12 January 2010

Work-life imbalance

So, I'm a week into my staff job and I'm struggling with normal life. I've got used to the alarm going off and I've more or less adjusted to catching the rush hour bus. But clearly I have been spoiled by the freelance lifestyle as I've spent the last 6 years organising my work around my own needs. I've got used to popping out to the shops in the daytime, arranging medical appointments to suit my schedule, napping during the afternoon if I feel like it then working in the evening to catch up.

Suddenly my time is no longer my own but I have forgotten how to be a wage slave. The life skills I once had that enabled me to juggle the domestic stuff in the evenings and at weekends appear to have deserted me. I can't remember how to organise my needs around my work.

Last week, I found myself dropping off my prescription renewal at my GP's surgery before it had even opened, just so I could catch a bus to the office.Then the snow conspired firstly to delay my picking up the renewed prescription then to collect my medicine. I finally found a late-opening pharmacy last night and hurried there after work. What normally takes 2 days has taken a whole week. By the same token, the snow meant no grocery shop was done last week so I sat down at my PC at the weekend to order online and arrange an evening delivery. Fat chance. Me and everyone else had failed to shop last week and there was not a single delivery slot available for any evening this week at the three supermarkets I tried. I ended up grabbing the essentials myself at a nearby branch last night (after getting my meds) and having to bring my shopping home by cab.

I have forgotten to put the washing machine on every night - I usually do it in the daytime. And I urgently need to book a dental appointment and one for the optician. For the first time in 6 years I'm going to have to ask permission for the time off for these. Oh, and I missed a parcel delivery today. My regular postie knows I work from home, but now I'll have to go and queue at the sorting office on Saturday morning instead. Gah.

How do staffers manage? Because I'm buggered if I can remember how I used to, way back in another lifetime. If anyone knows the answer, please put it on a postcard addressed to "Dear Useless Ex-Freelancer".

I am, however, enjoying being a staffer for now. It has its perks - the company is excellent (at least so far) and I've learned quite a bit of new stuff over the last week. Tomorrow, I will find out what the company's plans are for me for the next 12 weeks. It's been a bit unstructured to date, partly because the snow took over on the news front, meaning I was given whatever work took priority, and partly because my new bosses have not been around much. So the meeting tomorrow should give me some idea of how my work will be shaped between now and Easter.

I am both frustrated and amused by the technology I'm working with in the newsroom. I bought myself a new workhorse PC in May - custom-built to my own specs and fabulously expensive, but tax-deductible and state-of-the-art enough to serve me well for at least 3 years, hopefully 4. It's superfast and I have the latest versions of the software I use for work and personal stuff. In the newsroom, I'm being forced to use Internet Explorer 7 instead of my customised Firefox for browsing and every page takes at least 20 seconds to load (and to reload if I go back a page). Their version of Word is 2003. I've had to relearn how to use Outlook for email instead of Thunderbird. I can't install anything I want to improve my working practices Because I Am Not Allowed To. My screen is tiny, compared to my superlarge flat-screen monitor at home.

Most entertaining is the ridiculously clunky keyboard, which looks like it is at least 10 years old and probably is. The keys are so high, they remind me of the Remington I used to bash out copy on in my first-ever job in 1978. I've lost 3 fingernails since I started staffing. Not that my nails are anything to brag about - they've been ruined ever since that first Remington and break if I so much as look at them but I don't think I've had quite so many casualties in such a short space of time before. The nails are a small sacrifice for the experience I'm getting though.

And now, dear reader, I really must go and load the washing machine...

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