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Work – it’s a new game

Steve Campbell

I have lived in the County a long time. I remember when parking tickets were sketched onto stone tablets, and stuck to buggy windshields with spit.
I probably didn’t need to tell you that, because my point is: Work. I have work, and I enjoy it. I grew up on a farm and had work I did not really enjoy, because I was lifting haybales onto a wagon over my head in 90ºF temps, and had accumulated about five pounds of oat, wheat and barley chaff in my lungs.
Doctors in the late 1950s did not apparently need a licence, or knowledge, so he suggested I wait until I could cough it up. Later, I discovered tequila, and I’m pretty sure every organ in my body is now clear of chaff.

So, back to work. The purpose of this article is that work has changed. We all know that. Work as such has been warped, vacated, moved, altered, slowed, ended, locked down, changed, modified and techologied, if that’s a word.
We all know that COVID changed everything. Everyone found ways to adapt. We used technology to communicate, so we could share words. More on this later.

What work used to be
In the olden days (pre-2019) we had jobs. We went to work about five days a week, and we worked until 5 p.m., when we quit. Whether the work was done or not, because the work was never done, and could be picked up the next morning. We hustled to get into work on time, and waited for the whistle to blow at quitting time.
Depending on the sociopathic tendencies of your boss, and the amount of pay you were given to endure the inherent pain, plus dealing with clients who sometimes had an equally sociopathic tendency to greet you with anger and spittle, you measure it all up, and you keep your job.
I have worked with many people over the years, before I started County Magazine. I’ve met printing trade craftsmen who loved their jobs; I’ve met college teachers who hated their jobs, did as little as possible, to hang on until they could get a great teacher’s pension. Only one of these describes actual work.
Looking way back to my youth, I remember hauling wagons of tomatoes to Lipson’s factory in Wellington. I was too young, and too short, to do the trip, so my Dad binder-twined a couple of blocks on the tractor’s clutch and brake, and sent me on my way. I did okay, by which I mean I survived. This was work, and when the canning factories were burgeoning in the County, it was work for everybody. Truckers, peelers, boilers, canners, labellers, cappers. Virtually every family in the County had a job: Men as linemen; wives as peelers, sons and daughters pitching in to get the work done.

And, now …
Let’s start with COVID. It is not the end of civilization, but the changes it caused has altered our world, even here in the County. Remote communication.
To start: I have a Zoom call with my entire family every Sunday. It hurts me to say I have never had more communication with my kids and grandkids before Zoom entered my life.
But this is a small part of the changing way of doing business everywhere. We found a way, and it worked. Everyone was happy! We were safe in our homes, without fear of dreaded COVID, and could still carry on.
We found a way to deal with our lovely virus, and were intent on dealing with ways to continue. We were not so intent on what might happen … when we win. When we did the right thing, and then things return to normal.

Dealing with Normal
We need to do some adjustments on what we want, and how we do things from here on in. We didn’t plan for COVID, but we didn’t plan for ‘normal’ either. Some found that working from home was good. Some even found that they had regained a balance between their family and their work. There is no indication that ‘work-from-home’ people are not on the job, fulfilling regular office demands and present on every virtual meeting.
Skeptics may say: “Yeah, they’re there for the meeting, and they play video games the rest of the day.” This does not appear to be the case. (You may choose to do this, because you don’t have a job, and that would look like a sweet deal for you: Check into a meeting and watch porn the rest of the day. This would only not net you a Zoom job, but no job at all.)
We can pride ourselves, because we quickly found a way to communicate, in real time. Some miss the face-to-face change of information at the traditional water fountain; some miss the ability to just walk to someone’s office and talk. Zoom doesn’t do that. Humans do that.

Bringing that Home
We are in limbo. As COVID slips away, and then comes back, and subsides, and roars back (Think of any scary horror movie you’ve ever seen. Dead then yikes! Alive! It’s like that but, thankfully, without clowns. I hate clowns).
So some companies are asking employees to come back to their cubicles; others find they are getting the work done which, at the end of the day, is pretty much all you can ask of workers.
Some companies found they could heavily reduce the expenses of physical office space in high-rise buildings: lights, air conditioning/heat, taxes, rent, and found themselves looking at ‘how to run a business’ in a different light. One of my paper suppliers shut down their warehouse. I still, as usual, deal with the staff, with the usual speedy results. Don’t care where they are; they get the job done fast. Imagine the savings by walking away from several thousand square feet of concrete and all the inherent costs.
Eyes were opened by COVID. That was a wake-up call for many reasons. The way we work is changing, and it will be hit and miss for a while. I flashback to the arrival in the County of artists who formed a great creative community here. They found (without the benefits of a virus) that they did not need to rent space in Toronto to work their craft … they could live in an idyllic paradise, and ship their stuff to the city market.
Once upon a time people got a job, and they did it all their lives, even if they hated it. Next gen chose to jump from job to job, if they saw opportunity for advancement. This gen has a whole new approach: You can have a job and family too, and working from home provides a balance that has never been seen in the workforce before.
We are not in a My Three Sons world in which Dad had an unrevealed job, but appeared at 6 o’clock, pulled on slippers, lit a pipe, delivered words of wisdom to his sons, and read a newspaper until supper was ready.
It’s a new game. And I think it will be a good one.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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