It’s been a while since I last blog posted! Plenty has changed since 2019. Who would have thought that a freaking pandemic would bring the whole world to a screeching halt, especially in the days of modern technology?
When news first broke about the requirement to socially distance and work from home, I posted the following tweet:
Are you jumping for joy that there’s Coronavirus lockdown? What does that say about your life? On average, 50% of your day is spent at work. I think a lot of people have a chance to change their paths and consider if the life they once led was the one they truly wanted.
Proof: My Tweet
I wrote that tweet back in March at the start of lockdown. My family was celebrating having a few weeks off from their jobs working at school. Their reaction rubbed me up the wrong way, with phrases like “Imagine if you were a school kid, how amazing would corona be?”, inferring that ‘summer off feeling’ to be the same as a pandemic shutting their place of work. While that mentality held true for a week or two, a month into lockdown, they hated it. They wanted to be back in the swing of things. Their days lacked a cause and although wages were still coming in, there was nowhere open to spend it.
Living with regrets
Fast forward to June and my grandad passed away. It was tough to take. My inspiration, my grandfather, a light in my life gone. After 27 years’ worth of memories together, he had left us for a better place. I was fortunate enough to say my goodbyes, a privilege that few get. It had been coming, which meant that when he passed, despite the sucker-punch, I felt at peace. My mentality was he’s no longer suffering and I knew I made all the effort to make the most of our time we could have. Each visit, I knew could potentially be the last.
The reason his death comes up in this post is because of a strange situation I found myself in afterwards. Weeks before the death in the family, I informed my small, profitable, and forward-thinking workplace of his deteriorating health situation. Now he had gone, I needed time to process before I could go back to the slog. The response back was… well. I’d have to use my holiday allowance to take the time I needed to grieve. Talk about kicking someone while they are down.
I dutifully replied to say I wouldn’t be taking allowance as its not a holiday in the slightest. For the company I helped to forge from a startup to a small business, we came to the arrangement I’d use unpaid leave to grieve for a family member.
What was stark in the family, was the difference between those treated like a number and those of whom employers cared for their employees. For instance, members of the family that loved to be away from the school in lockdown were being asked to come in the day after my Grandad’s death. I quote “You need to learn the difference between the death of a father and grandfather” as was put to my brother by his headteacher, as she reasoned why my aunt had more lenient time off.
Grieving and now offended, we sat in the garden for the majority of the three days we spent as a family. Each of us flabbergasted how in 2020 these practices are welcomed by the government. While searching for answers, I found their guidance on bereavement policy was piss-poor. “There is no statutory bereavement leave in the UK. Employees can take a “reasonable” number of days off as time off for dependants but this time is to deal with an emergency situation, including the death of a dependant.” That’s right, there is no requirement for any days at all for death in the family. I understand there is a fine balance to be made here and can be a touchy subject. For instance, who determines which family members or even friends constitute a certain time off work? In this societal mess we have today, often the structure of a nuclear household doesn’t stand as strong today. I’m not arguing that there are other touchy questions too like perhaps it could be better to be back in the office and at what point does an employer become a counsellor?
In a time where mental health is spoken more publicly in the media when it comes to the darkest corners in life, our bereavement laws just don’t stand up.
There must be a balance nowadays for employers taking care of employee welfare. I shouldn’t have to visit a doctor to be diagnosed with stress or depression to simply have a meaningful allowance to grieve.
Thankfully, I can look back during this time with no regrets. I treated my Grandad how I’d like to be treated. I treated my employer how I’d like to be treated in their shoes, but I got spat in my face.
The better you treat people, the fewer regrets you will have as you treated that person with respect to how you’d like to be treated yourself.
What was ironic was how members of the family who celebrated the school during lockdown were treated. They had to drag their heels back into work and the headteacher I mentioned earlier, staggers belief she still has a job. Spending those few days together as a family, we openly discussed how appalling we were each being treated. We were treated like a number, to complete a job. Referring back to my tweet at the start of lockdown, do I want that in my life?
As a reminder, I wrote “Are you jumping for joy that there’s Coronavirus lockdown? What does that say about your life? On average, 50% of your day is spent at work. I think a lot of people have a chance to change their paths and consider if the life they once led was the one they truly wanted.” At the time, glad for the position I held. But business finds its way to irritate and politics to get in the way of career progression. I was sick of promised never-to-arrive benefits and broken promises. I seized the chance to change my career.
Fast forward just two months, and we each have new positions
My aunt, offended by her employer’s attitude towards her nephew swiftly left her position as a teaching assistant. She was snapped up by a new school, surrounded by happy and engaged staff.
My brother handed in his notice last week and is about to start his PE teaching career on a fresh footing.
As for me, I’m about to start my dream job as a Web Designer.
I can only speak for myself, but when I handed in my notice on Monday just gone, my employer was taken aback. One of the first employees they had hired, who put much of the work into where they are today was leaving with his head held high. The roles and responsibilities I have picked up will be further diluted into those who remain to be treated as second class. The revolving door of business simply doesn’t care.
Which, brings me to a conclusion in a rambling, yet direct blog post. The better you treat people, the fewer regrets you will have as you treated that person with respect to how you’d like to be treated yourself. It’s a fantastic mantra to follow in all works of life and in business too, a phrase that popped into my head while on my lockdown walks. It’s not that I’m asking for the world, it’s asking for a progressive and trusting workplace. There’s a brilliant book recommended to me during my time working at Disney Interactive. It’s called Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. I highly recommend giving that a read to show how a business should treat its people – they are the foundation of where businesses are today.
Whenever I have left a job, often I am offered a counter-offer to stay. Whether that be more money, more responsibilities, or a fresh job title… I’m afraid by then, the damage has already been done. Often you see companies try to make amends where they haven’t done the right thing at the start. If you treat people how you’d like to be treated, then you should have very few regrets. The same goes for business.
I finish this blog post with a brilliant video from the great Steve Jobs. While writing, it had been re-posted to my LinkedIn feed by Matt Carroll, my former mentor at Disney Interactive and current COO of Sports Interactive. I think sometimes, things aren’t a coincidence. And whether you have seen the below before or not, give it the 15-minute watch it deserves. That spark of inspiration may be just what you need today.
I’m about to pull myself from the despair you often find in IT Support and I couldn’t be happier. Treating my employers with the utmost respect and creating them stunning websites beyond my job description brought me here. I know there are bigger problems in the world than climbing the career ladder during this time. But if you look back on your life with a huge number of regrets, what kind of a life did you lead? Stand up for yourselves, because no one else will.
Till the next time folks, I’m about to start my dream job!