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Archive for the ‘work life balance’ Category

Not a Morning Person

In Health, humor, Office humor, work life balance on June 2, 2014 at 01:02

As related by a friend and fellow slave

 

As the minutes pass into hours and hours turn into the morning, you realise time is unforgiving. It is cold and consistent. No wonder you are not on good terms with it.

If you were to plot a graph of the number of hours you sleep, it would be a morbidly declining picture. But wake up you must for you have got for yourself what is called a day job. And after years of doing it you have realised that it would be fair to say you are not a morning person.


not a morning person

After your second visit to the loo and the third rerun of Two and a Half Men, you shudder to even look at the watch. Various methods including multiple alarms on different devices, keeping the curtains ajar and paying the watchman to knock on your door at 7 am every morning have ensured you hold on to your job. In hindsight it seems like one continuous nightmare with interludes of hazy wakefulness…at least it pays the bills.

two-half-men-charlie-sheen

And it has taken a toll on your circadian rhythms. You find yourself wrestling with sleep even on weekends. It is hard enough training yourself to be one type of person; there is no place to fit in a weekend mode in there. It doesn’t help that the watchman doesn’t keep track of what day it is.

It is 3 am and every cell of your body is crying for a reboot. You tell yourself to power through it for one more day even though you know by now that the tomorrow of work-life balance never comes. The tomorrow when you go to bed early, have an apple in the morning and ditch coffee for green tea is a modern day myth.

Lack of sleep or lack of coffee

You check your calendar: One client visit, two meetings and three con-calls. So you decide to suck it up, you double check your alarms and order your brain to stop thinking. Being professional is a 24-hour job.

coffee-you-can-sleep-when-youre-dead

At ten minutes past eleven, you realise being professional is overrated. A full blast of sunlight through the window is accompanied by a half-cake recipe being discussed on the telly. The morning rush has passed and all you can hear is a distant dog barking, a bored baby crying and maybe even an odd bird chirping. It’s like you hit a fast-forward button in your brain. You even get a fleeting feeling of what they call…peace.

Truman In case I don't see you

Then you check your phone: three missed calls, two skipped meetings and one defaulted radio taxi pick-up. But the world didn’t end.

Calvin Stars

There are more missed calls coming in. You switch off the phone and look out of your window. Time is cold, consistent and unforgiving. The least you can do is forgive yourself once in a while.

 

– J.

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

In humor, Interpersonal, work life balance on September 18, 2013 at 23:43

A long lost acquaintance suddenly pings you on LinkedIn. Now, if it was a long-lost friend, you would have been pleasantly surprised but with an acquaintance, you just do the bare formalities: Alive? Working? Married? Kids? Good.

This acquaintance is likely to be one of the slower kids in school or the guy with the thick frames in college.  Let’s just say he would not be on your list of people you wouldn’t mind being stranded on an island with. But he is also the kind of guy who makes you feel sorry for feeling sorry for him.  So you play along.

Banya Seinfeld

A couple of pleasant surprises later, he asks you out. To a cup of coffee. At this point, it is ok to be a little worried. I mean, a tangential orientation would explain a lot, not that you would know.

Cover of "Don't Say Yes When You Want to ...

It seems you will have to buy the book ‘Don’t say yes when you want to say no’ by Herbert Fensterheim. But before you do, you have one awkward cup of coffee on your hand. It isn’t for the first couple of minutes until your acquaintance asks: ‘Tell me about your dreams. What do you want to be in life?’

flying-car

You give him a wtf look. And supplement it with a quick summary of your CV. He says, ‘No no, I want to know your dreams. We all have dreams but in our busy schedules…’

And he lays it on you. His spiel. The pitch that will change your life. The whole nine yards. Boy, is he going for the homerun or what? A mix of startlement and amusement keep you from breaking his onslaught.

im_less_awkward_coffee_mug

At the end of it, you deem it appropriate to counter with an anti-climax: ‘I will think about it. I will call you.’

