When I graduated from University, I would have done ANYTHING to get a 9-5! Working shifts at retail stores, never having a holiday off, and having my income largely determined by the whim of the cruel shadow society known as “Head Office” had me feeling real bitter.
An office job sounded like the light at the end of the tunnel. It meant stability, it meant structure, it meant getting to spend my time on work that meant something to me; no more selling spoiled adults things they don’t really need (working at stores with luxury products will give you a chip on your shoulder the size of Texas).
So, after months of sending out resumes to no avail, I was stoked to get not one, but two job offers! TWO salary paying positions where they wanted ME more than anybody else. I felt like Dorothy going from her bland, grey Kansas life to full Oz technicolour.
Deciding which job to take was HARD (if you’re struggling to find a job, feel free to hate me for this). But when I picked, and I went, it took about 3 months for me to lose my ever loving mind.
In many ways, it was worse than any job I had done before! Maybe if I had picked door number 2 I would feel differently, but that’s not where we are.
Now, I’m writing from the safety of my home office while I work as a freelance writer, so I can comfortably tell you the ways that 9-5 jobs just seem archaic and impractical to me.
1. You Still Have No Control
When you’re a kid, your parents tell you what to do, and it sucks. I’ve mentioned in this blog before that my 4 year old nephew longs to be an adult, and that his earnestness sometimes makes me laugh.
The sad thing is, his overwhelming desire to have some agency over his own life is funny…because it’s so relatable. It’s funny because, the irony is, once he’s an adult, he will learn that he still doesn’t get to make his own decisions.
HAHAHAHA, the joke’s on all of us! *cue single tear rolling down cheek*
The freedom I thought I’d gain by having a consistent schedule felt a whole lot more like prison when I actually got there. Perhaps sitting in a closet for 8 hours a day had something to do with it (yes, a real closet).
But after fighting so hard to get there, realizing that I would always be at the mercy of someone else crushed my spirit in a way that I had never experienced.
2. When It’s Gone It’s Gone
People tell me all the time that they couldn’t deal with the instability of freelance. What if you lose a contract? What if you can’t find contracts for awhile? What will you do in slow months?
Comments like that always make me think of my dad. He is unquestionably the hardest working human being I have ever met. He has saved the places he’s worked for thousands upon thousands of dollars and single handedly made them thousands upon thousands more. And he has been:
- laid off when a company down-sized
- illegally fired for refusing to do illegal things
- promised a permanent position after contract work and lost it due to nepotism
- forced to take pay well below his skillset because of the economic climate in my home town
Watching this series of events, and experiencing some similar situations of my own, has made me feel a little more than dubious about the promises of office work.
Each time he lost a job, it took months of searching and retooling resumes to find a new salaried position. And to my last point, sometimes taking much less than he deserves just to keep surviving.
If I lose a client or have a bad client, finding a new one is easy. I work with people all over the world, and there are no shortage of businesses in need of quality copy. If I’m not making enough in a month, it’s because I’m not doing the basics. Not because it’s objectively too hard.
3. The Hours Are Arbitrary
It’s in the definition: show up at 9, leave at 5. If you want to do anything else, it means having to answer to someone.
And I can just hear it now: “UGHHH, these entitled millennials don’t want to pay their dues, they have no concept of responsibility!”
To that I say, I have no problem working hard to earn things. Ask any client I’ve ever had and they corroborate this in a heartbeat. The thing that bothers me is that if you’re a whole person, work isn’t your only responsibility.
Being there for friends or family when someone dies is a responsibility. Making time for trips home for birthdays and holidays is a responsibility. Valuing personal relationships and giving them space to grow is a responsibility.
And constantly having to ask someone else for a little time to do the things you need to do, when you’re an adult who can organize your own time is terribly painful.
If feels like being back in kindergarten, raising your hand to pee.
And why? There is no reason beyond tradition that you need to stick to the hours of 9-5. If you’re done your work in 6 hours? You still get to sit at your desk and watch the clock tick on, because you still have to be a body in a seat…just in case.
4. Often, More Time and More Effort ≠ More Money
Having a set salary sounds comforting. No matter what, you make the same amount of money. The problem is, no matter what, you make the same amount of money.
Now, my biggest problem with my job was not being given enough work to keep me stimulated, but a lot of people in my life have been worked to the bone with no overtime, no bonuses, and not even an acknowledgement of a job well done as compensation.
Your salary is (generally) based on a 37.5 or 40 hour work week, and every-time you work past that, your work is being devalued.
Or, if you manage a project that brings your company, say, 10 million dollars, and you don’t get a cent for it beyond your salary, your work is being devalued!
Most people will tell you that you should just be happy to have a job. Those people are BAT. SH!T. CRAZY. How does it make sense to put SOOOOO much more into something than you get back out?
Simply being able to afford room and board is a really low bar to set for yourself, especially if the company you work for considers you totally expendable.
Maybe you think I’m painting an unreasonably bleak picture of office culture, and if you feel valued and content, this article is not for you. But everything I’ve described and much, much worse exists out there.
Trust me, I’ve seen it up close!
5. The Internet Exists
If you’re reading this, CONGRATULATIONS, you have the internet! Welcome.
There are a lot of things you can do on here, and a lot of ways that this nifty little tool has changed the world, including how people work.
For some of you, whomp whomp, you still have to be physically tied to your work. If you have a position like: Chef, Hairstylist, or Mechanic, I’m sorry, there is no virtual equivalent for you. I hope you like your work!
But, if you fight your way through rush hour twice a day, just to get to a building where you sit at a desk and use a computer all day, I have good news! That is no longer necessary!
I get it, some people hate the idea of working from home. Trust me, I used to work from a tiny desk in a one bedroom apartment, and I know how hard it can be to find separation between work and life that way.
But, there are also a ton of co-working spaces where you get out of the house, see other people, and still not be tied to a specific desk for an arbitrary 8 hours a day.
Honestly, I don’t understand why it’s mandatory to be at a specific place for most positions. I’ve never had an issue scheduling meetings, staying in touch, or getting work done with people I’ve never seen before.
Time-zones are the only thing that get remotely tricky, and you get used to that!
But…You Can Build Clear Walls
In the name of fairness, here is one bonus thing I do miss about having an office job. At 5 o’clock, even though I would go home in a terrible mood from a day of being vastly under stimulated, in my off-time, I could let it go.
I never felt like I owed them anything, because it was entirely transactional. They got 8 hours of my time, and I got my money. That’s it.
In a way, it was kind of freeing to have such clearly defined borders around my work. When I see work messages now, I have a hard time letting them go, even on an evening or a weekend. But, I’m learning to be more forceful with my time limits.
And, never once has my frustration with myself about this EVER made me think: “hmm, maybe I should look for full-time work again.”
So, that’s it. Do you agree with my points? Think I’m too harsh? Think I’m not harsh enough? I’d LOVE to hear from you!!! Leave it in the comments!