For the current primary contract I’m working on, I sit in a cube, bouncing back and forth between a test lab and my desk. My desk means little to me other than the laptop contents and the need to sit somewhere.
Now it’s interesting sitting where I sit. A row of employees sit on one side of the hall. And the contractors sit across the aisle. The employees talk intermittently through the day. On the contractor’s side, banter is minimal. The reality is we are contractors and since we are paid by the hour, no one wants to hear us chattering.
On the employee side, it’s a very congenial group that genuinely seems to get along and treat each other with respect. They chat about topics nearly any adult could relate to. Painting houses, barbequing, sports, their kids, going out for lunch. They are a hard working group and there is an element of daily routine and personal lives being shared that has seems to have lasted a long while.
On the contractor’s side, there are respectful good mornings and brief how are you’s. But I have other things besides chatting with my neighbors to think about. That reality is the same for my contracting neighbors. Where is my next contract, when should I follow up on a proposal. And then there is always reading I want to get to. And I have a writing project to think about. There are other things to do; there is more to get done. My contracting neighbors express similar concerns – they have multiple things going on – even though those activities vary between us – the point is – this contract isn’t their only focus. And it’s not that employees don’t have other activities but those activities do not appear to be professionally focused activities.
For everything I work on, I think about how it will reinforce a skill I have or help me gain a new skill. If I work on a project that isn’t strengthening a skill or developing a new skill – I know I will leave before long. (Of course I had this mentality as an employee too so why I didn’t make this transition sooner I’m not sure.) My concern is my skills remaining market desirable and competitive. My skills are my responsibility.
When I’m not focused on the job – I leave. I don’t bill for hours I don’t work, I don’t stay seated at my desk when I’m not focused on work for that client. If I need to leave for a few hours to take care of other business, I do. I talk candidly with my client and my client respects my honesty.
It is a different contract to be an employee. And it strikes me as a naïve contract. Generally, there is an expectation that the company will take care of them. On the employee side of the hall, they work their hours (and many employees will crank in extra hours at times) but the belief prevails that the company will take care of them. And because the company is taking care of them, I see less concern about maintaining marketable skills. Ironically making employees more dependent on the company and the cycle continues. A dependency cycle. It is a different point of view to be continually for sale because you focus on your skills and value. Is there any other reason to sit in a cube?