HOLMSEY: A labour of love?

Stress, burn-out, job dissatisfaction – do you dread going to work?

When it comes to choosing a career, finding something you enjoy doing is half the battle. But even if you love your job, there will be challenges or busy periods where you don’t feel much enthusiasm.

In my teens, I had dozens of rotten jobs and loathed most of them. As a kid, I’d spend weekends staying at my Nan’s, but around tea time on Sunday, that sinking feeling hit me as I boarded the bus home. I rarely had much enthusiasm for school, and this miserable feeling on Sundays became my norm. That is until I was 15 or so, around then I developed my first serious crush and couldn’t wait to get there – to see ‘her’! I did love English and Art, but they could stick the rest of it.

Luckily, since turning 21, I’ve loved whatever I’ve done. I often quote Walt Disney to friends. Walt said, “A labour of love is no labour at all.” If you really enjoy what you’re doing, school or work needn’t be a chore. It helps if you get on with your colleagues, and being paid properly makes quite a difference too. On the Island, in the private sector, that’s certainly an issue. Many people here are underpaid, compared with similar roles just over the water. That’s why so many of us commute and endure the ferries.

Feeling underappreciated is another classic reason to be disgruntled. Bosses should be obliged to tell you how well you’re doing, even if only occasionally. Does yours ever do that? If management believes you’re under pressure, but you’re ‘all in it together’, it’s likely they won’t offer regular praise. But when you’re a well-paid manager, or business owner, you’re probably enjoying much bigger rewards, which is great motivation when you’re working hard.

Last week I mentioned the government’s Office of National Statistics staff refusing to return to the office. They’ve been ‘working from home’ since lockdown, and now plan to strike rather than go back two days a week. On any given day in Peterborough and Wandsworth jails, 30 to 40 per cent of the workforce are ‘unavailable’. Prisons are certainly tough places to work, but these are astonishingly high numbers. Those prisoners we’re supposed to be rehabilitating are banged up for much of every 24-hour period.

The NHS and teaching professions also experience high levels of absence. Schools and hospitals are challenging workplaces, but kids’ education suffers when their regular teacher is absent. NHS appointments and operations are being cancelled at short notice; in part, that’s also why waiting lists for anything medical are glacially slow.

The poor old taxpayer is on the hook for this poor productivity, and it didn’t happen overnight. The numbers crept up slowly, year on year. It’s easy to blame ‘the government’ for public service failure, but managers and individuals must accept responsibility too.

If, by the year end, we have a new government, do you think we’ll see any significant improvement? In the run up to the election, wouldn’t it be great if the candidates told us exactly what they plan to do to reduce high levels of public sector staff unavailability?

It’s always easy to make pre-election promises. Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, says Labour will clear the asylum backlog. I haven’t noticed her magic wand, so I fear she’ll clear the queue by just allowing those in it to stay here. Will an amnesty lead to more boat crossings, or fewer? Can you see a Labour government getting tough on public service unions and high absence levels? Because I can’t.

If the Tories are too weak to do anything, there’s zero chance Labour will. But never mind – the good old taxpayer has deep pockets – don’t we?