Rough days

Today is a rough day. It’s been coming on for the last few days. It’s what it’s like in these times. A few good days, a few indifferent days, a few bad days.

There probably is something merely cyclical to it, a propensity, or vulnerability after every so long. That’s how it was before. In this case, it’s been hurried on by circumstances.

I’m a very busy man at work. I’ve commented on that before. I feel pretty stretched thin at times, and at times I feel as if things don’t let up then I’ll end up burnt out. I give myself until Christmas when thankfully I have a break.

I’m on a bunch of projects and some of them high profile. I’m doing most of the work because, as I’ve mentioned before, it becomes easier to do it yourself than it is to wait for someone else to do it. There’s one project, particularly which is tricky and complex and there’s pressure from on high to get it on. I have to report up to the board regularly.

I don’t have complete control over the project because the build itself must be done by our vendor partner, who is very unreliable, both in terms of responsiveness and the quality of their work. To be fair, they’re just as stretched thin as we are.

For me, it’s frustrating because I can never get any traction. They’re slow to get things done and then it’s wrong anyway. There’s a great sense of powerlessness when you’re busier than is healthy and yet you must wait for others to respond and do their thing. And all the while the work piles up and the logjam grows.

On Friday it came to a head when we came to test the latest version and found it greatly lacking. I just want this behind me so I can move onto the next thing and have one less thing to worry about. Instead, I must go back to the vendor with the issues documented in detail, including the to-be, and, hopefully, come up with solutions.

At the same time, I have to manage the expectations upstream of me. I don’t want to rush anything into production that isn’t right, but I’m mindful of how much is riding on this. Then there’s the program of work this is holding up. And there’s a question in the back of my mind, why are we spending so much time on this when we seem certain to deploy a replacement application early next year?

To compound all this, I have no cut-out. There’s no-one I can turn to assist in any meaningful way and no-one who has the knowledge to provide another opinion of merit. It’s all on me.

I was exasperated on Friday, and the general fatigue that’s been present for a while closed in on me. I had an uncomfortable experience on Friday night and for most of the weekend felt wasted. It was certainly a physical sense, but also very much a mental thing.

That’s a big part of the problem with working from home these days – you’re always in your workplace. My home was my sanctuary before. I could leave my problems in the office and retreat to the secure environs of my home. Now that there’s never any variation – never any office time, not even any social time out – it feels as if my home has become infected by my work.

I’ve turned up to ‘work’ again today and done all the things I needed to do, including sending an email upstream flagging the problems we have, and potential consequences. I’ve touched base with the vendor, written documentation, sent emails, kept busy.

I’m buggered, though. I can easily see myself needing a break, and I guess it’s lucky there’s a couple of public holidays in the offing. What I really need is a proper break, as in a change of scenery: me, and everyone else.

I’ll pull it all together; I’ll manage a way through – because I always do. Doesn’t feel a healthy way to be, though.

Just as an aside, I mentioned a week or so ago how I felt a disconnect between the man who does the work and the man writing these words. I had a dream the other day. In it, I was with a friend, and we were waiting for someone else to join us. When he didn’t arrive, we went out searching for him. It was midway through the search that I realised that the man we were searching for was me! But here I was! Wasn’t I?

It was a curious dream and a curious feeling. What do they call that? Dis-association?

Working the project from home

I think there’s little doubt that working from home is more difficult than in the office and, arguably, makes you busier also.

My experience is that I have to do more of everything. About 60% of my work is project-based. In a normal project with a team around you, you might do about 50% of the stuff as project lead. I reckon that’s up around 80% since we started working from home, and a lot of that is extra ‘running around’.

The main reason for this are issues around communication and being face to face. Outside of scheduled meetings, you’ll need to correspond and contact others, and occasionally you’ll need a prompt response. In the office, if someone doesn’t respond to a message or phone call then I can walk across the floor to speak with them directly. That’s not an option now.

It really depends on the individual, but I’ve found a lot of people are either slow to respond or non-responsive in general. I don’t have the option to tap them on the shoulder, so in the absence of anyone to help I’ll often spend time figuring it out myself. When there’s no-one to delegate to, you can’t delegate.

