The Market of Disposable Jobs, Disposable People

By Jay

Organisations running and participating in the job market force workers to think of themselves as commodities. Contractually, one can take up a temp job and leave it when one chooses. It can, supposedly, be used as a stepping stone or as a trial. The job market creates the illusion of people and work as both being disposable and without cost, except time.

The reality is that not all work and work environments fit this mould. Work that involves significant training, support or responsibility cannot simply be treated as disposable. Frequent turnover of workers will diminish quality and damage morale.

Even if roles require limited training or support, people have emotions and economic needs that makes itinerant work difficult for most. Organisations understand this and the supposed flexibility of work, especially, temp work, is, often more true for the organisation than the individual.

Once a worker is on a temp contract for a few months, financial and reputational requirements may mean that they have to suspend their search for a secure job. Leaving too soon can affect their chances in the future. Moreover, workers have emotions and will feel a duty to colleagues and themselves, especially, when welcomed and trained by supportive peers. Only the most strong-willed or emotionless can dispose of a job, however mundane, without a sense of repaying or contributing for the opportunity. There is fear too, of a negative reaction from disappointed managers and colleagues.

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Temping out of hope

By Jay

I started a new temp job recently. It is a type of portering job in an education institution and completely new for me. I applied in the vague hope of doing some light manual labour in a relaxed environment. However, my feelings of lack of development, including, despair, as well as social difficulties, means that the role, like those that have come before, feels unsuitable.

The temp job, with its limited time period, often requires fast learning and adaptation. With my difficulties with social integration and communication, as well as the detrimental impact anxiety has on my memory and, sometimes, my fine motor skills, this is difficult for me. I worry that I will be ineffective, despite the best efforts of colleagues in training me. The job has many procedures and details and I worry that I will struggle to learn and enact them. Even the basics of finding my way around has been a real struggle on day one.

I applied for this role in a desperate desire for a sense of achievement in a safe environment, to relieve my guilt and despair sat at home – without considering too much my knowledge or experience for the role. The temp role can offer low responsibility and repetitive tasks. But, for someone entering the role without a background or strength in the skills required, especially, with health difficulties, it can be challenging. Moreover, temp roles vary in the extent of responsibility and repetitivity of tasks.

Low responsibility and repetitivity, in the form of a temp data entry role, gave me a sense of worthlessness, even though, I was generally treated well by colleagues. Higher responsibility and more complexity and pressure felt extremely stressful, including the social interactions required. Likewise, isolated work made me feel lonely, yet, socially involved work can be overwhelming due to my anxiety and communication difficulties.

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The short-term temp work trap

By Jay

I don’t want to write. I feel a deep sorrow and fearful emptiness about the future. I want to displace this feeling and my reality by watching videos online and entering into alternate realities, voices and thoughts. I will watch desultory short ‘junk’ video clips on Youtube, from sport, news, entertainment and so on, well into the night and I will forget but will not enjoy it, as the future will be hovering and these short clips will offer me no real intellectual or emotional pleasure.

I recently accepted a three month temporary job role, to start next week. I feel a sense of deep dread and reluctance for the role. It is a manual labour type role, assisting with setting up training sessions at a university. This is as much as I know and I have a fear that my anxiety and difficulties communicating will make me ineffective and, as a result, disrespected and, also, socially isolated. I am emotionally very vulnerable currently.

Unskilled temporary roles can be a type of junk means of sustenance, I believe, like junk food or entertainment shows. As a means to entering into more stable or secure work, they can serve as a means to an end. For those with alternate forms of income, they can offer ancillary income to sustain their lifestyle. For those who are desperate, they can be a safety net.

However, for a young person, temporary jobs can become, I think, a damaging addiction or trap. They can be easier to attain than longer-term roles, as the criteria for selection is generally relatively low and the application process simplified. Hirers are not concerned about gaps in employment or overly focused on grades or references. Once you get a “gig” through an agency, you gain a credibility making it, possibly, easier to get the next one.

There is an allure of the temporary job for those who are lost about their future and finding their place, including those suffering mental health difficulties. There is the promise of limited commitment and, sometimes, the hourly pay can be attractive, though, such roles do not generally offer the benefits of sick pay or pensions. You can, apparently, defer making any big decisions by taking on temp work. If it doesn’t work out, quitting is, theoretically, simpler.

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