|Tobacco Worker's Hands, Danlí, Honduras, 2011|
One of my biggest fears is ending up working inside of a cubicle, watching the clock tick. I had such a job once (well, there was no cubicle, but there was certainly a punch clock with time-cards); I remember the sense of frustration at the forced hours, at the constant obsession of breaks and lunch hours of my co-workers, the incessant gossip about people who "rode the clock," the interminable memos and e-mails about time-related disputes in the workplace. It seems to me that this fixation on "maximizing" workers' time "on the clock" has actually made us less productive; I was certainly much more aware of the clock and punching out at exactly 5:00 pm, because such an issue was made about being at work at exactly 8:00 am. I am convinced that productivity cannot be forced. Self-motivation is a big issue (not all of us have it), but I feel like employers should be promoting a sense of perseverance and self-worth in their employees. I mean, not everybody loves their job, but convince someone that their work matters, that they matter, and their work output will improve. If you are more concerned about your employees eating Cheetos on the clock, or spending time reading their e-mail instead of looking for things to do (which, really, is what most employees spend their time doing, which is pretending to work when they actually have nothing really to do), then your business with ultimately suffer. I can always tell how successful a company is when I am on the phone with one of their customer service agents. A certain blue and red bank comes to mind. I actually feel sorry for these people. On one memorable occasion, I had a rep burst in to tears and confess to me she hated her job; she couldn't decide who was meaner to her, the customers or her employers. This bank is currently on the rocks, which is no surprise, considering they can't take of either their customers or the people who work for them.
I've had my fair share of awful jobs, but the worst were the ones where I felt exhausted at the end of the day and had nothing to show for it. Working to pay the bills is like eating to stay alive; for something we spend a considerable time of our lives doing, we should at least gather some enjoyment. For example, most people are generally baffled that someone would actually pick to be a garbage man, or an undertaker. There's got to be some sort of hidden deal there, we think, maybe a superb benefits plan or something of the sort. I asked a library stacker one time what the heck he found so appealing about his job (I shudder at the thought of doing nothing but shelving books all day); he looked at me and smiled, shrugging shyly. "Well, I just like how pretty the stacks look when I'm all done with them." For him, there was a sense of accomplishment, a reason for the aches in his back and his arms, when he saw the fruits of his labor: rows upon rows of neatness from what had once been chaos. Ultimately, this is what allows the majority of people to get through their time-clock, cubicle or factory jobs, it is the feeling of having done something worthwhile at the end of the day.
So in conclusion, the question bears asking: what did you do today that was worth your time?