22 Sep 2021 | Uncategorized

Work in the balance

My work-life has changed drastically.

I used to be my own boss and now I’m an employee. I used to have control over my time and now I am learning how to maximise the odd personal minute when I’m allowed to eat, take comfort breaks and use my mobile to invest half an hour in complaining to various insurance companies or British Gas.

However, despite having descended the status ladder from employer to employee, I feel better about work than I have done in almost forty years.

This feel-better factor has two halves:

  1. I feel less anxiety, anger and annoyance towards my customers than I did before.

2. I am now, finally, ambitious.

Less Stress

I spent many years as a director of a travel company, yet a lofty job title and business cards aside, owning a small business is in effect the same as being self-employed. In crude terms, this means that if something goes wrong e.g. key workers leave or you run out of money, there is no safety net. It’s the same thing as being a roofer or a tree surgeon. However good you are at the job, you are exposed and if you fall, it hurts.

In truth, I grew tired of my old clients long before the pandemic took them away. This is no secret, and my declining interest paralleled the fact that over the years, holiday-makers and business travellers have become meaner and more demanding. I was recently clearing out my old office and I found a file labelled ‘Nice words’, it contained letters and postcards thanking us for being efficient and friendly, yet the most recent one was received in the 20th century. I really feel that people have become greedier, needier and more entitled. Some years ago there was talk of travellers becoming more independent and able to take ownership of their actions. My experience of 21st-century travellers is that many are spoilt ingrates who lean on the crutch of compensation to fund next year’s jaunt. I don’t miss them at all.

Now, however, I’m in a different job in a new office with many different co-workers. It’s almost another world. I still have clients but they’re not mine, they are my employer’s and this makes all the difference to my attitude. This does not imply I offer a lesser service, in fact, it’s the opposite. The cushion provided by having an employer between me and the end-user is accompanied by a well-built structure and a raft of co-workers and support mechanisms. I am no longer exposed and no longer the stopper of that ugly buck. This means I can advise and support clients with freedom of thought and this is all because I only have to think about them. There’s no nagging voice in my head talking about collecting deposits or filing last quarter’s VAT return. The customer in front of me is my sole responsibility.

More ambition

Having attained a new job has been a great confidence boost. This was enhanced by the actual process of passing psychometric tests and interviews and this all happened, with a healthy dose of fortune, without experiencing unemployment. The fact I subsequently persuaded my new employers to transfer me to a more convenient and better-paid location cemented that feeling and I am now, for the first time, looking with confidence at what other jobs I can do when this one ends.

For readers stuck in a work rut, I recommend change. Of course, the financial imperative to keep a job, even a tedious one often overrides enjoyment and stimulation at work, but if you want to change, it can be worth a few months of attrition if you can afford it.