Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work Environments

As I have said, I have been on a few different contract jobs in my time. At all of them to date I have had “environmental” issues. It has led me to a couple of conclusions. First, that the law firms that find us so necessary, do not care about contractors, and have little or no respect for them. This is true even under the best circumstances. Second, there are apparently a lot of people out there working as contractors who have little regard for their fellow contractors or their work environments. Maybe this stems from the fact that they are given little respect, or maybe this is why they are not working at the big firms. In any case, the conditions tend to be bad. Here are a few jobs from my past, not all were here in Philadelphia, but I have heard similar conditions exist here too. I have heard of better and worse.

One job that I worked at the office space was turned into a warehouse, one large room. Now I may be dating myself here but there were shelves upon shelves of boxed documents (or copies of them). The entry to the review room was packed with boxes of documents. There were so many boxes of documents that the hallway probably violated the fire code, but I never checked on this. A space among the shelves was cleared out and in that space was a conference table where several people sat around coding documents on paper. Table talk was rampant and actually quite off color. It was difficult to ignore and get away from it, or in the alternative change it to something more appropriate. People would put their shoes on the table, and other people’s chairs without a care in the world. (Those same feet had trod the ground of a major city and picked up all the germs and filth of the city as well as the restroom.) All of the furniture was well used if not overused. Many of the chairs had tears in them. All of it appeared to have been purchased at the local Salvation Army 20 years ago. But to be fair it was office furniture. The cafeteria was another table similarly situated next to a dorm room style fridge, a microwave, and a coffeemaker. There was a soda machine (with overpriced soda). There was a restroom in the center of the room, and it was unisex, but most of the women who were on the job would not touch it with a ten foot poll. The problem was that we had a few people who never learned how to aim well, and possibly the same few that never learned to flush.

Another position that I held was a large document review. Everyone had a computer with a 2x2 workstation with cube walls between the computers. This was in theory a totally electronic review. It was more like the traditional images of a sweatshop that I recall with 200+ people crammed onto one floor of a building. The lunch room could hold no more than 30 at a time, the fridge was disgusting and way overfilled, and the microwave appeared never cleaned. The sink had food residue from various people’s dishes (at least no dishes were left there). It did have a coffee maker with terrible coffee, a couple of soda machines (always empty), and napkins. Chairs had become disgusting from use. There was only one men’s room and one ladies’ room for all 200 attorneys, and the men’s room was very disgusting. With this many people to one bathroom it may have even violated OSHA regulations, but I never checked on this. Contrary to the old style where talking was mandatory, this place was a ghost town as talking was frowned upon, but apparently laughing at Howard Stern so loud that the next floor could hear you was not. Anyway, I could tell you more, but I digress.

What are your stories? What was the worst review that you worked? What was the best? What are your current working conditions? Feel free to share what job you are on, because conditions change so quickly. (But be discreet for your own sakes).


Anon1 said...

I put my feet on the chairs. I don't care. If the firm doesn't respect their own property, then why should I. Besides, I don't do it if I know that I have recently stepped in something awful like using a disgusting bathroom. And germs do not live long outside the body anyway.

Anon2 said...

At least you had cube walls, I have absolutely no privacy. I have to sit elbow to elbow facing someone with a computer behind my computer. It is very noisy, and I have to get up and take phone calls only in a designated area. Which means, by the time I get there, I have to return a call, because the phone has stopped ringing. It sucks. They don't trust us to open a phone and not take a picture of our documents. Just stupid if you ask me.

Chicago said...

Sorry for this sorta old comment. I've temped off and on for 12 years. Most assignments were under reasonably decent conditions. One was exceptionally good - my own window office with a stunning view, shared secretarial services, laptop computer that I was expected to take home to check email. The firm fed me, educated me with in-house CLE, even hung a name plaque outside my door. I drafted pleadings and worked with staff attorneys, the client, and third parties. It was a great assignment! Oddly enough, this firm has a bad reputation on another site and now even sends attorney work offshore. I guess things change. For me, the only negative was the grueling hours; always at least 60/wk, often close to 80/wk.

At my worst temp job ever, four attorneys were crammed into a tiny airless windowless storage room that I called The Closet. One phone, folding tables and chairs, packed like sardines. I walked out of that job and haven't worked for an agency since (it has been four years).