It’s the same when trying to explain concepts or discuss an issue. In the office, you can look at a screen together or draw something up on a whiteboard. It’s easier by phone when you connect, but imperfect. When you’re doing it by Teams and there’s a gap of hours between replies, then it’s torturous.

I’ve always been big on visual aids because that’s how I think. I’m a wiz at Visio and creating flowcharts and diagrams is second nature to me. They become ever so more important in times like these because, in a sense, they replace the whiteboard. What it means is that I must put more effort into creating these and putting together documentation so that we, in our disparate locations, have a common understanding of what we’re working on.

I guess the other thing is that in the office you’re basically dealing with two different locations – the office and the office of the vendor partner. Now that we’re all working from home there are multiple locations to deal with. I can’t see what’s going on and, as a control freak, that eats away at me.

There’s an interesting psychology here I haven’t touched upon: why aren’t people more responsive?

There are different reasons for this. I think for some working from home allows for some personalities to revert to type. That means they’re either oblivious of the messages sent to them because they never check, or they’re happy to put off a response. Some people may be sitting on the couch. Others, I suspect, are struggling with lockdown generally, which is blunting their effectiveness.

Me, I’m much the same as I am in the office. I sit here alert and hard-driving. I’ve actually thought I should take it easier. Relax, you’re at home. Occasionally I’ll take time out to catch part of a playoff game or read a book, but the itch is always to get back to my desk. I send messages on Teams and by email, I’ll make calls, via Teams, or on my phone to the vendor, and I’ll even send SMS or WhatsApp messages when I’m not getting anywhere.

It may be that I have to accept that it’s not going to be as efficient when working in the office. I know that. I just can’t seem to accept it. It eats at me and I get grumpy. It feels sometimes as if it’s an excuse for some – particularly the vendor – to ease back. By my reckoning, projects are about 40% less effective than before – and maybe that’s a fact of life.

Sometimes an impostor

You probably know by now that I’ve been agitating for a pay rise and a promotion at work for a while. I was pretty well promised this until the pandemic hit, when all such plans went out the window. Typical. I haven’t forgotten though, and I tend to be persistent even when I don’t plan to be. It’s in the genes to take another step, and another, and so on, and it boils down generally to an unwillingness to accept defeat.

There have been conversations throughout and vague promises of things that might happen one day, and I’ve eased off a bit because it’s hard to make commitments when we’re all sitting at home in lockdown.

Then, on Thursday night, I got a message from my manager pitching an idea to me. Basically, he was saying that he was proposing that he take over a larger segment of the business and that I should step up and move into his current job. I didn’t respond at the time as I got the message late, but I was theoretically interested.

The following morning I caught up with more detail, then had a meeting with him in the afternoon. Apparently, the department was doing some forward planning and focussing on roles and individuals. As part of that, every person had to be rated on their importance to the business. Previously I’d been rated as important, but that was upgraded to essential, or vital, or whatever the terminology is – anyway, the top level. That was nice.

By the time I caught up with him, he’d been in a meeting with the powers to be and had mapped all this out. During the discussion, he’d told them – the department manager and the divisional head – that I was doing work far in advance of my job title and was entitled to a pay rise. That was very good of him, but not a great surprise – he’s a very supportive manager. What surprised me is that the departmental manager agreed with that, the result is that they’re now, supposedly, reviewing my remuneration. That’s very welcome.

The other part of their conversation was what role was best for me going forward. There was either a product owner/manager role, but working in another team, or the role identified within my existing team but heading it up. Which did I prefer? In the end, I plumped for the second option. It’s not the perfect job, but I’ve yet to come across that beast. The bonus for me is that I’d continue to work with my current manager, who I think is excellent. We have a good relationship and have implicit trust in each other. Our working styles mesh well, and I love how he gives me so much freedom. And he’s a top-notch performer.

Supposedly, the outcomes of this should be realised sometime between two weeks and two months. I’m a sceptic, but we’ll see.

