Every year as part of my annual appraisal at the council I have to fill in a separate form about my ’other employment’. Along with asking for basic information concerning my name, address, and job at the council the form has just three questions: who is my other employer (I am as I am self employed), what is my other job (artist – obviously), how many hours a month do I do my other job. How I ’should’ respond to that last one provides much to think about.
This time around that final question set me thinking about the difference between me the artist and me the council employee. I do not think about being artist as a measurable number of hours per month. I do not however want to raise anxieties with my line manager, head of department, chief of division, or the human resources department, so I write what I think that they want to hear – that I am an artist 80 – 100 hours per month depending on the length of month. This figure is equivalent to my 50% post at the council (20 hours a week, four to five weeks per month).
This playing along niggles at me. I would much rather write that I am an artist 672 – 744 hours per month depending on the month in question. Yes, I am still an artist even when I am working for the council – that is why I was employed. But that way trouble lies especially in Sweden with the persistence of its old ways of caring for its workforce. This is something that in principle I whole heartedly agree with … that is until it impinges on my way of being! So my ’bread job’, the job that gives me a regular income and puts food on the table, is subject to a whole raft of hard won legislation and regulation to ensure that I am not overworked, unfairly treated, or uncared for. My other job belongs to, depending on how you see it, a modern laissez faire economy or a much older idea of a vocation not bound by notions of ’at work’ and ’not at work’. The reality is that it is up to me to set my goals and limits, and to ensure that I maintain a healthy work ethic and environment. Usually I am quite good at this but there are times when all of a sudden there is too much happening on too many fronts … and this last week was certainly in the vicinity of being one of those.
The major topic that came up in my appraisal was about how and where I should be working in the coming nine months. The recent intensification of restrictions to curb the spread of covid-19 makes it untenable for me to run arts workshops either indoor or outdoor. Previously outdoor workshops were possible and I had begun planning some for late spring and summer when the weather here is more palatable. Statistics show that our online workshops failed to find the participants to make the viable. Over the coming two weeks I am working with my manager to define my duties for the foreseeable future. I find this an exciting but demanding task, especially to start it in the same week that I needed to commit to a sketch for a site-specific exhibition within two days of seeing the site, the week where there were acute discussions concerning issues facing one of the committees that I sit on, and the week where I needed to submit work for a brilliant online exhibition opportunity with relatively short notice.
So far the volume of demands has been focussing my thinking and suggesting simple effective solutions. With most of the deadlines now met I would like to spend Monday and Tuesday at the studio making things … my bread job unfortunately prevents this. For some reason I feel myself already resenting it more than usual – partly (perhaps entirely) because I know that I will be working from home those days. I cannot quite put my finger on why this makes a difference. It somehow feels as though my bread job is seeping into the life that I usually keep very separate. Usually when I am ’not at the office’ I can decide what I do. This is not the case anymore, there are now twenty hours a week when I am at home but not ’not at the office.’ This is something that I am going to have to get used to!