Diary of an office worker
I'm an administration assistant and have been working part-time for £6.00 an hour for the past two years. This is a day in my life.
A MONDAY MORNING, somewhere in Liverpool…
My eyes must be going through him but he doesn't notice. Making tea and coffee is not in my job description. But since we moved to the temporary offices, we have no catering service and I have quickly become the servant of the building.
9.15am: I'm preparing the drinks in
the kitchen while Peter is chatting to Maria in the corridor. I've got
lots to sort out today and those two are just flapping around doing nothing.
He could have done the coffee himself! Saying that, it is probably below
him to do such a thing…
The pile of laminating is huge. There are at least 35 slides to do and it will take me at least an hour. I better get started if I want to do my regular admin duties. The diary meeting starts in 10 minutes, by the way, so I do a few slides beforehand.
10am: Sitting in the diary meeting
listening and noting what everyone will be doing over the week: "Meeting
Lord Mayor; brainstorming; exhibition launch with wine and canapés;
meeting, meeting, meetings…" When it comes to my turn, I mumble:
"As usual, admin, admin, oh and admin"
I shake my head, grab the laptop and head into the library to plug all the stuff in. The team really need some training on IT equipment… I have become the IT expert and it's not in my job description again. Surely I should get £6.50 an hour.
10.30am: Back at my desk to finish the
The phone keeps ringing between 12pm and 1pm. I have no chance to do anything else. While I'm on a call, Amy's head shows up at the door: "Have you got time this afternoon, I need you to take minutes at this meeting. OK?" Have I got the choice? "By the way, it starts at 1.30pm." I'd better grab a sandwich beforehand…
1.20pm: I swallow my lunch as fast
as I can, while prioritising the workload I've still got on my desk.
I have become the cleaner of the building since we only have two cleaners operating between 10am and 12pm. And it is not in my job description… Surely I should get £7 an hour…
3.30pm: Covered eight pages with notes.
At least I'm back on my desk, but I'm trying to deal with three hours
of work in one hour. I really want to go home soon. The afternoon post
is even bigger than this morning's.
Is it just me being too soft or are they taking the piss? Surely, I deserve £7.50 an hour.
Sorry Comments Closed
Comment left by Jon on 4th December, 2008 at 14:12
However, I suspect that the author believes that the minutiae of running an office would disappear in a socialist utopia, whereas I contend that it would not. There'd still be people, specialising in one task, who would believe that non-specialists should do the humdrum work. There'd also, to my mind, be people too lazy to do their own cleaning, laminating, setting up of equipment and the like.
On that basis, a core issue here is whether the worker blames the ills of their colleagues on capitalism, rather than with the collegues where it sometimes belongs. What I am saying here is not intended to be harsh criticism of the author, who is doing something that many office administrators do: accepting far too much work. It would change the working life of the author if they were to occasionally say "no" to the various people using them as a servant.
The reason why none of us don't like to use the N-word in the workplace is that we feel it makes our employment less secure, or perhaps it prohibits 'progress' up the ladder. But being able to be assertive, and to simply say that one has far too much work, perversely *generates* respect. Suddenly the individual is seen as someone who stands up for themselves, rather than meekly accepts everyone elses' drudgery without question.
Where a worker is overworked, ultimately the quality of the work must suffer, or they "have to" work overtime for no extra pay. This is not acceptable for the worker (working for free) or for the enterprise even in a capitalist environment (worker exhaustion, reduced morale, lower quality of work). On this basis, where a worker declares, politely but firmly, that they will no longer be overworked, a new job can be created. Thus, if a worker refuses to stand up for a better quality of work-life, they are not only harmimg their own well-being, but they may even be depriving another worker of a job.
This is not intended as a defence of capitalism, nor that the new theoretical job (of unrewarding work) ought to be welcomed with open arms by the new worker. But I do think that the assumption that socialism will eradicate humdrum toil is both popular and false, and that we need to challenge it. We furthermore sometimes need to amend our own approach to work, in order that we are not been worn down by it.
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