This would address a lot of my concerns. Even if I only get a pay rise out of it, then I’d be happy, and that seems more likely than not. And if I were to be promoted to the new role, I’d expect a pay rise in the order of $30K – $40K. That would alleviate a lot of my financial considerations with retirement looming in the next 10-15 years.

There’s an undercurrent to all this which I felt as we were discussing it. I’ve been pushing hard for something, much from financial necessity, some from a sense of a fair go – I deserved more, and my ego had a big say in it also, as always it does. But, as I’ve articulated here before, I’m not sure if my heart is in it anymore.

I remember many years ago, my best mate at the time telling me that he wasn’t interested in taking on more responsibility. He was smart enough, but he was happy to mooch along. I couldn’t come at that. It seemed weird to me. Why wouldn’t you? It seemed me that all the interesting stuff happened when you took on more. I didn’t fear responsibility, I craved it. I was always on the march, inquisitive and creative and hungry. The bonus was that it led to better jobs and more money.

I’ve still got that hard-coded in me as a kind of universal aspiration: this is how you should be. And so, often, I still think that’s what I want – which goes against the evidence of what I actually feel, which I’m not about to repeat again now.

I discussed this with a mate the other day, and we both agreed that I had to push forward. As I said to him, the evidence is that despite what I actually feel and the occasional doubts I have that I always manage to get it done. And the proof is easy to see – my performance review was five stars across the board, and now I’m rated as essential. Plus what I do works.

There’s a disconnect, nonetheless. There’s like two of me, the one that does things and the other who watches and comments on it. The one who does things is clever and effective, though even his motivation wanes occasionally. When that happens, he reverts back to habit and experience and sheer smarts. It takes a bit more elbow grease than it used to, but it works.

Then there’s the me that looks on and wonders if this is really what I want to do. He recognises how effective his other self is. When the plaudits come in, he understands the reason and logic of it even if he doesn’t feel the glow of it. He has less confidence than he should because it feels almost fraudulent to take credit for something his other self achieved. And that’s a frequent sense. It’s probably a variation on the impostor syndrome, which is not something I’ve ever experienced before. And, even so, I only feel an ‘impostor’ because I don’t own, or feel in myself, the things I’ve done. In fact, I know I’m in the top percentile when it comes to actual capability, and I believe in that, but I don’t feel it. It doesn’t live in me.

I think part of that is that I’m just not as interested in that as I used to be. I’ve become divorced from that aspect and because of that it feels both more tenuous and phony. As if, almost, for all I’ve done before, I’m not sure I can keep doing it – even though I do. The outcome of all that is deep inside I don’t want the responsibility. The irony now is that I look like having it thrust upon me.

I’ll deal with it. I don’t think I’ll ever be as interested as I was before, or engaged, which is a more apt term, but I don’t know that I want that. I hope I can reintegrate those two selves though because it’ll make life easier, and because the hard reality of it is that I have to. I’ve still got years ahead of me working for the man. Have to make it pay.

The WFH challenge

Working from home, I sometimes wonder if the people I’m dealing with are off sometimes doing something else. I’m sure that’s a great temptation, and pretty easy, too. I reckon most people I deal with are diligent, and some probably working harder than they were back in the office. There are a few who are harder to track down often, and you wonder if they’re sitting on their couch watching the NBA playoffs. No judgment from me if they are.

It’s not anything that occurs to me. I’m sometimes reluctant to drag myself to my desk, but I never think of not doing it. You could call it a good work ethic, but really, it’s an ingrained habit, more in my body than it is in my mind. This is what I do, so I do it.

I’ve been reconsidering that in the last week. I wondered if it might not be better for me if I took it a bit easier, even if I just broke it up a bit. The sheer repetition of sitting at the same desk every day and attending the same meetings becomes numbing. There’s an instinct to break free of it, to shake off the routine and assert some agency in your life. When there’s nothing else, no getting out and about, no socialising, no variety or unpredictability, then it starts to feel a bit close.

