OCTOBER 2000 -
WORK SPACE HELL - COMING TO A JOB NEAR YOU
But why do the jobs have to be so crap? Jayne wailed on
her mobile. I want to work for living , of course I do, but why
does everyone make their working lives so miserable?
Its a good question. Jayne is temping right now. Temping is a
great way to see just how badly run most companies are. Shes worked
with legal companies, charities, media offices, magazines and just about
all of them, excep the magazines seem to contain someone whose job it
is is to make life miserable for everyone else. It would seem that no
one has heard of modern casual offices where a friendly, happy staff
is more productive; that these same staff then stay in their jobs, rather
than spend every lunch hour looking for another.
Staff turnover is one of the great hidden costs of capitalism. Miserable
staff, with no training, or the wrong kind of training, underused, or
overused, their opinions ignored, their qualitative office life not
even considered, will leave as soon as they have acquired some new skills
or done enough time to make them look like they dont job
What may seem like a trivial thing, can have a vast impact. Management
replace human canteen staff with instant coffee machines, but they themselves
send out for Starbucks coffee. Management elevators, underused, staff
elevators crowded. Senior staff car park, no parking for for anyone
else.Them and us, a bigger problem now than even fifty years ago.
Right here in rain sodden Cornwall, there are people dedicated to narrow
minded petty bureaucracy. They hide their own inadequacies behind the
paperwork they generate, unnecessarily making people follow the
rules but always bending them for themselves. As they make life
intolerable for the workers they share this space with, the amount of
sick days the workers take proliferate. Not a hundred yards
from this editorial office I know of a roomful of data-entry clerks
trapped in their workspace under the beady eyes of their line-manager,
who will not permit even a hint of music in the space and they face
the threat ofinstant dismissal if they look out of the windows (blinds
have now been fitted to obscure the beautiful view) and there is a long
list of things they cannot look at on the web. Software has been installed
to monitor key strokes and what they view and how long they view it.
These poor bastards must stare at their computer screens without break
until their allotted lunch breaks. (Which are timed). A career could
be lost by glancing at a screensaver. Serfing in Cornwall? It happens
If you think I am exaggerating, you can wipe the smirk off your face.
Its true and all these workers are so cowed none will give their
names for this article. (You dont know how hard it is to get a
job in Cornwall).
I wonder how many people a day lose their jobs because they have inadvertently
strayed into a website that is inappropriate? Looking for
a picture to illustrate breast cancer scares, you could easily make
a mistake. Of course you dont have to download Big Ones,
size 40bcup ...but your computer will register every keystroke
as you wonder which site is genuine and which is porn.
Somehow, we expected that by year 2000 the office would be a creative
atmosphere, where everyone pulls together and everyones opinion
is considered, even the temp. All too often the management
decides, then tries to reverse engineer a consultative document, so
it looks like everyone was involved. Anyone been through an investors
in people exercise? Ha. Didn't you feel empowered by that!
We thought working on the web would be happiest of all, being with like
minded people and drinking lots of fresh hot lattes. But somehow the
deathly hand of corporate business captured it and has slowly strangled
it, interpreting everything in strict commercial terms, turning the
web into the Argos Catalogue experience - even down to waiting forever
for the thing to come down the shute at the back. The web has become
a tacky boot sale and then they complain if we dont actually buy
Profits or humanity? Which one will succeed? Dont answer, its
As I said to Jayne as she got ready to go to her next temp job at a
German web site. Just remember, if everyone was happy in their job,
there would be no temp jobs. For the record they had someone with a
watch timing her skills at content inputting which is
apparently what they call editing copy on the web.
Thats it. October is here and for the record Hackwriters is a
non-profit centred, latte fuelled, happy go lucky, pretty damn near
paperless office kind of place. If there is any paper, its on
the floor. We have a five year plan to sit around one day and plan something
- preferably our vacations.
VACATION PLANS OCTOBER 2000
There will be no updates during October due to Blocwriters working and
Hackwriters travelling. If you have an autumn story you want to share
with us, a workspace confession, send it by email. We will print it
Enjoy this months slimeline issue and well be back refreshed in
November. Expect articles from Venice, Seville, Nice and Grimsby (You
cant win them all).
© Sam North - Managing Editor
We welcome new writers.