You would like to think this is the end of it. But it’s not. Several phone calls and a face-to-face with one your acquaintance’s ‘Senior partners**’ later, you are finally off the program. All you could say was, ‘I don’t think so but I will get back to you.’ And you had to say this at least fifteen times before they let you go. It was hard for them, seeing as in how they were going to change your life and stuff.

They never told you what they were selling. ‘The product is not important,’ he would say, ‘we can sell anything.’ He didn’t exactly say, ’We are in the business of selling dreams.’ And that would not have surprised you.

Singapore-Sky-Garage-Apartments

You find out later that several of your friends have endured the same coffee shop routine. In fact, at the same coffee shop. The same pitch. The same shit about dreams. Just a different acquaintance and a different lead.

Asaram-Bapu

Your garden variety employer does not talk to you about your dreams but puts on paper the means to achieve them, should you choose to accept it. Godmen do not talk about the means, not scientifically anyhow, but keep brainwashing you about the end. And nothing short of eternal happiness at that. Multi-level Marketing poses as the best of both enticing you with the yuppie notion of ‘Do what you love, love what you do’.

But if you like it; it would not be work, duh’. And if you don’t like making cold calls to every last contact in your sphere of reference over a forcefully pert cup of coffee, tell them so.

Awkward Coffee Meetings

SlavesInc. recommends: Don’t freaking say yes when you want to say no.

– J.

2012 in Omnishambles

In Blogging, Office humor, SlavesInc, true enlightenment, work life balance on December 31, 2012 at 21:31

If you were to make a flip book of yourself sitting at your desk through the seasons, you would get changing surroundings and decor against an unchanging expression on your face. Quarters, interns and festivals come and go. You and your desk endure. But don’t pat yourself on the back yet.

Seasons
Enduring is just the start of it. Each year brings with it a realization of the pedestrian nature of things and the Olympian effort needed to break free of it. It is like the beginning of a sequel where what you thought was the climax turns out to be just foreplay. And like all sequels, you don’t want to have one too many, lest it starts to stink.

superstorm       Vote Gangnam

Between Superstorms and superstyles, the world almost ended. At least it was fun to think for a while that it would. But the best we could get was Omnishambles.

DKR

2013 will hold similar promise for both the mundane and the magnificent. There will be rickety printers, pointless meetings and machine coffee to keep you busy. There will be Mondays, multi-tasking and motivation (sic) to keep you distracted. You will find humor in new places while some of the old stuff won’t even seem funny anymore.

Greatness v/s obscurity, Open skies v/s fluorescent lighting, Freedom to fail v/s Stress to succeed. You will feel like an ant that has to move a mountain, a twig that has to resist bending in a storm, a pawn too small to matter in a system too big to fail.

bankersThere will be times when you will miss the good old ignorance, the days of clueless pursuit and nights of dreamless sleep. Innocence lost is not a big price to pay. For life begins with awareness.

Master Oogway

 

2012 SlavesInc. Annual Report.

Here’s a patronizing excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 25,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

– J.

Season’s Meetings

In Festivals, Head Slave, Office humor, work life balance on December 25, 2012 at 05:58

Seasons are what you see on TV or read in the news. Work drags on in cycles or rather, a death spiral. In the lab that is your office, climate control and uniform lighting keep the seasons and the sun at bay. You go by proxies to keep track of the outside world. The odd kite marooned in the parking lot says the end of winter is nigh. The admin dept. dusting out the old plastic X’mas tree signals the end of the year.

Prince Charles Weather Man

HS confirms the news:
‘Gentlemen, X’mas is upon us. And we haven’t even gotten off the ground yet with our mailers.’

‘Season’s greetings?’

‘Yes, but with coupons. Those stamps don’t come free you know. We estimate that even if 5% of customers use the coupons, the campaign would have paid for itself. Anything beyond that is profit!’

HS is clearly in love with his marketing skills. You are in doubt as to whether 5% would even open the envelope. Since you have not even had your first shot of caffeine yet, you decide to conserve your energy instead.