This morning I stayed in bed 10 minutes later than I normally would. It felt strange, but then I had to get up for a meeting. I’ve thought about taking 10 minutes every hour to go off and do something for myself – or at least get away from my desk. When the weather improves, I’m considering taking my laptop and working on the patio, just occasionally. And today I actually took some time – twice – to catch-up with the aforementioned NBA playoffs. It was good, sitting on the couch, cheering on the Celtics when they got over the line, then watching the Jazz narrowly lose to the Nuggets. (No skin in that game, but I’d have preferred the Jazz to win because of Joe.)

The point is, I got way from the narrow perspective of my desk and the computer screen in front of me. I shifted my mind away from work stuff and allowed for some spontaneous entertainment. Man, if I can’t do that from home just a little bit, then I’m wasting the opportunity. And, truly, I think I need it.

We’ve been told that we’ve earned some time in lieu because of the good and hard work we’ve been doing from home. There’ve been some good business results, and my stuff accounts for a fair proportion of that. It’s nice that gets recognised.

It’s harder working from home not from a motivation point of view, but because the things that are simple in the office become manual trials working from home. I can’t just wander over to someone’s desk to ask a question or see something. I can’t work with someone cooperatively as I would before. It’s either more challenging or not even worth bothering with. You cut more corners working from home, but you also do more because it’s left to you.

I’m considering changing my routine altogether – starting later and finishing later too and mixing up my day between work and the things that take me away from work.

Metaphysical desires

After having a grizzle the other week about how every opportunity seemed closed off to me, I had a chat last week with management. It all came about because my team lead, a truly decent human being, recognised that I deserved, and maybe needed, more. He spoke to one manager, and then in passing, mentioned it to the department head. When she spoke to me, she had ideas and suggested I speak to my manager.

A lot of things are on hold currently, which I understand. The view is that I’m getting antsy about being denied what was promised to me. It’s not as simple as that – yes, I want my just rewards and am generally set by default to seek more; but, likewise, in reality, I’m not as motivated or ambitious as I used to be. There’s a lot of push-pull in me these days and will be until I reconcile it entirely. Regardless of that, there’s the very practical consideration that – having been wiped out – I need more to stash away for when retirement comes. Even so, if someone could guarantee me a relatively modest $120k pa, CPI linked, over the next 10 years, then I’d probably take it – even though I can earn much more than that.

The discussion, when I had it, didn’t touch on the metaphysics of my situation. The metaphysical rarely gets a mention when it comes to career development, and maybe that’s a good thing. It’s confusing enough without it.

What was put to me was an opportunity for a new role in a different team that would give me increased responsibilities and a bigger pay packet. In theory, not bad. Then I was told there was no budget for the role – which is new – until next financial year. At that point, the whole discussion seemed a waste of time. Then he said, well, let me have a chat and see what I can do. The inference was that maybe he could swing it much sooner. He said he’d get back to me in a couple of weeks.

As anyone who’s been reading this blog will know, this left me with confused and conflicted feelings. There’s a lot happening in this mental space. There is paradox aplenty.

I’m getting over it generally, but a recurring issue is that no-one really seems to know what I’ve done or am capable of. They’re all very complimentary of the work I’ve done with them, but I don’t think one of them has set eyes on my CV. That’s a tad disappointing, even if only at a very basic level. I claim not to care much for what people think of me, and I think that’s mostly true, but don’t we all have a fundamental need to be recognised as what we are?

I don’t know how many times I’ve looked on and thought, I’ve done that before and I could do it better. It sounds a bit snooty but I end up shrugging my shoulders and moving along. Times are different now and there’s not nearly the rigour around getting things done as there used to be, and maybe that’s why experience is overlooked. I’m steeped in practices and methodologies, but the whole principle of them has gone out of fashion. I’m happy to adapt and have, but I’m not about to forget the things I know, and it seems a waste in general and a pity that no-one bothers to check if there might be someone more qualified.

