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Keep Up With The Times Or Pay The Price

, , , , , , , , , | Working | September 25, 2023

Allow me to tell you a story about a big (well, big in my country) company that decided, during a very well-known worldwide event that had it scrambling to send its workers to home offices that, hey, our offices are empty, and we don’t need them. Let’s sell them!

That part was the smart part of the whole deal.

But since no good things last forever, that global event eventually ended, and that company decided that it would be awesome to push their workers back into the offices. Not that any workers were too fond of that idea, mind you, but apparently, the remaining offices were losing value and the C-Levels didn’t like that, so let’s stuff the workers back into the offices so we can pretend these offices still have value!

Alas: we only had about 60% of our office floor space left.

So, the bigwigs hatched a great idea: 40% home office for everyone! This was announced with much fanfare at an all-hands meeting at the office. (Yes, the obvious irony was lost on them.) Why we should celebrate 40% home office when we had 100% before was also not exactly something anyone below C-Level understood, but hey, free food and drinks, so let’s humor the dorks — I mean, the C-Levels.

At this point, I already knew I was leaving the company for one that offered 80% home office. (And I was by far not the only one… but I get ahead of myself.) And nobody is more free to voice their opinion than someone who you hold no sway over. So, I had zero problem expressing myself, albeit presumably originally only to a coworker.

Me: “This is probably the stupidest idea in the history of this company.”

The CEO speaks up from behind me. He’s very obviously the source of the idea, judging by his reaction.

CEO: “What? Who are you to say that?”

Me: “You’ll see in a week. Two, tops.”

It didn’t even take two weeks. Ponder this: you get to work from home two days a week. Which days would those be? Take into account that there were many people who were “week-commuters”, i.e., they had an apartment in town where they stayed during the week and returned home to their family for the weekend.

The predictable outcome was that Monday and Friday, the place didn’t look much different than it (probably) looked during The Event, but Tuesday through Thursday, you had better come before 7:30 am, or you were hard-pressed to find a desk. And yes, of course, they were “hot desking”, the desk-equivalent to the previous torture for employees, i.e., open floor plan Hell.

C-Level’s response when asked for a solution: “You’ll figure something out among yourself to make this work.”

Well, we did. About 25% of the employees quit within a month. Another 25% quit when they noticed that they were supposed to pick up the slack with no extra pay and the demand for unannounced overtime. 

So, that company is now hobbling along with about 50% of the staff they’d need, and even back when I was still there, we were working on a skeleton crew, so I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like now. They’re pretty desperate to hire, but with a 60% office mandate, this isn’t going to fly in an industry that has a hard time attracting any talent with less than 80% work-from-home.

They could technically now demand 100% return-to-office; they sure have the office space for that. But I guess if they do, they will find that the rest of their staff will desert them.

We Sure Do Love Happy Endings

, , , , , , | Working | September 14, 2023

I work set hours and know how much my paycheck will be each week if I miss no shifts. So, imagine my surprise when my forty-hour paycheck is short nearly $200. I immediately message my supervisor via company instant messaging.

Me: “I’ve got an issue with my check. It seems it’s a few hours short; my pay doesn’t reflect hours worked.”

Supervisor: “Let me look into this. Are you working right now?”

Me: “I’m clocked in and available, yes.”

Supervisor: “You need to turn chat and phones on.”

Me: “I will do that just as soon as we get the payment issue cleared up. Until then, I am available and will use this time to respond to emails.”

About an hour later, as I’m finishing up another email, my supervisor calls me.

Supervisor: “I see what happened! On [date #1], we did not have any customer chats or phone calls come in for two hours, and on [date #2], we did not have customers for about half the day, so those times were deducted from your pay.”

Me: “…Excuse me?”

Supervisor: “I hope that clears up any confusion.”

Me: “Just to be clear: you are deducting from my paycheck due to lack of customers?”

Supervisor: “If no work was done during that time, we will not be paying for time spent sitting around.”

I quickly get off the phone with my supervisor and open a chat with the CEO.

Me: “Hi, [CEO]. I just wanted to confirm a few things. Is it true that [Company] will now be deducting time from our paychecks if there are no customers, despite the number of hours we worked that day?”

CEO: “Yes, that’s correct. [Company] does not pay people to sit around. If no customers are online, there is no work to be done. The deductions are correct and will continue going forward.”

Me: “Thank you for confirming.”

I took a screenshot of the conversation. I immediately logged off and used the screenshot to report them to the labor board, the Better Business Bureau, and anywhere else I could think of. I also quit, effective immediately, and reached out to a lawyer.

My hunch was right; that was VERY illegal in not only my state but also the state the company was based in. They not only had to pay me what they owed me, but they also had to pay my lawyer’s fees and court fees, and my settlement equaled over a year’s pay. I heard they got hit with massive fines, as well, and barely managed to keep their business.

If Only You Could Expand Your Screen The Way You’re Expanding Their Knowledge

, , , , , | Learning | July 18, 2023

I help another teacher run a program for seniors learning English. By this point, I’ve been helping for five years, so I can run classes by myself. The other teacher still prepares all the course materials, since I’m not formally trained. The teacher isn’t good with modern technology.

The day before a class, the teacher says she’s double-booked. I need to take over the class. That’s fine. I get the email with the day’s class materials in the afternoon — or most of them.

Me: “The main resource for your class is behind a paywall.”

Teacher: “I sent it to you!”

Me: “You sent me the link to the information page. I need the lesson plan document.”

Teacher: “Oh, right.”

The lesson is designed to work in person. On the morning of class, I get this email from the program manager.

Manager: “Our building’s air conditioning is not working. You should have your classes online. I’ll set up our online conference call.”

Me: “Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll rework the class materials for the new format.”

The students are on different devices; some are on phones, while others are on computers, and a few are on tablets. We take a quarter of the class time dealing with tech issues. Then, I start the class by having them look at a row of six images.

Student #1: “I can only see three pictures.”

Student #2: “I can see all six.”

Student #3: “They’re too small. Can you zoom in?”

I slide the screen around.

Me: “I physically can’t zoom it in more.”

It turned out that the conference call program only showed the top left corner of my screen to everybody, which completely broke the flow of the lesson plan. I struggled through the parts of the lesson that still worked. In the end, I only got through half of the material.

The screen sizing problem probably existed in 2020, as well. Nobody thought to tell me.

Group Project Haters, Sound Off!

, , , , , , , , | Learning | June 6, 2023

I am in high school during the global health crisis. Because of the general chaos, the school has a generous policy where students can choose on a day-to-day basis whether they want to attend school in person or online; we are marked present either way.

I wake up one morning feeling a little under the weather, so I decide to stay home and attend classes online. Religion class rolls around and a new assignment is introduced, just a simple one-day thing. Materials are available online, and we’re told that we’ll present them the next day.

So, the next day, I roll into religion class with my finished project, in person this time. As I watch my other classmates present, I realize one crucial detail that I missed while working on this assignment.

It was supposed to be a group project.

After everyone else has presented, I stand up to present mine, assuming I might as well. As soon as I stand up, my teacher says I don’t have to present — having realized at some point that he never put me in a group — but I present anyway.

The presentation goes fine, my project is just as good as anyone else’s, and I get an A. Sometimes doing a whole group project by yourself actually does work out!