I have recently realised that what I am looking for is a role I would gladly do at least 80% of for free. This is quite a profound insight – for me – as it comes coupled with a secondary realisation that my old job (same organisation) was probably quite close to this nirvana. Notwithstanding a few pertinent details (I do need to be paid to work in order to support some folks back home and to continue to work without starving or dying of exposure), I would estimate that a very large proportion of my old job I would have done quite contentedly* even if I wasn’t being paid. And it wasn’t all fun, but it was purposeful and challenging.
But still. Here we are now.
Arguably, as someone who describes their current work position as akin to a “keyboard-rattling battery hen” I am not a fully satisfied, fully engaged, fully fulfilled do-it-for-free kinda employee right now. Which is a great shame, and perhaps an unintended consequence of restructure programmes. Whilst I continue to ponder how to (re)build this kind of meaningful employment for myself, tooled-up with naught but the memory of reputational kudos and a not very flexible job description, the reason for this post is to describe – and elicit – some coping tactics.
I don’t mean coping with changes or coping with restructure, but just general day to day coping when I feel more “battery hen” than “do it for free”. Here are the four I have come up in the few hours since I had this idea for a post.
Coping Tactic 1.
Get out of the office as often as possible. Not only will you probably learn something real about the real service your organisation is really here for, by meeting real people and having real conversations, but again this will shift and invigorate your mental energy levels. Even just going for a walk and a think at lunchtime will help prevent the onset of cabin fever.
Coping Tactic 2.
Show an interest in your co-workers’ lives, even if you think they have somewhat/rather/totally different ideas about why we are at work, compared with you. You might find you quite like them. At least they won’t only think of you as that aloof/miserable old git/young upstart/non-descript nowhereman, if you occasionally engage in light hearted conversation. Also, you will probably feel better for trying to be more human and less battery-hen.
Coping Tactic 3.
Find useful and creative outlets wherever you can. If there are no other routes to creativity and you need to create or wither away, then anything creative will be more satisfying than looking at a screen/sitting in board meetings/entering data all day. Even if it’s nothing more than doing a Blue Peter job on your daily work notebook, cutting and sticking philosophical snippets to the cover and making a useful pocket on the inside**. Or re-organising your filing system, the office tea tray or the stationery cupboard. Making tangible changes to your environment is energising and increases your mental spark, so you’re less likely to be too numb to think when you are subsequently engaged in non-creative but essential work.
Coping Tactic 4.
Get audiobooks to listen to en route to work. From the library, obvs (your library needs your custom – use it or lose it!) It makes getting up in the morning so much easier if you are actually looking forward to the next development in a gripping story, and you can lose yourself in a different world whilst you commute.
That’s it really. If I was patient enough to store blog ideas for longer than a few hours and work this up some more, I expect this list would be longer. But that’s not me today. Today I am impatience personified – I can’t even think of any pictures or songs to go with this, which is a very poor show. Soz.
If you have your own coping tactics for battery-hen days (some people call them Week Days), please comment below.
* “Is happiness ever truly experienced, or just remembered? Discuss”.
** Note to anyone who reads this and thinks “THIS RUBBISH is what public sector workers do all day?!?”: No, it’s not, but I hear your concern and all I will say is this. If you truly believe that what public sector administrocrats do all day is of genuine public value, even (especially?) when they are doing what their job descriptions say, then we have a lot of ground between us, and this blog probably isn’t going to change your mind.