At the same time, I’m subject to people that in an earlier phase of my working life would’ve been reporting to me. I can accept that pretty well most of the time because I know that I don’t want that anymore necessarily – but nor do I necessarily want to defer or take instruction from someone who knows less than I do. I can be a bit snappy then, and experience is that people soon recognise it and let me go.

All this is true, in my mind at least, but it’s also ego. It’s the ego that puts the sauce on the objective fact. I know that. It’s what I’m trying to get away from. Let it go is what I tell myself, and after a bit of wrangling generally, I do.

These are practical considerations overlaid by the part of me that strives for more and new.

Then there’s the soul-deep part that has no part of the conversation but looks on wistfully. I don’t know how much of this is me, and my circumstances, and how much of it is stage of life. It can be interpreted as a mid-life crisis, and a lot of it aligns with that. But then, I think some of it comes from having endured what I have, been deprived of nurture through that, and coming out the other end and viewing conventional aspirations as being pretty hollow. To be honest, there was always a bit of that in me, even when I was living the high-life. Having endured the low-life since, it got reinforced.

What it means is that in my soul I want something more than a good salary and a handy sounding job title. I want to be doing something worthwhile to me. Paradoxically, I think a part of that is being my best self.

There’s a comment a friend made a few years back that’s haunted me in the last few days. He said he admired me because, like Kobe Bryant – his hero – I could invent my own shot. When I think of that the urge is to let myself go. Twirl the dial to 11. Go for it.

I just don’t know how real that is. Is it legitimate to start with? And is worthwhile if it is? Is it pure ego again? Or is that the opportunity I turn my back on because I’ve become modest?

Very strange. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when I’ve known myself less well. The broad strokes I get, the history, but I don’t know who I am really, nor who I’m supposed to be.

Surviving work

So, the other day I got an update from work advising me that my current work hours – four days a week – would continue. I’m now partway through my third month in this situation, but unlike previous updates, this didn’t have a review date. Presumably, that means it is indefinite, or until we return to the office, which is rumoured to be August/September (a friend of mine working at the Vic govt has heard unofficially they won’t be returning until 2021!).

There was a short questionnaire coming out of the office last week asking for our work preferences for when we do return. There seems a clear acceptance that it’ll be a long time until we return to the work behaviours of previous times, if ever. They asked, basically, how many days do we want in the office, and for our preference on which days. Quite a few people put just the single day, and almost every one of them selected to work early in the week. I said two days and gave Thursday/Friday as my preference – because Friday is chilled anyway, and if I want to go out for a drink I need to be in the city for it. And who wants to work on a Monday?

Financially, I’m surviving, though it’s getting tighter. The other day I did my sums and figured I was out of pocket about $2200 since the reduced hours were set (that’s the net of tax). That’s been offset by a reduction of rent of about $900, and other reduced living costs – travel, lunch/coffee, social stuff. The rent reduction is yet to be formally ratified, however, and has now ended. If for some reason they decide not to grant the application I’ll need to cough up $900 I don’t have. And though I’m saving money in some areas, I’m spending more in others – electricity, groceries, and so on.

I’m wary of what’s to come. The JobKeeper is due to end in September, which will put huge stress on employers. Standby for a second round of job cuts unless the government chooses to do something about it. I’m fearful that my reduced hours will continue beyond that and, worst-case scenario, that my salary will be seen as an expense that can be cut. Most of my job is value-add, but not critical to the day to day running of the business. This is ironic when you consider that right about now I was due to receive the promised promotion and pay rise.

Obviously, I’m reflecting on my situation, and casting an eye towards other prospects. Not many going around at the moment, which is no surprise.

I spoke to my immediate team leader earlier. Budgets have been approved, but he has no idea what it means for me. He suggested maybe I could check if the vendor I work with closely might have interest in engaging me on the day I’ve got off. That’s how much the world has changed – we’re actually encouraged to find other work in our stand-down period. In this case, it represents a fair conflict of interest, I would think. I wonder if the very fact he’s mooted it as an option is significant.

This is one reason I’m reluctant to use up my annual leave plugging the hole. I might need it if somehow I end up redundant. Right now there’s about $12K worth. That’d tide me over for a few months if push came to shove.