‘Thousands of coupons need mailing. This is not going to be easy gentlemen,’ he was being unusually honest.

‘But don’t worry. I have a plan,’ he was going quite out of his way here. ‘All of you leave whatever you doing. Whatever you are doing, just drop it. We can’t go home till all the envelopes are dispatched. No matter how late it gets, no matter how messy. The envelopes are our priority from now till X’mas Eve. ‘

Christmas-Office

And so they are. In fact, the envelopes are the closest you will get to X’mas this year. You and 4 other unfortunate slaves. You arrange yourselves in a mini assembly line: address, personalised message, signing and attaching the coupon being the steps involved. You try to imagine yourselves as little elves working round the clock to bring joy to the world. But the fact that you are peddling coupons for a hand sanitizer reminds you that you are working round the clock only because you have to and it brings you closer to the end of the month.

Elves at work

If targetted TV programs have taught us anything, it is that if miracles are to happen, this is the time. So you leap for a mini-miracle of your own. You urge your fellow slaves to see the envelopes as a stumbling block to holiday bliss. You try to rally them into the fastest way to finish the task at hand. But years of conditionaing gets in the way. You end up quarelling over the nuttitest of things like whether the order in which you sign the envelopes should follow seniority or whether the use of glitter pens confers an unfair advantage?

bizarro-comic-santa-christmas-a-better-job-elfs

Its 8 pm, 500 envelopes still await your attention and there is talk of complaining to HS how Mr. A took up too much space to sign his name and how Mr. B took the top spot that should have been reserved for HS himself. X’mas is pretty much written off. This is when rare inspiration dawns on you. You take the soup you have ordered and empty the contents on to the pending heap of envelopes. You make sure almost every last envelope is smeared hot’n’sour.

Before your fellow inmates find their wits to verbalize their shock you are in HS’ cabin. You tell him you tripped, you spilled the soup, there are no more envelopes left, you apologize and you leave.

You wish them a Merry X’mas and you walk out into the remainder of the evening’s magic.

christmas-evening

Seasons are what you see on TV or read in the news. The real tempest is what’s on your mind.

– J.

Sabbath-ical

In humor, Retirement, SlavesInc, work life balance on December 12, 2012 at 12:26

Fresh ground coffee, sunlight and a leisurely stillness. The closest you will ever get to these things is on a wallpaper. That and your day dreams, if you are still capable, of dreaming i.e. If you are not, we have a product for that (more on that later).

Day Dreaming 1

You get a glimpse on sleepy Sunday afternoon, at a long lunch break and over some particularly foul-tasting coffee. And it vanishes, with the next e-mail, the next ping and the next back ache.

You kill the thought in its infancy before it escapes your lips. You laugh it off yourself before others have a chance. But it persists. Like a faithful puppy. You try to explain to it that the world is a cruel place that does not have the patience to humor fluffy dreams. But it just barks back at you.

So you throw it a bone sometimes. You do the only thing that does not require intellectual or testicular fortitude. You Google it. And you find there is a website for that too: yoursabbatical.com

YourSabbatical.com

Tips and tricks, products and services, news and…research! It’s all here. It has an All-you-ever-wanted-to-know condescendence about it. It says that even in your most personal dreams, you are as ordinary as a consumer. And we have just the product for you!

Black Sabath Heaven and Hell

Every day that you procrastinate, more seemingly novel business ideas are being taken by those with a greater supply of kash, kismet and kahoonas, or a combination thereof. The economics of it all is staring you right in the face. Get rich soon or die trying.

50 Cent

The ancients believed dreams tell us what we need to know. Dreams of the modern man may not be more than a noxious mixture of last night’s TV shows and his last Happy Meal. But they can still provide mild entertainment. One thing is clear: We did not crawl out of trees to rot at a desk all day.

–          J.

The Drop of Diwali

In Festivals, Holidays, Office humor, work life balance on November 12, 2012 at 15:26

‘Mr. Pai?’

