Lazy Luddite Log

30.5.12

Contract

The contract role I described here is concluding this week. This is different from the end of every other job I have had because pretty much the whole workforce is concluding its task on the same date. We end on Friday with a big party but even now we have started tidying desks and removing all stationary and documents that belong to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It will be a bit odd I suppose to vacate my desk of several months and lose all but incidental and passing contact with a lot of fun workmates.

I return to the comment I made last time - this has been an enlightened employer and I have made pretty good use of it. Getting my flu-shot at work... taking a long lunch to give blood at the City Bloodbank... engaging in a "jobseeking skills" workshop... It has all been useful in some way or another. Even the course of conversations I had with a psychologist some months ago was interesting both in that it helped clarify a few things and also gave me a sense that possibly I am a well-adjusted and centred person who just happens to have Life (TM) happen to him sometimes.

I will admit however that in recent weeks the work has gotten dull. In a work meeting I introduced the phrase "stimulus variation" - a thing we have lost as the Census processing project has progressed. Luckily as the tasks have become homogenous the interactions with workmates have become more satisfying. We make our own fun in the form of sharing the newspaper trivia quizzes or playing with jigsaw puzzles or just gas-bagging (all during designated rests naturally).

One thing I started once I got more confident of my role in the setting was what I dubbed Show And Tell Friday. My rationale was that we cannot have Casual Dress Friday as other workplaces do (since every day is casual dress day) and needed something to distinguish the last day of the week. I started bringing in odd things to put on my desk - anything from Transformers to hats - and then a few others started to do likewise. After a few weeks of this a supervisor asked me if it was okay with me if they made it a department-wide practice. Naturally I approved - to have ones own meme take off is always flattering. And I can understand why they did it - they too knew that we had lost stimulus variation.

In taking stock I think I have benefitted in terms of the life structure that comes from work and the confidence of having a secure income. I will now see how well I do looking for work and managing with savings. I will also regard coming weeks as a bit of a holiday which is what contractors need to do. There will also be some fun and festivity. As for my future work preferences - time with the ABS has very much reinforced for me that work environment and ethos is central to the enjoyment and value of any role even if the role itself may be rather pedestrian. However I cannot end on that note because I have a specific anecdote to recall...

This was in some ways a "vital services" sort of role. The data provided by the Australian Census Of Population And Housing is consulted by governments in deciding on how to spend many millions of tax dollars in a huge array of public and community services. Most of the time the stuff I was data-entering was sterile to me. However I did have a moment a few months ago in which - just for an instant - my mind inadvertently decided to try and comprehend what was happening in our workplace across a few levels. I was at that moment 'coding' info from one household and across our workplace over many months pretty much all Australian households were getting data-entered. At that comprehension I silently lost my shit. This is a small nation but even so what we have done was a huge undertaking and one I'm happy to have been part of.

Cross-posted here.

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