Stay tuned.

Taking up space

Like a lot of people in this time, I’m continuing to downsize and go through things in storage sorting things out.

I figured out last week I never use the colour laser printer I have, and therefore I don’t need it. That I’m giving away to a good home.

I’m also in and out of the garage where the boxes I have in storage. I ferret through them one by one, throwing some things out, re-organising and finding a new home for others.

The other day I came across a box I’d described as Work books. Opening it up I found a lot of the books I’d purchased over the years on subjects related to work I was interested in – project management, intranet design, SharePoint, Six Sigma, process design, productivity, and so on. There were also a bunch of ring binders. These contained loose leaf info that either came as part of a certification I’d done – Prince 2, a PM diploma, as well as various technologies I’d picked up along the way such as Greentree and SharePoint. There was a folder that contained data on all the best intranets of 2010. And so on.

I kept the books, all bar one about SharePoint 2007 – and perhaps I should get rid of the Access manual also. Everything in the binders I detached and put in a pile to throw out. At the end of it, I’d freed up another box of stuff and lightened the load.

I looked at the pile of rubbish. What does it mean? I thought. I’d hung onto a lot of it thinking it might come in handy again one day. And I was genuinely interested in a lot of that stuff. Now it was just taking up space.

It seems a bit sad, but I think it’s an acknowledgement that I won’t need these things again. It feels like a bit of a metaphor. I’ve got a lot of that stuff in my head, but it seems of no more use to me there than in the box.

It feels like the cycle of life. We grow and gather to us information and knowledge. We use that to grow more, to build upon our expertise and experience. In time there accrues to us a sense of abundance. The things you have gathered have value. Slowly, time moves on. Some of the things you knew go out of date or become obsolete. Or it’s been so long since you’ve worked with it that it’s no longer relevant. The value of what you know becomes less, notwithstanding that you have a lifetime of learning and practice behind you. There’s a natural rise, then a fall, and you let it go.

I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it. I feel very sensitive to these things now, like a spider at the corner of a web. That’s where I am, but it’s in the rubbish now. I think that’s fair enough.

Without juice

On Monday I won an award for the work I did earlier this year. It was announced, and at an all of department team meeting and apparently met with a round of applause. I didn’t know about it until after the event as I was on another call and missed the meeting. I found out when I got back online when I asked – cheekily – if it came with a pay rise. No, it doesn’t, but I got a voucher and a nice certificate.

I’m glad I wasn’t in the meeting when they called out my name. I’m one of those people who get bashful when praised. In general, I’m happy to let those things wash over me. I’m glad of the recognition and grateful for the gesture, but it’s not something I need. I’m a little surprised too, as I didn’t think people – stuck in lockdown – had any real idea of what I did or what it involved, but as one person said when I demurred, “well, you worked bloody hard!”

I don’t need this, but I’d have been unhappy if no-one realised the scale of what we achieved. It’s not the praise I desire, it’s the acknowledgement. I think that’s all anyone wants and what they deserve.

The reality is that the challenge appealed to me. I felt like an old mountain climber called out of retirement to lead the climb on one last, momentous, peak. I couldn’t resist it, and for the usual reasons – because it was there. I’ve been kept busy since and have hopes of leveraging it into something more, but the hopes are mostly practical. Much of my focus is on earning more because I need it leading into retirement – but my ego needs it a tad too, just to prove I’m still the man and don’t forget it.

What I’ve realised is that I’m more interested in the work than I am the result. The journey, rather than the destination. The reason for that, I figure, is that at the end of the day most of the things are pretty lame. I’ll put them on my CV and people may nod appreciatively but shoot, it aint a cure for cancer. And so, it’s the challenge of doing, of overcoming and pushing through, of finding answers and solving conundrums, and rising to all that, that counts. At this stage of my career, I’m more interested in doing a job well than the job itself.

