Friday, December 5, 2008

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

We had a surprise office meeting today.  Not so surprising was the news that, while we would still be having performance evaluations this month, as we do every year, no one was getting raises.  Design Associates just isn't able to make it work this year.  We had a good first 6-8 months this year, but the last few months have been holy hell, what with all the financial markets and real estate investing markets taking a major hit.  This news, oddly enough, wasn't too much of a surprise.  What did end up being a little bit of a surprise was the announcement that starting in 2009, we're all going to 36 hours a week.  We can work with our project managers to figure out how to schedule that (leave an hour early most days a week? leave at noon on Friday? come in late on Tuesday?), but that's how it's going to be in order to avoid laying people off for a while longer.

The news left me stunned for about five minutes, and then I felt alternatingly anxious and exhilarated.  Anxious over money, of course--what sacrifices do I need to make in order to live without four hours' of pay a week?  I wanted to send my cousins on my mom's side some money for Christmas, but it appears that I'll have to save that cash for myself as a cushion--dammit.  I'll need to cut back on some of my usual splurges, but...I don't feel like I live that splurgey anyhow.  Am I just another callous upper-class American, desensitized to the cost of living?  Should we still go to Vegas for our anniversary this year?

Then I felt a little exhilarated.  What would I do with four extra hours a week when I'm not having to pretend to be busy, not having to stretch my hours?  (I suppose I coulda done that before now, it just somehow never crossed my feeble 40-hour-a-week-by-God mind.)  I could do my grocery shopping on Friday afternoon instead of first thing Saturday morning.  I'd have more time to write on a couple of books and projects I've been brainstorming on.  I'd have time to sit with Maddy and snuggle her as she creeps into the gentle, waning months of her life (though she still seems to be doing pretty well on the chemo and prednisone).

Guy and I talked a little about it this evening.  While it leaves me feeling unsettled, it also leaves me feeling a little hopeful.  Funny enough, several other bright and motivated interns and architects around me felt the same way.  We were all concerned about DA's future and the cash we'd be missing out on, but think of what we could do if we knew we only had 36 hours to get everything done and could also get a few hours back to live our lives.  (Kellye, if you're reading this, the first thing I thought when they announced this was "hot damn, it's almost like ROWE.")  Regardless, we'll be making small temporary changes, like cutting back (but not deleting) our contributions to our retirement accounts, keeping Christmas really simple (especially since we have to fly to GA), and finding other ways to be thrifty.  Fortunately for us, we have always been pretty frugal to start with, so it's not like we're starting this savings cushion from scratch, and we also know how to live with less.  Not tons less, but less enough to make a difference.


Kelly said...

It is just like ROWE. Hopefully the upper management will see the same productivity in fewer hours, and then the revolution will begin.

2H said...

I was with an architecture firm in Oakland CA. when 911 happened. This is a bit like a flash back to that time. Things looked uncertain, there were staffing cuts and those of us that remained were told we were the core staff, the really valued members of the firm and we were asked to go down to a three day week.
Just days after that announcement, I received a call from the owner of a very successful contracting firm who our office had been working with. "Are you in a place you can talk?" Were his first words.
I was the sole income for our family, I had two kids and it was a frightening time - but I was being offered a chance to go out on my own by this contractor- and I went for it.
The sad part is that almost every one of the core staff, the ones the firm really valued left at that same time. The firm was try to hang on to the highly motivated people, the ones who start climbing the walls if they we're doing sixty hour weeks.
Now the tables are turned. I am the owner of the firm and I am asking my highly motivated people to cut their hours and just hang out. I know that the opportunities will be seeking them, and I wonder how many I can hang on to.

BaxtersMum said...

If I have my house established, come to Vegas for your anniversary and stay wid me.