The last quarter of the financial year is always busy. As a professional of any sort, you would know this. For those of you lucky enough not to know what this is, it is the period that runs from January to March every year. Most countries measure their financial years from 1 April to 31 March, making this period the last quarter of the financial year. Which also means, this is the time all the accounting has to be set straight. I don’t know what this means for any other industry, but in ours it means billing. Everything has to get billed, and all the bills have to come through. Which means more work. A lot more.
I can’t say I don’t usually complain, because you’ve been with me throughout and you know I complain about almost everything. But this last financial quarter has been particularly brutal in 2022. I don’t think I have had a single weekend off. And I don’t mean that I had to work a couple of hours every weekend. I mean full 10 hour long days every single Saturday and Sunday right from the end of December 2021. Which (I hope) excuses my long absence from this blog for the past couple of weeks.
I wasn’t in all fairness sure about whether or not I would be able to write something this week either. But an email in my organization pushed me over the edge. Made me sit down, block an hour on my calendar (I think I had to invent a couple of client calls for this) and get down to it.
One of the senior partners at our firm took the initiative to organize “weekend classes” to better “educate the firm” on deal learnings and how to run a transaction. Good intentions, I’m sure, but weekend classes? I was appalled. It is one thing for the work to spill over to the weekend (not that this is acceptable) but an entirely different to organize a firm wide work related initiative that cuts into people’s free time. Because you don’t want to waster precious billable hours during the week, you cut into and take away close to 3 hours of people’s free time. Or at least, what is supposed to be our free time. But this wasn’t what did it for me. I was happy to attend said classes whenever I could find the time. Time from work that I was already doing for my firm – and not from my well earned chilling. But this didn’t happen often and so I ended up missing quite a few of the sessions (read: almost all). Cut to a few weeks later, and we get an email informing us that the sessions had been cancelled because people were not showing up for the sessions because….well, they didn’t know why but they weren’t happy with it. Now I have a few things to say about this. First of all, it is the weekend. People are already spending all their waking hours working for your organization. It is absolutely understandable if they don’t want to spend 3 hours every Saturday morning on this. Secondly, the argument might have been slightly more persuasive if we worked in an industry where the job is strictly 9-5 (I’m scoffing as I say this, I don’t think this would be the case at all, but let us just assume this is the case for argument’s sake). I work in an industry where there are no boundaries between work and personal life and almost all of us spend our weekends working (case in point, scroll up a little). So, to miss a voluntary training session because you have billable work…which was the case for most of us…was not acceptable. On the other hand, of course billable work is sacrosanct is it not? So, what is one to do?
For one, I think they want us to feel bad. Feel bad about not staying up an extra three hours every Saturday to fit in both the training and all our other work. Maybe, just maybe, if I was the most dedicated worker on the planet, I would consider this. But there comes a point in time, where 24 hours in a day simply…how do I put this…run out. What then? Not their problem.
For another, I think they want us to feel grateful. Grateful that they are spending time on improving our skill set (I am grateful for this), even if it comes at the expense of what little free time we have, our health and our personal commitments. Because what kind of a corporate baby are you if you even dare to contemplate a life outside of the office?
And lastly, well actually I don’t know what else. The entire episode was such a rude reminder of what I dislike about the way we work and the kind of expectations we keep from the people who work for us. There is so much logic to back up why we should treat employees well and how working for more than 8 hours at a stretch is bad for us and what not. But that is for another time.
Signing off for now. Stay healthy kids, and don’t work too hard.