This experience has reminded me that in terms of raw capability, I’m still top-notch, but in other regards, I’ve fallen away from the standards and patterns of my previous careers. I’m a maverick in a lot of ways, and always have been, and reckon it’s given me an edge – but I’m also process-driven and believe in doing things properly. I believe it, I preach it, but when it comes down to it, I’m totally disinterested in the minutiae and discipline that makes up so much of that. I know I should be doing this or that, but I can’t be bothered because I have no patience for it now. The result is I either put-off or take shortcuts or phone it in. I can get away with it because I’m good on my feet and because my work is good, and in the end, it’s the results that matter.

It’s no secret why this is the case. I’ve spoken before about how I feel I haven’t got the juice in me I had before. That’s not to say I’m diminished – I can still fire up pretty good and can be imposing when I turn it on. (And plenty still find me intimidating without me doing a thing – I think because they know I couldn’t care less what they think). It’s just that now I don’t have the juice – ambition if you like – to care about a lot of things that now seem hollow to me. It’s the juice that drives you forward, like fuel, that makes you push through such thoughts because there’s something at the end of it – reward, recognition, prestige, whatever. I don’t have that juice anymore, and I’m not interested in those things – and it makes me a more reserved character than I used to be. I suspect many find me an enigma.

I accept it, and I understand it. I don’t think it’s lost altogether, just biding something worthwhile to believe in and strive for. That’s what I need – a worthy goal.

Real shit

The shit got real today. No surprise. Half expected it. But surprising how much it affects you.

Every morning we get an email from the CEO. He updates us about the actions taken responding to COVID-19, including arrangements for working from home, as well as general business. This morning it came a bit later than usual, and this time included a video.

The big announcement was that from next week the business would be standing people down, to be reviewed May 22. Some would be stood down for the entirety of that period, and others a partial stand-down. They guaranteed that every employee is paid a minimum of $1,500 a fortnight, regardless of whether the business qualifies for the wages subsidy (which it should).

You’d have to be blind Freddie not to see this coming, but it’s surprising how many people were oblivious of it. I would explain to them, that to pay your salary we need to get sales in, and if we’re not getting sales, then there’s nothing to pay your salary with. It’s mathematics.

I had a clearer view than many perhaps, because the work I’ve been doing the last few weeks exposed me to the channels we make sales through, and I could see the raw numbers. But that wasn’t a surprise – who’s going to spend money they don’t have to in times as uncertain as these? I could build the platform, but driving traffic to it was something beyond our control.

Another email came through a little after that inviting me to a meeting with my manager and team leader. As soon as I saw that I knew what it was about.

Turns out I’m one of the luckier ones. I’ve had my working week cut to four days at this stage. I have to accept that because I understand it. And I know there are others who’ve been stood down altogether or have had more drastic reductions.

My fear is that come May 22 that will change, and almost certainly for the worse. Infections are levelling out, and it’s looking more promising now than a fortnight ago, but it’s going to take a while until we get back to normal. I don’t think anything much will change in the next five weeks and, chances are, I would expect my time will be cut back further.

Let’s worry about that when the time comes, if and when. In the meantime, I have to adjust to living on 80% of my regular salary. It’s more than you think when you do the sums. When you’re living on slim margins, as I have been for a long time, it’s a fair chunk. The major issue will be my rent, and I’ve already emailed my landlord. I’ll struggle to pay the rent on this income – any bigger cut and it’s game over.

I’ll sit down and do my budget over the weekend. I’ll lower costs where I can. Staying home, neither travelling or socialising, will save a bit, but the other side of that is that other expenses, such as utilities, will go up. I’m well prepared in many ways. I have plenty of food in the house, including for Rigby. I’m up to date with other things. It’s the debt I carry, and the rent, that worries me.

What’s surprised is that though this came as no surprise, it’s hit me pretty hard. For a while, I felt unmotivated, which is unlike me. Beyond that, there’s that slightly sick feeling in your stomach. I’ve been pondering this.

I think it’s reminded me how vulnerable I am, and I guess in that there’s echoes of what I experienced before. It’s not front of mind but it lurks in the background.

