Robey’s Blog: How to be a Time Lord


Originally, this blog was called “Faith, HR and Charity”, because HR News had asked me to write about HR from the perspective of a small charity.  Over the last couple of years, though, it has gradually just come to be called “Robey’s Blog” which, if nothing else, will certainly make it easier to search for on Google given the rarity of my first name[1].

It has been an excellent exercise for me, every week, barring a few, to take an hour or so out to put some order on one thought or another that has flitted, butterfly-like, across my professional consciousness.  But my time at Age UK Gloucestershire is at an end.

I was always aware that it would be a short stay here.  When I arrived, I was in the wilderness following a sudden redundancy, and looking for a part-time opportunity somewhere I could make a difference.  Whilst, at first, a measly seventeen-and-a-half hours a week seemed rather less than I wanted, I came gradually to value that short week, even on a charity’s salary.  Our shift – driven by me, but with the strong and enthusiastic support of my CEO, Rob Fountain – to taking a more flexible, outcomes-focussed approach to work and away from a fixation upon hours meant that I (and other staff, of course!) had a control over my week that transformed my relationship with work.

Work can seem like a chronovorous monster: a beast that eats time.  If we fail to feed it the right time in the right quantities, it will devour us!  But seeing contractual hours in a more abstract sense as a measure of the scale and speed of outcomes expected, rather than as a specific menu of time to be delivered made the chronovore seem more like a pet dog.  Yes, you still have a responsibility towards it.  It still needs to be fed.  But how and when you feed it is up to you.  Instead of the work being the master and you being its reluctant slave, the relationship is reversed.  The employee becomes the master and the work becomes something we have tamed and which exists under our control.

But I’m moving on.

Now, HR News have said they’re happy for me to keep on blogging – albeit from a new perspective.  But I don’t know, yet, whether my new employers will be so willing.  I hope they will, though.  And given what I already know about what’s awaiting me there, it may be that this blog becomes and even more important tool for me, and an even more useful resource for you, my readers.

The money’s better.  The commute is shorter.  The workforce is smaller and far more digitally literate than the one I’ve been dragging into the 21st Century for the last two-and-a-half years.  What’s not to like?

Well it’s full time, for a start.  And that’s not a bad thing, because I was looking to get back to full-time for family reasons.  But there’s no denying that eight hours a day, five days a week will be a shock to my system that will take a while to get used to, I suspect.  Let me tell you: four-day weekends are a hard thing to give up!

It’s also a commercial business with a real entrepreneurial spirit, which is wonderful for the profit line, but notoriously bad when it comes to notions of flexibility.  The culture is very much “you work the hours the job demands”: no overtime, no TOIL.  In other words, it’s a chronovorous T Rex of a job.

Now, obviously, I would love to say that I’m going to go into battle with this monster and bend it to my will like a proper Time Lord.  But I’ve got to be realistic.  I’ll be the new kid on the block and my understanding of the market we’ll be working in is practically zero (although I’m doing my homework).  I’ve not done any research, internally or externally, on what employees want or what limitations there are on the business’s freedom of manoeuvre.  In short, for whatever reason I may not be able to change things and it may not be practical to try, in any case.

But whilst those who conquer others are strong, those who conquer themselves are mighty[2].  Or, as it could also be put, “first get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye”[3].  Because if I’m going to give over a great deal more of my week’s time to the hungry chronovore, I need to take more assertive control of the time I have left – in cooperation, of course, with my family who also have a claim on that time.

It will mean giving up some things that I decide aren’t important (watching TV is high on that list) and prioritizing some things that are now more important (getting to the gym regularly will be essential when working 40 hours a week in a mostly-sedentary role).  It will mean cutting back on some of my lesser commitments (I am a compulsive volunteer) to make sure I can stay useful in my more important ones.  And it will mean continuously reviewing how I feel about myself, my work and my time and being honest with myself and those around me when I’m struggling.

But it will also mean actively seeking joy within my work.  If we persist in seeing the chronovore as a monster, then all it will do is take from us.  But whether we can tame it or not, we always have chances to make sure that some of the time we feed it is time we can share.  When working part-time, it’s easy to defer joy until the work is done.  There’s plenty of time for joy in the long weekend.  But when weekends are short and spent largely in a stupor recovering from the previous week, there’s no time left for joy.

Hopefully, I will be able to report back to you on where I find joy in my new job.  This week will be my last blog from Age UK Gloucestershire, after which there will either be a short break, or a long silence.

Have joy, Time Lords!

[1] Long story.  Not interesting.  Seriously.

[2] Dao De Ching, 33.3

[3] Matthew 7 v5

Author: Editorial Team

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