – it has to be counter–productive.
Once again though – the machine dictates – the idea is that the work can be done on a machine, a portable machine, and so, the human can carry the machine with them, and where they are situated, doesn’t matter.
But I believe that it does – people are human, they like to have a ‘nest’, even at work. They like to have some pictures around them, maybe a plant, maybe some kind of little gee-gaw which just makes them feel – comfortable – connects with their own life, outside the work place. I honestly feel that this is something we need, and something which helps us to feel more comfortable at work, and therefore, I believe, more productive.
Years ago, I worked at a job which I really hated, mainly because of the atmosphere there, which was one of tyranny and bullying.
I purposely and consciously made sure that I didn’t have anything personal on or in my desk. The idea being that, if I ever was in a position which meant that I simply didn’t have to go into work there again, there would be absolutely no need for me to do so.
That isn’t right – that’s not how you should feel about your work place. Surely it’s more natural for us to want to take something of ourselves, and our interests, into the workplace with us?
And what happened? Eventually, I resigned, after telling the boss-man exactly what working there was like, for the lower grades of workers. He sat in his office all day, and had no idea what was happening.
Today even universities are being run as businesses – the emphasis on learning and enlightenment, seems to have become lost in a maze of ‘procedures’ and networking for funding, to pay for any research that is being done.
It took a while, but Academia is catching up with big business.
I’m not saying that they shouldn’t ‘pay their way’, but – something is being lost, somewhere along the way.
One ray of hope is – that these situations always turn around. These situations creep up on people, without them noticing, then, they reach optimum, and the boil bursts, or is lanced, and people become human again, or are given the space to be human again.
There are parallels with political situations, I think.
But meanwhile. The madness creeps in, and people are expected to work their fingers, and their brains, to the bone.
And folk are wondering why there is so much more distress and what is referred to ‘mental health’ problems.
I believe we are sane enough, in many ways, as a species, but the way society is going, produces insane situations, which we react to sanely by becoming insane for a time. Ref. the character Orr in Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22 . You have to be mad to take part in the war, but going mad because you’re taking part in the war, shows that you’re sane……….Catch 22.
So, where do you go from there. How do you get round that?
Plough your own furrow – do your job – do it well, so that no one can complain of what you actually ‘produce’ – but don’t live for it – try not to let it take over.
If you find yourself at 2 in the morning, working, on a regular basis – not because that’s when you happen to function best – which can be the case – but because of some kind of fear of not appearing to be ‘productive’. Finish the sentence you’re writing, turn the bloody thing off, and sleep. That, is productive, in many ways.
End of rant.