In Which A Chromebook Cries Coffee Tears (And So Do I)

crying

Well this is just brilliant.

Countdown to start at new internship: 48 hours.
Excitement level: 10.
Ego level: (let’s be honest) 10.9

Possibly feeling a little borderline self-important. Don’t care. Doesn’t matter. Things are good. Very good. I start in 48 hours and everything is fine and I will be glamorous and carefree and work part-time from their studio and part-time from home on my beautiful, slick new OH MY GOD, the coffee spillage could literally not be more everywhere.

My chromebook is literally crying coffee tears. The loading screen will just about work, but let’s face it, tipping a laptop on its side only to find coffee dripping out of every available orifice? Not a good sign. And now we’re just about to reach the most-challenging stage of all. The switch the thing off now stage. Well, more-specifically, switch it off and leave it off. Not for ten minutes or fifteen or half an hour and then back on ‘just to check’ because oh dear god, the impatience is eating.me.alive. No. Properly off. Switch it off and step away.

5.20pm.

8.10pm.

Nothing works. No loading screen, no charging light, no on button, no anything remotely resembling sign of life. Utterly crestfallen, because this is the end of the world, I do the best I can and leave it open, on its side, on the floor to air overnight.

Morning. Things just as bad. Except they’re not. They’re worse. Everything has taken on this horrifically sorrowful hue. Even the poor machine, lying there on its side, all foetal-like in its helplessness, has taken on this anthropomorphised aura of misery.

Thing is, it isn’t miserable. I am. And nothing, nothing will cheer me up. I feel lost and alone and exposed and like this intangible yet hugely important part of me has been surgically removed and here I am, limb-less, keyboard-less, lifeless. boohoo

I have a smart phone that works. I even have an iPad a friend immediately offers as temporary replacement and still, I continue to feel as lost as ever. On top of this, I must psyche myself up for what may be the most-painful ordeal of all. The great ‘send-off to the insurance company’. This, incidentally, unlike the technology it insures, proves almost impressive in its ability to remain firmly in the dark ages of “collection within five working days” and “assessment of your device within a further five working days”- are these people for real? Five working days? I can’t even handle five working hours.

It’s the weekend. Yes, I start in a new, exciting position Monday, but let’s look at this realistically. I’m hardly “disconnected”. I have a phone, an iPad and all the wi-fi in the world to complain about it on. And yet still, I feel bereft of my lifeline, ill at-ease on this strange tablet device with its equally strange keyboard and nothing will bring me comfort.

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So this begs the question. How and why did we become so utterly attached to our devices that the loss of them breeds a sense of abandonment and insecurity, the parameters of which seem immeasurable?

Former professor at the University Of Wisconsin and now public speaker and writer, Joel S Hirschchorn refers to this as “technology servitude”. It is therefore not surprising to find a 2010 survey reporting that 61% of Americans would describe themselves as “addicted to the internet” and a further 44% of smart phone users sleep with their device next to their bed. I know I do.

When students were challenged to a 24-hour break from their devices, one of the most-reported insecurities lay in the anxiety that accompanies loss of ability to “touch” the devices we are so accustomed to tapping away at. An American participant reported: “I constantly felt tempted to reach for something I could turn on”, while in China, the study showed “loneliness and helplessness” that spread in positive correlation as the increasing “anxiety and desire of touching media”.

This is great stuff, someone said to me. Give us more. More what?, I said. More facts on the anxiety and helplessness.  Sorry, no can do, I replied. Why?, they ask. Too anxious and helpless.

The chromebook is eventually returned to me, good as new. You’d think I’d be happy to be reunited with it. Except by this point, I’ve gotten used to the iPad’s touchscreen and now I keep tapping the chromebook’s screen and wondering why I’m not getting anything.

It’s a good thing I’m British or you might call this complaining pathological. th_smirk

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Zero Hour Contracts (v. scathing and pithy)

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Well, the Wikipedia article on this is just terrible.

This is all one big plot, isn’t it.  Carefully craft the top google result to be so mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly dull, no-one is actually able to finish reading it.  Still unsure of the precise details that constitute zero hour contracts, we all go out and get proper jobs.  Well played, UK government.  Well played.

I’ve worked zero hour contracts.  And trust me, when you’re the nanny sitting at home all day on a professional agenda so bursting at the seams, you spend your days waiting for the phone to ring only to get a text at 10pm saying “please come tomorrow 6.45am til noon”, you’d give your left leg to be working regular hours.  At McDonald’s.  At least there, you might make employee of the month.  That said…

Really, Vince Cable? I get that you see zero hour contracts as offering employers “flexibility”.  But “welcomed flexibility”?  Really?

A Unite survey suggests “22% of workers employed by private firms are on contracts promising less than three hours a week”.  Well, this officially blows.  I was hoping to live the dream. You know, me, t.v. crew, big cameras, fluffy mic, the whole deal.  But with me technically ‘in work’ and therefore not entitled to any jobseeker’s allowance claim or likewise, I can’t even be on Benefits Street.  On the plus side, with my working week crumbling under the yoke that is four and a half hours’ labour, I will, however, have plenty of time to watch it.  Twice.  And again on catch up after Jeremy Kyle.