Speaking

I am calling to confirm your office address

My office address? What for?

For the drop.

Err…

It is that time of the year Mr. P

But what is it?

Let’s just call it a surprise

(now in a whisper) But I…don’t like surprises. Nor does my boss. It is against policy in fact.

We can always send it to your home

(now in a quiver) My home?

That’s right

But…I can’t

Tell you what Mr. P…Here’s what I am going to do. I am going to hang up this phone and wait. If you want, you can message me your home address in the next half an hour. After that…the window closes

Click.

Yes this is what you do on holidays. No, unfortunately, you do not work for the mob. At least that way you could have saved on tax. You are a regular slave at a regular galley. In fact, you seem to be worse than regular for only you seem to be working today.

So on D-day when no orders are being punched, you can still come to office and guess what? Decorate the place! That’s right. It was not exactly part of your job description. But here it is. Do it and act like you are loving it or be a non-conformist.

With the number of hours you spent rowing, your fellow slaves are more of a family to you than your blood ties. So might as well observe all sins and seasons at your desk. In fact, anything you can do at home, you can do it at office. It is really taking the work-life balance to the next level where all traces of life are wiped out. All traces of personal life anyway.

What do you do on Diwali anyhow? Dress in garish new clothes, put on some lights and ingest some suspect confectionary, right? You can do that here. Come on over. And what else? Give and receive gifts? Mostly give? Tell you what, we can do that too. In fact, we should do it. How can we not treat our customers like family? All these mass produced and bulk procured gifts are not going to mail themselves. And a courier service is just not personal enough. So you have to take this opportunity to further our relations with our customers.

On your ninth call, you start feeling better. You feel like you have effectively killed Diwali and survived! Leave it to business to create clarity. Festivals and holidays are not a time to get together, pay respect to our ancestors and in general create a hum of good wishes. Festivals and holidays are a time to shop. And you can do without this vacuous consumption. You work here long enough and Nirvana doesn’t seem that unattainable.

But you still can’t get over the fact that only you are working today.

You and Mr. Pai. And he did come around by the way. In half an hour, he messaged his residential address. Just when you need your faith in humanity restored, it fails you miserably. But at least, it doesn’t give no false hope.

– J.

Life Spans and Short Cuts

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, Technology, work life balance on October 29, 2012 at 04:08

Your brow is sweaty, your heart’s a beating and you sense a vague but seldom felt emotion…that of being alive! Maybe it is a mix of adrenaline and testosterone coupled with (shudder) normal blood sugar. You have not exactly jumped out of a plane but in a nine-to-five cityscape, this is the closest you can get to physical exercise.

Walking. That’s right. Plain old walking. On your own two feet. Imagine that. Just like our ancestors who climbed out of the trees.  That is all you have to do for good health is what some ‘experts’ will have you believe. But it also all you can do for good health. Fair trade. But even you know that walking while eating a king size cheese burger is just fooling yourself.

And to think all it took to get you vertical and in a non air-conditioned environment was a series of seemingly unrelated cross-leveraged events, like Cloud Atlas. Powers that be in your galley decided the long term cost of employee insurance would take us all down like the Titanic. Gone are the good old days when you could select your slaves by looking at their dentures and shooting them dead when they were too frail to pick in the fields. Now, you have cover for their medical expenses. What a scam!

WalkOn they call it, for lack of a better name. And quite a pile on it is. Each employee is given a Pedometer, you know, those devices that magically count the number of steps you take. They are kind of like cattle tags except you can harness them on your person without the need for painful piercing in the absence of anesthesia. The cost has probably been claimed as depreciation already. But a lot of pomp is beaten up citing ‘employee engagement’. You have heard the word ‘care’ so many times over the past few weeks; it has begun to sound like something dangerous. They just stopped short of getting Johnny Walker to sponsor it. Something about company policy and alcohol came in the way. It was close.

