I just passed my first-whole-month-of-working anniversary. Now that I'm a seasoned pro at this employee stuff, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some of my favorite things about working at 'A Real Job.'
1. My cube. I love my cube. This may surprise (and even appall) some of you. But you have to understand where I came from--that is, the right half of a crowded desk I shared with a 5 and a 7 year old. Compared with that, having my own cubical is sheer heaven. No longer do I hunt in growing frustration for the tape dispenser or my scissors. No more do I have to dig through piles of crayon drawings or wipe off jelly stains just to read the notes I took last night. I can even (drum roll, please) spread out. My cube is neat and orderly and all mine. Mine, mine...mine!
2. Cleaning crews. Get a load of this, would you? Someone else actually comes in every night and vacuums my carpet and empties my trash. I mean, talk about the royal treatment. As a freelancer, the only time my trash got emptied was when it started to smell so bad the dogs had to leave the room. And guess who got to empty it?
3. Sick days. This is a strange and marvelous concept for people who have never experienced it. Someone actually has given me a whole day in which to be sick. Not only do I get to be sick, but I get to act like it, too. I don't have to slump in front of the computer and will myself to work, trying to convince myself that a 102º fever is just a state of mind. I get to lie in bed and sip chicken soup and watch bad daytime TV. Weirdest of all, they still pay me. Go figure.
4. Medical insurance. For anyone who's struggled to pay the outrageous rates for private medical insurance for a family of four, these three words are sweeter than any others--"family medical benefits." 'Nuff said.
5. Meetings. This odd, ritualistic practice is unfamiliar to most freelancers (it's hard to hold a meeting of one). In most organizations, however, meetings are a habitual and often festive custom. People can hold meetings for almost any reason, but the chief motive is To Communicate. This means that, for half an hour, you communicate with your co-workers about their families, their weekend plans, their hopes, their dreams and the best way to remove cherry popsicle stains from corduroy. Finally, someone talks about a work project for a few minutes while everyone else nods. Then, we all go back to our cubes, feeling much closer to our fellow cubists for having communicated. Amazingly enough, this is called "work."
6. Snack machines. At any time of day, I can waltz on down to the break room, pop a few coins in the snack machine and pull out a chocolate bar or a bag of chips or a Twinkie or anything I want. This is just too cool. As a freelancer, you pretty much have to eat what's in the house, even if all you can find is stale cornflakes or leftover Chinese from last Sunday night.
7. Non-web designers. Most of the people I'm working with now are very smart. But they aren't web designers, and in fact, most don't really understand what a web designer does. To them, a web designer is someone who...well, designs. Period. Consequently, this past month I've been asked to do many projects I'm not really trained to do, particularly in desktop publishing. At one point I almost thought this was the worst thing about my new Real Job, but I've since changed my mind. Between applying web concepts to non-web projects, learning non-web theory and trying out a bunch of cool non-web software, I've gained a lot of knowledge and burgeoning skills in areas I otherwise wouldn't have had the time to explore. Best of all, everyday is a challenge, which means not one dull or boring moment.
8. In box. I know some people will think I've lost it, but I adore my In box. What a fabulous invention! Since acquiring an In box of my own, not once have I lain awake at night, worrying about where the next project was going to come from. Everyday--without giving one sales pitch, making a single cold call, or writing one line of a proposal--projects miraculously appear in my little In box. So instead of fumbling through my bad impersonation of a saleswoman, I get to spend my days doing real work.
9. The supply room. The first time I went into the supply room, I felt like I'd joined a smash-and-grab at OfficeMax. I kept thinking, You mean, we don't have to pay for any of this? Honest? Pens, markers, paper, glue, staplers, file folders, report covers, tacks, rulers, post-it notes... Man, I went crazy. I filled up a huge box that would have set me back a couple hundred bucks as a freelancer. But not now. Now I just sashayed out of there as bold as you please and headed back to my cube with my box full of goodies, right in broad daylight. No cops or anything.
10. Routine. It's shocking, I know, but I've found that I actually like having a routine. I've stopped pulling all nighters that leave me exhausted for days, and because my home and work computers aren't networked, instead of getting out of bed and working if I wake up at 3 am, I just roll over and go back to sleep. Since I get up at the crack of dawn to be at work on time, I often nod out while reading bedtime stories to my 5 year old. Acquiring the sleep pattern of a Kindergartener hasn't made any wrinkles go away, but it's done miraculous things to my disposition.