It was maybe only three or four months into my role at Bromford when Vicky decided that I wouldn’t be at Bromford forever. I would, as she put it, need to “run with the wolves” before long.
Usually, being told by your manager that you have no future in the business is something to worry about - but this was different and everyone, myself included, agreed. In fact, during the first year I think I promised that I’d aim to stay in the role for two years, and if I hadn’t demonstrated my impact during that time, I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I’d previously worked year and two-year contracts on well-defined research and product development projects. There’s something about having those fixed deadlines in which to achieve something that motivates me. In the same vein, I’ll readily admit to being demotivated by permanent contracts.
There are enough examples of workers dashing through their first few years only to stagnate, under perform and suddenly become too costly to remove. Like bishops in a chess game (or at least how I play chess… probably badly) these people zip wildly around the company, forwards and backwards, taking a little more money with each move along with a little more prescribed authority.
I’ve heard that office archetype from basically anyone I’ve had a beer with - ever - and it’s essentially a case of promoting people because they’re shit at their jobs.
So - I love contract work because I’m accountable, I’m visible and I’m challenged, but in my opinion it’s difficult to cultivate and perpetuate the ‘culture’ of contract work in permanent roles - for example, by setting tight deadlines for every work stream - because at some point these time frames *will* be extended, almost simply because they can be. Or possibly, it’s because we’d simply burn out if we continuously exerted this pressure on ourselves. So we slow, we stop, and we stagnate. Or if the money is better elsewhere, we leave. Or we have a breakdown. Any option is good.
So what’s the answer? How can you keep people like me (typecast as you like) churning away in a system designed for security, peace-of-mind, permanence and boredom.
Now I don’t know if this is a genuine solution, but there seems to be a growing support behind these career breaks. This article singles out not-for-profit workers as potentially being most prone to burnout, given they’re motivated from a ‘place of passion’. It’s no surprise if you care about your cause the inevitable battles, bureaucracy or office drudgery can wear you down. This FastCo article considers how sabbaticals, if colleagues are supported to be radically ambitious in pursuit of their goals, can improve retention and overall happiness.
Bromford are in the process of establishing a fully-fledged sabbatical policy - and as the principal guinea pig I’ll be on hand to help iron out the kinks.
Essentially, Bromford colleagues will be entitled to a sabbatical every two years, for up to a year at a time. The breaks are unpaid, but it’s assumed that the bulk of sabbatical takers will be moving to paid, temporary positions elsewhere. It’s expected that the colleague and their manager will be in contact on a semi-regular basis to ease their transition back into work upon their return. Bromford are obligated to keep my position for when I return, and I don't have to go back to the job centre *shudder*.
In enabling colleagues to travel, work or experience new and unusual things - Bromford is essentially creating its own clique of adventurers, with all the determination, resilience and positivity that naturally entails. Which business wouldn’t want more of those guys and girls? The organisation will surely benefit.
But as for me - come 10th July - I’m off to run with the wolves.
(You can find out more about my plans, or follow my travels at Badventuring.com - not necessarily SFW!)