So if you haven’t got it by now, here is the dough: Fat employees eating up too much insurance-Need to whip them into shape-No time left after insanely long office hours and working on weekends-Gyms too expensive-Simplest way is to make the blobs walk-But they are bound to cheat-So we stick them with cattle tags linked through the magic of GPS to their Slave numbers (employee IDs) and hence their insurance benefits and salary accounts-Wrap this all up in the shiny gift wrapping paper of employee engagement and…

There is one problem. Motivation. Yes, it is in short supply. We can’t give out more green, if anything, we should be giving out less. So you tie it with up with team building-KRA- inter-department-competition hoopla, add weekly updates via mass automated mailing and voila – Healthier Slaves!

It is a modern day miracle.

So on a typical Monday morning, typical meetings begin as such:

Colleague X: Hey, we can’t start, J is not here

HS:  Oh I have put him on…another assignment

Colleague X: You mean the new product? That is a dead end

HS: No-no. This is a very important assignment; he is taking one for the team

You see, walking is a team activity with team goals and you can’t expect to HS to be out walking when there is millions worth of business walking past us. So you agree to do his part of the walking and a little bit more. It is a pain to carry a change of clothes and sneakers. You look like you are going out hunting in the morning and your use of deodorants has increased significantly. But any bit of work-life balance is welcome, random events and ulterior motives be damned.

PS: The Pedometer is not a very smart device; it continues counting even when you take a bus. It gives you a feeling of bastardly smugness, like a Hedge fund manager. But that is not how you were raised.

– J.

Courtesy Call

In humor, SlavesInc, work life balance on September 22, 2012 at 05:18

You are spent, disillusioned and disoriented. But it is still blinking. And a blinking smart phone has to be answered. You may feel like you are being professional, displaying the height of courtesy even. But the thing about courtesy is; it is seldom extended willingly, like it ought to be. What is extended is obligation. And this obligation travels around the world and comes back to you smugly disguised as civility. You return the gesture in clockwork.

You used to think to-do lists were lame. Now you can’t function without them. You also have a to-call list. And right now, there are three entries left, begging to be checked off:

  1. Your girl-friend whose 7 missed calls you are yet to return. (Alright, she is not your girl friend. But she may very well be)
  2. Your mail-only colleague who has sent the 4th reminder for the 3rd quarter report you had promised you would send 2 days ago

And

  1. The air-conditioner servicing guy who has already gone back twice because you were not at home

What you really want to do is doze off right there on the sofa in your formals. Unfortunately, that option does not feature on the list. So you pick up the phone and hit the little green button to call her. Then you immediately hit the little red button. You just don’t have enough left in the tank, not even enough to sound courteous.

A nap on the sofa it is, in your formals, to hell with it!

If only sleep was to come that easy. You have too many to-dos swimming around in your brain. TV and hot chocolate it is. After flipping through various abominations, you settle with a rather queer choice, Devil Wears Prada. It is more of the protagonist’s enslavement to her job and phone rather than the wardrobe that gets you hooked.

Miranda Priestly may make Head Slave look like an amateur. But the similarities are uncanny.

Even in your disorientation, one scene really sticks with you. Having had it with the protagonist’s constant engagement over the phone, the boyfriend says:

“You know, in case you were wondering – the person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in. I hope you two are very happy together. ”

Don’t you hate it when chick flicks teach you something about your life?

You know what you have to do. You pick up the damn smart phone, hit the little green button and tell her that you’ve got your priorities messed up. You tell her you are in so deep that you need time to set them priorities right. You also tell her she doesn’t need to wait for that fateful day. You also wish her best of luck.

Now that is courtesy.

– J.

Just a little whiter

In humor, Office humor, SlavesInc, work life balance on September 11, 2012 at 02:15

Your sleep is always the first one to go. You have given up TV a long time ago. And you wouldn’t know socializing if it hit you in the face. All that is left now is daily sanitation and bare essential communication with family. Not unless it is required.

And it will all pay off today. For today is ‘The Big Meeting’ also known as ‘Annual Game Plan’ or ‘The Hunger Games’ depending on your perspective. They don’t care if you have not eaten or slept or even bathed in days. But you had better be there; on time, prepared and in company colours.

