ETA – Two paragraphs: the one about the dress code and the one about the cafeteria. How could I forget those important components?
Yes. That is a big old pie in the sky over Edmonton. Very appropriate, considering nobody* actually gets to work in their ideal environment. So here’s the obligatory disclaimer: No. I am not actually delirious enough to hold out for a company exactly like what follows. But it’s important to know what you want and what’s truly important to you so you can find something that’ll be a good enough fit you won’t want to claw your brain out after working there a few weeks/months/years. The workplace is as important as the work.
As many of you know, I’m newly-arrived to Canada, and yes, everything’s going great. Thanks for asking! I’ve given myself a few weeks to adapt to living in a new country, a new city, and the same physical place as my spouse. Now that I’m settling in nicely, it’s time for the next big challenge: getting a job.**
I’ve already started applying, sending resumes and cover letters, and activating “the network”. One question that keeps coming up is “What is your ideal work environment?” I suppose I must’ve gotten that question before, but I honestly don’t remember ever giving it too much thought. I’ve always just NEEDED a job and fallen into the first decent thing that came along. I should point out that I’ve been exceedingly lucky, and have “fallen into” some really amazing companies. In fact, without them, I probably wouldn’t be able to adequately answer the question. I know what I like because I’ve experienced so much of it.
So anyway, on to the show–Erika’s pie-in-the-sky, ideal workplace:
The environment is relaxed, but busy. The corporate culture fosters creativity, and my coworkers are truly motivated and passionate about what we’re doing. Nothing motivates me to strive toward success like knowing my colleagues and I are “in it together”. My Midwestern values (which, incidentally, transfer very well to Canada) include an impetus to help others. When doing my job well makes life smoother for my coworkers, it’s easy to buckle down and get things done. And at work, I’m always happiest when I’m Getting Things Done.
But what of those coworkers I mentioned? Why, they’re geeks like me of course! It’s no good when every conversation is about the job at hand. A little chat about the latest episode of Doctor Who is sometimes just the brain-refresher I need to pull me out of a rut so I can continue with my day at a faster pace.
So how do we geeks dress? Casually. Or really, any way we want to. There’s no dress code. Whatever we feel comfortable working in, that’s what we’re encouraged to wear. If I’m in my usual jeans-and-a-solid-color-tee, that’s fab. If I feel like wearing a skirt, that’s cool too. Most of us dress casually most of the time though.
And what do we casual geeks do? Good.*** Whatever it is we’re working on is something good for the world, whether it be helping people, animals, the environment, etc. I’ve been employed by companies where my work directly benefited the hard-of-hearing, patients at doctors’ offices, even cancer researchers. I’d love to continue that trend by doing something genuinely good.
So when we’re not doing good, what’s happening? Well, let me tell you, my mythical coworkers and I are incredibly fulfilled both at work and away from it. Our employer is invested in seeing we maintain a healthy work-life balance. We receive ample vacation time, and even have the option to take unpaid time off when needed (without getting the side-eye or a guilt trip). We rarely take work home with us, and when we do, we make up for it by leaving early some other time.
That dovetails nicely with an explanation of how work hours and the daily grind play out. We don’t have to punch a clock that’s tracked second-by-second (though we do keep track of what time we spend doing each task/project). We come and go as needed to get our work done and be available when our colleagues need us. Some days that’s your basic 9ish-to-5ish. Some days it’s more. Some, it’s less. Our supervisors are more concerned that we do good work in good time than going over spreadsheets tracking whether we punched in 1 minute late.°
Speaking of supervisors, our bosses rock. As much as possible, my coworkers and I are matched up to a leader with whom we mesh well. For me, that means someone who is consistently in contact, but not micromanaging. I like talking to my boss on a daily basis. (Or at the very least weekly.) But I don’t need someone checking up on me and breathing down my neck making me nervous. My boss gives lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement, finds new projects for me that I can get excited about, and goes to bat for me if needed. (Of course, it’s not needed, because this company is so amazing, don’t’cha know.)
In addition to the work-life balance I mentioned earlier, this company is committed to wellness. Our health benefits are outstanding,°° and we’re encouraged to be proactive about our own health. Ergonomics are a priority! We have both standing and sitting desks, and even those treadmill-desk things for the really hardcore among us. There’s a fitness center on site, and the company offers discounts on things like acupuncture and massages. We also have access to inexpensive classes on things like exercise, meditation, tai chi, cooking, and more!°°°
That commitment to wellness extends to what they feed us too. The cafeteria is better termed a café. They have plenty of fresh and healthy options to meet most any dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb). They even have their own garden, so the salad bar is a real treat during harvest season! The café employees are as fulfilled and friendly as the rest of the staff in the building, so they’re always friendly and don’t roll their eyes at you when you order something special.
Oh. And of course they pay me lots and lots of money.ˆ
Am I willing to compromise on some of these items? You betcha. I do live in the real world, after all. But will I work someplace that offers none of these things? Nope.ˆˆ After many years in the workforce, I realize how important the right environment is. We spend a great percentage of our waking lives at our jobs. It’s not unreasonable to look for a place that will make those hours a pleasant, energizing experience, rather than one that sucks our souls.ˆˆˆ
So when it comes down to it, I guess my personal motto paraphrases an old Ford ad campaign:
Quality of life is job one.˜
*Nobody that I know of anyway–please tell me if I’m wrong!
**No. Producing/appearing on podcasts isn’t a real job. Oh how I wish it were. It’s actually the opposite of that. I need a job so I can keep podcasting!
***No, not “well”. I know what I mean here.
°Yes. I worked in a place like that. Never again.
°°Dear non-Canadians, yes we do have universal health care. It rocks! But that doesn’t cover things like dental, chiropractic, mental health, etc. So workplace-provided plans often pick up the slack. ETA: I just learned that mental health is covered here if you’re referred by your doctor. Woo! (Thanks Kat!) I’m still learning about my new home, so bear with me.
°°°This part isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as you might think. My most recent employer, Promega, offered all these things and more. We also had a doctor and nurse available in the on-site Wellness Center, plus really decadent stuff like a whirlpool, saunas, and a Turkish hamam (steam room).
ˆOk, so that one is a wee bit jokey. Just a wee bit though. I’m damn good at what I do, and I think it’s fair to expect to be compensated for it. That said, I’d be perfectly fine with making less money if the flexibility part is greater, or if the hours are fewer to start with–as long as I have enough money to use that extra time well. Working 20 hours a week would be great, but if I can’t afford to visit my family (or my Gally family), then what’s the point?
ˆˆNot unless my circumstances change dramatically. Right now I have the luxury of being choosy. I know that’s not the case for many, many (too many) people, and I certainly don’t want to downplay the shittiness of that situation.
ˆˆˆI’ve done the soul-sucking-job thing too, and it’s something I hope to never do again.
˜Between this and the Elmer Fudd reference in the title, I’m feeling kinda old right now. Quick! – lol hashtag Bieber emojii squee something something…