Here’s what I hate: going to work every day.
And I’m not alone, it seems. Apparently thousands of people have recently quit their jobs or left the workforce forever, in what is being termed the ‘great resignation’.
We shouldn’t really be surprised by this. Work is rubbish. Nobody likes going to work, that’s why we have to get paid to go there. Sure, some people (absolute weirdos) love their jobs. To be fair, some jobs are pretty good fun. I once somehow managed to swing a job where my main duties involved playing with children all day, and often eating cake or pakoras when it was somebody’s birthday. And this was in a large special school in Bradford, so there were a lot of birthdays, and therefore a lot of cakes. I loved that job. I did it for ages. Sometimes, even now, I regret ever leaving it.
During the pandemic, lots of us got furloughed. In an effort to stop the virus spreading, and to minimise the impact on the health service, the Government allowed employers to pay people to stay at home. Those essential workers whom we needed to keep society going, those were the people – bus drivers, teachers, nurses, supermarket workers – put themselves at risk every day going to work, while other lucky sods like me got paid to stay at home. Getting paid almost your usual wage on condition you stop in the house all day and don’t do anything to do with your day job? ABSOLUTE WINNER.
Being furloughed during the early part of the pandemic has ruined work for me, and it’s not as if I was all that keen on it in the first place. I don’t get these people who don’t know what they’d be doing if they weren’t at work every day. I know exactly what I’d be doing if I didn’t have to go to work. I’d be at home, working on my novel, or maybe experimenting with writing for dramatic podcasts. I’d finish all the short stories that have been sitting around unfinished on my hard drive for years. Then in the afternoons, having done all of my creative work, I’d watch a weird foreign film on Mubi and have a right good stare out of the window. (It is important to give your brain a rest sometimes.)
As far as day jobs go, mine really isn’t that bad. I don’t work shifts, the people I work with are easy to get along with, and I don’t have to do anything hazardous, unless you count ‘working with a couple of people who have absolutely monstrous egos’ to be a health and safety hazard. The only trouble is that I’d much rather be doing something else.
During the course of the pandemic, it sounds like thousands, if not millions of people, have come to the same conclusion. In the excellent book ‘Bullshit Jobs’ David Graebner describes the rise of pointless work: millions of make-work administrative jobs which add nothing positive to society and which nobody would notice if they were to disappear. (He also explains in detail, in for example the US Health Insurance industry, that whole industries have arisen out of the need to create work for people). He argues for a Universal Basic Income, which would allow more of us to be lazy, should we want to; but would also allow us to be more creative and sociable, should we choose that option. Needless to say, I’d be in favour. Or if we can’t have UBI, at least let us have the four day week.
From reading about the vast numbers of people exiting the workforce, some temporarily but many permanently, I can’t help wondering how many people have had their minds focused by the pandemic – that once in a 100 year opportunity where we’ve recognised how short life is, how important are the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our close friends and family, and have used that opportunity to escape from a type of work that was making their lives worse?
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