The world of work – holidays and cold calls

Today’s musings have nothing to do with chemotherapy or prostate cancer but are in the parallel universe of ‘life goes on’.  I now write as an interested observer of the world of work but some years ago I penned a  note “A ramble through the management undergrowth” based on many years of studying management from the underside.  I even produced some rules which I called Arno’s (such as Arno 34: Don’t let the dead buzzard fool you. – I may explain another day, but on the other hand I may leave you wondering.). However I digress from holidays and cold calls.

Discussing work with a friend the other night we mentioned that one son had worked all weekend because he had had a couple of days off the previous week. To me that meant that “holiday” (or as it is so frequently referred to these days, “annual leave”) was just a word for shifting work from the working week into your own time and was not a holiday at all. She said we all know jobs where your work isn’t done when you are away which set me to thinking (again – it’s getting to be a bad habit!) .

If you are working on a production line cars wouldn’t go out of the factory without a passenger door  because you weren’t there to fix it in place. Either someone else would be there to do it or the whole factory would shut down for the week (or two weeks) and everyone would take their holiday at the same time.  In Coventry’s industrial heyday the streets would fall silent for two weeks every July for the ‘holiday fortnight’.

If you were a nurse or carer your patients or clients would be looked after by another nurse or carer. The same would be true anywhere where the needs of the customer came first and where they were time-dependant – they had to be met immediately or every day for example. No shop shuts because some of the staff are on holiday.

If you were a self-employed builder or gardener you would try to finish at a suitable cut-off point before you took time off, but if you couldn’t that half-built wall would be there ready for you to finish when you returned – it would just take three weeks instead of two – or the grass would be cut after two weeks instead of every week on that occasion. Of course you might jiggle your schedules a bit.

For some the working day is clearly defined (often by the requirements of co-workers or customers), but for many workers it can be a little more flexible.  However that may come at a price. The ultimate flexibility is when there is no rigid cut off at the end of the day and where ‘work’ can take place anywhere and anywhen. That can be a great bonus for the worker who can choose time and place or can be a great imposition when it is others making that choice.

Some have TOIL written into their contracts others just toil away regardless. TOIL –what on earth is that? Time Off In Lieu – so that for example if you work on a Saturday instead of getting overtime you can take an ordinary working day off. So if you work a weekend to catch up because you took “annual leave” can you then take time off in lieu the next week and then have to work another weekend to catch up so as to take some more TOIL so that . . . .  stop me before I go mad.

With the advent of smartphones we have workers who carry their “office” in his (or her) pocket or bag. The blight of technology that makes you contactable 24/7.  Perhaps the challenge is to be able to distinguish the routine from the exceptional – in other words the matters that, in the “old days”  would have been left until normal working hours and the matters that would have meant that rare landline phone call. You can say “It’s after 6.0pm, that is work related so I am not answering the phone or opening my laptop”.

While it may be easy to glance at a message or e-mail and ignore it, it is impossible to know whether that phone call matters. You might choose to ignore calls from particular people but then there is that niggling suspicion that it’s something really really really important that would bring down western civilisation if you don’t deal with it. (Who are you kidding? –  it never is). If you cannot identify who is calling  you answer it and you are sucked into a conversation before you can say ‘Jack Robinson’.

Which brings me on to another of my pet gripes – “Number Withheld” phone calls. When we are bombarded by unsolicited ‘phone calls selling solar panels, offering to buy shares at inflated prices (why on earth would someone do that, obviously a scam), or “not selling anything” from either unidentified or international numbers the temptation is to block these numbers or just not answer them. Unfortunately (for the purpose of ‘phone calls) we have friends and family in Norway, Australia and elsewhere whom we are happy to talk to – so they know that if they start to leave a message on our answerphone we will pick up if we are there (or do I mean here). Perhaps more importantly at the moment, any calls from CCHU or my GP will come up as “No caller ID” or “Number Withheld” and those are calls I wouldn’t want to miss.

So we are faced with picking up any call that looks genuine even when we are not sure who it is. If it turns out to be a sales call, being English, we are too polite to just put the phone down on them and so we get engaged in conversation. Sometimes it is a bit off the wall – my son lives in a first floor flat but one caller insisted on making an appointment for someone to visit to sell him a conservatory. Duh! Sometimes I try to have a discussion about double glazing when they say they are from “the technical department of the Windows operating system” or  try to get them to explain who exactly they are working for.  But life is too short and there are more interesting things to do so often it gets down to “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?” or “Thank you and goodbye” as I hang up.

See the links below for the previous post – and the next one.


One thought on “The world of work – holidays and cold calls

  1. On the vein of duff phone calls, coming home yesterday I had a missed call showing. I checked the STD code by asking Cortana (my best friend she says) it was Keswick. Now, I’m booked into a campsite in Keswick for 2 nights in June so I rang back in case it was important even though it was 6.30pm. An answerphone responded saying, “Waterside Theatre Keswick, if you are returning a missed call please be aware that our number has been hijacked by scammers pretending to be TalkTalk. We are sorry about this, if you did want to contact the theatre please call xxxxxxx as we have had to change our number”.
    So even if a legit number appears on your phone screen it still may not be who you think they are.
    I often answer unknown callers with, “Adelphi Hotel, can I help please?”
    and on work issues – my time with the 24-Hour-Noise Team in Westminster was great as all calls were responded to within 45 minutes and resolved one way or another (16,000 calls in our first year) during that shift, so if you were on shift you were busy, off shift, nothing came in so after two weeks holiday, guess what?, an empty in-tray and nothing to catch up with whereas at Wycombe (22 years man and boy) what came in while you were away just piled up so the first 2 weeks after a holiday you had 4 weeks worth of work to plough through – ready for another holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

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