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“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?”

It’s a good question. Jayne is temping right now. Temping is a great way to see just how badly run most companies are. She’s 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 don’t ‘job hop’.

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 here.

If you think I am exaggerating, you can wipe the smirk off your face. It’s true and all these workers are so cowed none will give their names for this article. (You don’t 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 don’t 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 everyone’s 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 don’t actually buy anything.

Profits or humanity? Which one will succeed? Don’t answer, it’s too depressing.
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.

That’s 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, it’s on the floor. We have a five year plan to sit around one day and plan something - preferably our vacations.

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 in November.

Enjoy this months slimeline issue and we’ll be back refreshed in November. Expect articles from Venice, Seville, Nice and Grimsby (You can’t win them all).

© Sam North - Managing Editor

We welcome new writers.

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