The other thing is frustration that this happens just as I felt as if I was getting ahead – in fact, about now, I would’ve got my promotion and pay rise. Not to be and that’s life, but I’m reminded of how wearying the journey has been.

As always, I must remember to be thankful for what I’ve got and not fearful of what I’ve lost. There are thousands of others facing harder times than me right now. I still have a job, and income, and a future somewhere down the track.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Monday’s from home

Quieter today with work, and hoping it will remain so. There appear no roadblocks or bugs to deal with today, and though there are updates pending, they’re under control. Within a week I expect we’ll have eased into the BAU management of the live chat client. There’s been a lot of dollars spent on this project in a short period of time, and there’s wariness about invest too much more at this point. There are other solutions pushing forward as well. For me, the most significant factor is project fatigue. The guys have been working day and night for weeks. Push too much more at this point, and you run the risk of mistakes creeping in. Everyone needs to rest and reset – we can get into it again in a few weeks.

Because I’ve been working almost exclusively on special projects, I feel a slight disconnect from the larger team. At the start of each day, I’m due to attend a couple of Teams meetings online. The first is with my immediate team, and I don’t mind it so much because I get to hear of all the things they’re working on. I’ll get asked what’s going on in my world and my answer is just about the same every time: still working hard on live chat. I’ll give them a little more than that because I’ve been full-on with it and are curious. I’ll tell them a little of the ins and outs, the challenges.

Some days I might give them a tip or two. They’re doing without me in my usual role. Typically I’d coordinate and map out much of the work they need to do. I hardly have time to glance at it these days, but if I find a spare 10-15 minutes,, I’ll quickly scan dev ops to see what’s going on. I might add a note or re-direct some of the user stories. In the meetings, I might make some suggestions or give some insight. I’m all about efficiency, s if we can kill multiple birds with the single stone, I’ll give them the word.

What’s interesting, and has implications as we go forward, is that the amount of work coming through is falling. It doesn’t surprise me. Much of the office is so busy adapting to new ways of doing things that they don’t have time for much else. As for our customers, they’re not doing enough to create work. Activity is down all round because activity is down.

The second meeting is almost straight after the first. This is a more disparate group, and I almost always listen silently while continuing to work. The sessions are a nuisance to me as they take me away from my work at the moment I want to set-up for the day ahead. So, I’ll listen, hardly interested as all they report seems so trivial after what I’ve been doing. I didn’t have a lot of time for these stand-ups when I was in the office because hardly any of it was relevant to me. Now, I feel further away from them, somewhere separate and different, and while part of that is due to the extraordinary work I’ve been doing, the rest is because the separation now is literal.

Then, on Mondays, we have a departmental meeting almost straight after. It kills me because it delays for another 40 minutes the stuff I have to catch up on.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the meetings were useful and informative. I’m happy to be updated on things – what’s happening with the business, how things are going, what decisions are pending, and so on. Except there’s none of that.

There seems a focus to maintain and foster team spirit. I understand why, but it’s difficult in virtual comms when only one person can speak at a time, and forty people are online. The result is an untidy session that vaguely equates to happy clapping. You should by know by now that I’m not a happy clapper. I’ve got nothing against it – whatever rocks your boat – but I’m not about to join because it just isn’t me. And I have things to do.

These sessions are really for the extroverts who need an outlet to express themselves. The rest of us don’t. Like the other introverts, I prefer more authentic communication – that is, one on one, or in a more modest setting. I don’t need more than that from work, though I’m sympathetic to the attempt. I have friends to share with and unwind – it’s not something I seek at work, even now.

I used to be more expansive when I was younger. At one stage, I was quite the entertainer. These days I’m pretty economical. I’m more forthcoming with my team because I know and like them and because they’re my responsibility. Outside of them, I’m not inclined to say anything much unless I have something to say. And if I can get away with a nod or a wink or a steely glare, then that’ll do.

That belies my working day because I’m on the phone much of the time, and though a lot of it is directive and task-focused, there’s also time for a laugh to break it up. The point is, I don’t want to pretend to something that should naturally flow.

I think there has to be a better way. I’ll have a think about it.