When I read zero hour contract workers are in fact entitled to holiday pay, I nearly fell off my chair.  That said, better not.  Unless I’m raking in £109 a week minimum, there won’t be any sick pay to cover my recovery period.  I might also find the whole seating experience to have suddenly taken somewhat of an al-fresco turn.  Without proof of guaranteed hours, looks like I’m not all that eligible for a mortgage, either.

In the attempt to reduce, or at least limit my bias on this, I tried looking into how zero-hour contracts might benefit both employer and employee.

You can do this, Rebecca.  It’s not asking much.  One paragraph.  Just one.  No snark, no sarcasm, no taking whatever you’ve found, ripping it apart and re-constructing its vertebrae at perpendicular angles to spell out ha-ha-ha.  You can do this.

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So, how do zero hour contracts benefit the employer?

….And, epic fail. Image

Why, you ask?  Because employers find zero-hour contracts preferable in that they “permit risk management”.  Well, yes.  Your employee is far less-likely to sue you for the spinal fracture he endured as a result of falling down your stairs when he’s never there.

From the employee viewpoint, well, one would think the benefits are self-explanatory.  Don’t want to be tied down by fixed hours?  Want the luxury of not having to work Monday or Tuesday (or Wednesday or Thursday)?  Looks like all your Christmases just came at once.

Now why does it not surprise me to find that employees working on zero-hour contracts are less-likely to have a degree than those who are not, and more likely to have GCSE grades as their highest level of education.

Congratulations, Great Britain.  Your new breed of ‘workforce’ is on the rise.  They’re so skilled, they’re turning their noses up to counter staff jobs at McDonald’s.  Besides, they’re far too over-qualified for that sort of thing.  Best leave that sector to the foreign demographic.

Now, for your challenge.  Take these snippets of data and try to re-arrange them into something that resembles economic growth and recovery.  Well, I did say challenge.

Zero Hour Contracts (version hi, today we like you)

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It didn’t go to plan.  At all.  He said he loved you and gave you two beautiful children who fling spaghetti everywhere but it doesn’t matter because then they look up at you and call you mummy and the world stops because you’re melting.

Except it does matter.

The more spaghetti they fling, the less there is to put on the table.  And spaghetti is getting expensive.  You know that thing you used to do before your world became the Thorpe Park of yogurt dribble and Calpol?  The thing you used to go to every morning and wrap up with a large white wine afterwards?  That was it.  A job.

It’s 9.20am.  The application form you left out last night is now a paper aeroplane.  You would print off a new one but somebody decided printer ink would make a suitable replacement for the squeezy paint you couldn’t buy because there’s just no money.

Well, if you’ve got no money, they say.  Get a job.

Zero hour contracts get a bad rep. You’re lazy.  Trying to pass yourself off as employed whilst barely working.  Well, yes, perhaps, if you’re a drop-out student who just cannot part with the luxury that is sleeping til noon followed by Le Grand Brunch of Pot Noodle.  But there’s another demographic out there, who want in.

I present to you the working mum.  She spends 81 minutes a day looking after her children (OECD).  The working dad, at just 43 minutes- well that just flat-out breaks my heart.  So this begs the question: if they need to work, want to work but don’t want to raise a child whose bond with his carer trumps his bond with his parents, what exactly is so wrong with zero hour contracts to prompt calls to ban them entirely?

It’s not rocket science.  A happy worker is a productive worker. It forms the backbone of any HR project worth its salt.  A human being operates at optimum functionality when his/ her symbiotic state says yes, much like Goldilocks (who too needs her porridge just right), I have just the right amount of salt. Put me under too much stress and I’ll lose all my salt.  I will suffer and so will my children.

Give me too little salt, and I will be under-productive.  My children will not be amused by beans on toast for the sixth night in a row and I will spend my days rummaging around my flat, desperately seeking that thing I used to have they call self-esteem.

Now give me just the right amount.  Ah, and the lord spake and it was good.

So what is ‘good’?  Well, good is happy.   And if happy means seeing my child mastering lunch with me still working, it comes as no surprise that CIPD surveys find zero hour contract workers “just as satisfied with their jobs as the average UK employee”.  Perhaps this is due to flexibility, with zero hour contract workers finding the resulting increased quality of their productivity in fact drives employers to choose them above standard workers (the employer here, benefits too).  Zero hour contract employees are still employees and as such, not excluded from insurance. Neither are they obligated to source their own work policies or any procedures for their clients.

But there are downsides.  Not entitled to maternity leave, redundancy payment, and often left wanting to commit to more hours, life as a zero hour contract worker is tough.  Poor credit ratings and running the risk of being deemed ‘inflexible’ all point towards a potentially bleak future.

But let’s not forget who we’re looking at, here.  The zero hour contract employees themselves.  What are they saying?  The CIPD again reports that “only 14% report their employer often or very often fails to provide them with sufficient hours to have a basic standard of living” and “80% saying they are never penalised for being unavailable to work”.  Perhaps most demonstrative of contentment within the sector, “80% are not looking for another job” (Work Foundation).

I have zero contracts, zero mortgage, zero husbands and zero children. I really should write more about things that really really affect me.