Narrative Therapy: Re-membering Change in the Workplace

When thinking of experiences at work in which I had to respond to disruption or change, the first thought that comes to mind is my transition from 2 days a week to working full-time for 4 months over last year’s university break. I work as a sales assistant at a hardware store and have been employed there since late 2019. My main role at the store involves working within the flooring department. Serving customers, cutting carpet, stacking tiles and moving around bags of tile adhesive and cement are all in a day’s work for me.

Credit: Applied Global Technologies

I was offered a temporary full-time contract during a time in which I was looking to earn some extra money heading into the holiday season so it only made sense, the only issue was that I’ve never worked more than 3 days consecutively.  A jump from 16 to 40 hours is no small feat, especially on a week’s notice. As a matter of fact, it was completely impromptu.

My boss approached me while I was stacking shelves like any other day and proposed that if I wanted to work full-time effectively immediately she would make it happen by the end of the day. In situations like this my brain typically rejects even the thought of something so drastic and spontaneous. It wasn’t as if I didn’t enjoy my job, the negative thoughts just began looming over my head at the prospect of the opportunity. “What if you can’t keep up?”, “You’re not going to have time for a social life” and “That’s a lot of responsibility, are you really up for it?” are all questions I began asking myself as soon as the position was offered.

Overworking was something that scared me heavily. I didn’t want to accept the job only to realize I was burning myself out on a weekly basis or not working harder than those around me, but after a day of thinking I decided to take her up on the offer and commenced the 40 hour work week two days later. In a world surrounded by “hustle culture” I was definitely a believer in it at the time, being convinced that if I was to accept the responsibility I was expected to push myself relentlessly on a daily basis.

The main reason I accepted the job wasn’t even for the money, it was for the experience I would gain, having never worked full-time hours before I knew this would be a daunting yet rewarding experience whilst also giving me a lot of responsibility within the store.

Upon my first week as a full-timer I was completely exhausted. By the final day I was mentally drained and physically exhausted from a week’s worth of dealing with customers and dragging pallets of tiles and cement across the entire warehouse. Despite this however I was committed on persevering knowing that things could only go up from here, in fact there was a level of pride associated with the feeling of exhaustion as I knew that I worked as hard as I possibly could and achieved significant results, this gave me even more motivation leading into the following months as a full-timer.

Following this rough week things only got easier as I gradually settled into my role and I became way more familiar with the team around me and my own strengths and weaknesses as a worker.

When re-membering the experience and important people who I learnt from, a significant figure during this time was my boss as she was the one who supported me from the get-go, offering me the full-time position the second it arose and constantly reassuring me that I was doing a good job repeatedly saying “You can only do so much and you’re doing a lot”.

I also re-member when it was time for me to reduce my hours and no longer work full-time she was still supportive, thanking me for my attitude and work ethic whilst working the long hours and saying that I was an integral part of her team, these words meant a lot to me because I took the offer to work as a full-time to better understand and improve my values as a worker.

With more people picking up part-time opportunities as opposed to full time work the idea of a four-day work week has been tossed around for a while. This would involve exploring potentially removing the normal Monday to Friday cycle for a shorter less strenuous rotation and after my experience working in this cycle I can definitely see the benefits of this. A shorter week would make for a less stressful work environment and ultimately help in eradicating the hustle mentality that has become increasingly popular and has been found to be incredibly unhealthy.

However, it was this 4 month experience in which I learnt more about myself then my previous year long tenure as a part-time worker. Being thrown into a role with much higher expectations I was left to assume way more responsibility and teach myself and those around me a lot about the work that I do and how to conduct myself to be the best possible worker whilst also minimizing burning myself out.

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