Carry your own office with you! (or not)


Carry your recording studio with you and do voice over while on holiday! The latest spam email in my inbox says. Access files on the go! Your office always with you! says another. Never fail to e connected! Check the latest castings… Send big files 24/7. Stay in touch with clients at home and on the go!

Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those who’s totally dependent on phones and computers. As a free lance work can come in anytime and from anywhere so the ability of booking jobs on the go is certainly an advantage. As it’s the ability to record auditions on my phone. We can now all work on the go, from home, on a plane, while sipping a cocktail on a pool. With  technology getting easier and more affordable by the day, I could easily carry my own recording studio with me and never stop making money even on holiday or during the weekend. How lovely.

Or, is it, really?

I don’t think so.

 

Yes, working from wherever you are can be handy. But not if it means we can now work ALL the time, no matter where we are. Because we can, it doesn’t mean we HAVE to. But it’s increasingly getting that way. People expect us to be working 24/7 simply because technology enables us, because they can reach us even in our most private moments.

I do believe holidays and weekends exist for a reason: to rest and switch off.  We all need them, so that we can return to work with energy and positivity. But if the moments of rest are actually only moment of provisional standby, that can be broken anytime by an email, we are turned into creatures who are always always “on” and never stop. And this is mentally and physically exhausting.

 

Especially as artists, we need to learn to say no. To set up our working hours. But because we are part of such an ephemeral business, because there’s very little solidarity, very little “class conscience” to use a sentence from my childhood in the 70s, we are terrified that the moment we say no, somebody else will jump in and take our job. Technology has helped our lives, true, but has also set us back decades, to a world pre-workers’ rights, in which we’re supposed to work until we drop, quite literally.

So we go on holiday with tablets, microphones, softwares and cameras, just in case a job comes in. We get frustrated if the internet in the Sicilian village where we’re staying doesn’t work. We send emails on trains, planes and boats. Globalisation means potential clients think nothing of calling you at three a.m. (it’s midday in Asia!) and ask for a quote (it’s happened to me twice. Now I switch off all my phones before going to bed). Studios in L.A. expect answers to their emails at midnight on a Friday, because it’s early afternoon there. One of the agencies I work for in Holland, send me a job request on a Saturday morning and closed the email with “for any clarification please get in touch we work 24/7!” I replied “I don’t, speak to you on Monday.”

We forgot that at some point in history, about 100 years go or just before, workers gained the right to rest. Before, there was no such thing as a holiday. Resting on a beach was for aristocrats who didn’t seem to do much all year round anyway. The only allowed time off for the non-affluent was church time on Sunday and probably Christmas. But thanks to unions, workers’ strikes, and people who actually put their head on the line to protest against lives lived exclusively to work, we came up with the concept of days of REST. Everyone is entitled to at least a couple of weeks off each year. Not entitled to “weeks off in which they can be on if necessary”. Just OFF. As in NOT WORKING.

Yes, as a free lance, such rules have never applied as strictly because nobody pays you for your time off, but until ten or fifteen years ago we all took holidays knowing that chances were your agent would call a minute before your left for the airport with a job for the following day. Tough luck. You politely refused, swore loudly then took your suitcase and left for the seaside, where nobody could reach you because there was no such thing as WIFI or even mobile phones for the matter.

But not now. Now people know they can reach you anywhere anytime. They know that if you really want you can stand up your friend on a Saturday evening and stay home instead to record that audio guide they so urgently need. They know if you really cared you’d have a USB microphone with you on holiday, you lazy cow. You CAN work, so why don’t you, you silly actor with no business sense?

Because I have a life. Because I’m lucky to be doing something I like, but that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to do it nonstop. Because I don’t think anything is THAT urgent.  Because you send me scripts at 7pm on a Friday expecting them before Monday, it’s not my problem, it’s your problem that you haven’t managed to get them ready earlier, despite having a  whole week to do so. So you’ll have to wait until Monday. Because what I know from experience is that in 90% cases your delay isn’t due to some emergency. You just didn’t BOTHER to meet your deadline, you couldn’t plan properly, you tried to save money by underpaying people so you had to re-translate the script because the first version sucked. Or you couldn’t make your mind about which word sounded better because your 10 people team of “creatives” who have beds in the office together with a pool table and endless provision of sushi, couldn’t come up with a claim that satisfied them all. And you allowed it because you know there will always be an idiot happy to work on a Sunday. Sorry, I won’t be that idiot. Of course I’m always happy to help, and if I’m working on a project with somebody who does come across a REAL problem and needs urgent help, I’ll do my best. But generally speaking, I switch my computer off at 6pm on a Friday and it’ll stay off until Monday morning. Like any office. And in summer, I’ll take two weeks off and go on holiday. Possibly somewhere with no WIFI.

Let’s go back to a human way of living.  Let’s go on holiday, vacation, whatever you want to call it. Even if we’re not going anywhere, let’s switch off for a week. Work will be much better when we switch on again.

 

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