So you yell at your wife or mother or laundry guy or whoever is unfortunate enough to be associated with you coz you have got to have your white shirt. And it has got to be whiter than the Joe sitting next to you in the meeting. Sure, it sounds like a stretch, a little extreme maybe. But it is the little things you know, that add up to hard work and make you eligible to be considered for progress.

Right?

No one gave you anything else to believe in. Having found yourself in this job with a poorly articulated urge of ‘doing something big’, you are going to give it all you have got.

On D-day, you seem to have everything covered, except the white shirt. Joe seems to be dressed whiter. Or maybe it is just the lights. For someone sitting at the opposite end of the table, your team of four seems ready to be in a Tide ad!

Your smile tries to defy the lines on your face borne out of sleepless nights. The tapping of your fingers tries to defy the slight restlessness that has built up in your system. Most other people at the table look similarly haggard. So no brownie points there. Hours fly by but you have not got a chance yet to share all the work you have done for the occasion. You become anxious and try to break into conversations. But the powers that be have more important things to discuss first then your little brand presentation.

And boy, do they discuss it or what? The sun has almost finished its journey across the sky and the discussion still seems young. You have given up and are now surfing wiki instead of making the nth touch-up on you master piece.

Then it ends, abruptly. HS just remembered another meeting he had scheduled. No brand presentation, no lime light, no nothing. You put in all the long yards and threw fits to get your white shirt and probably lost a few years of life expectancy over nothing. You and your team almost spontaneously take off the choke chains around your respective throats when the meeting ends. Doesn’t matter who is whiter now.

You could have worn a blue shirt and it would not have made a difference. Because this is a freaking Microcosm. It has its own rules and its own God. And it has its own little rewards and punishments. It has enough carrots dangling to keep you paddling till you die or retire, whichever comes first.

At least next time, you won’t trouble your laundry boy.

–          J.

These Four Walls

In Retirement, SlavesInc, work life balance on July 24, 2012 at 04:16

‘What can I say about Mr. Roy?’ was the HR lady’s unimaginative but honest start.

Toasts are hard, eulogies are harder. They are hard to deliver, perhaps even harder to sit through. Yet we indulge in them. We struggle and we hope to find meaning. The really good ones continue to be those that are rehearsed and on TV!

This one is turning out to be excruciating. Mr. Roy is standing there in a flannel blazer surprisingly with no elbow pads. He is flanked by two similarly grey men.

‘I have known Mr. Roy for over two decades. Back then, we were called Supreme Pvt Ltd. Then we got taken over by Axel Labs in the year 1995. In the year 200…

…People leave companies. In our case, companies leave us.’

That was a joke.

A couple of forgettable recollections later, it is now Mr. Roy’s turn to try to utter something befitting the occasion.

He looks like a man not used to wearing a suit and not used to being the center of attention. He seems ready but awkward. He is sad but smiling, hesitant but resigned.

‘I joined this company in June of 1980. We used to sell brass polish back then. SS bras polish we used to call it…sold lots of those. Many of you were probably not even born back then. I have done pretty much everything there is to do here. It’s…it’s been good. This is a good company. My son is going to graduate next year…You spend so much time here, here in office, I barely noticed him growing up. I…I have spent my whole life here, 5 to 6 days a week, for my family. And you have become my family, of sorts. I…don’t know what I will do next, I have my pension, you know…’

The man behind Mr. R tugged at his arm, stopping him mid-sentence. A hushed conversation followed. Roy glanced towards the crowd smiling as if to reassure.

‘Thank…thank you.’ he finally said and walked out.

Later you see him clearing out his desk, talking assuredly with his replacement. He takes down the poster in his cubicle that says:

‘Never

ever

ever

ever

ever

give up!’

A true SlavesInc. moment.

You look up at your own poster, the one you have in your cube. It says:

‘I once had a dream that my world was bigger than these four walls’.


– J.