How should covid-19 situation affect old mindset of an automotive design (independent contractor's perspective)

No matter who you are

If you are an employer, employee, or a contractor which is (or in this situation was) pendling between home and project abroad (thanks for your sacrifice), we all have been affected by the current situation, mostly new IR35 legislation in the UK and especially current outbreak of coronavirus). I have to admit at the beginning, I am not acquainted with most of news around, don't watch news and I don't own TV. I just have a glimpse of the most relevant information and filtering out everything else

I am a Surface Designer, father, musician and also a Fitness, health & nutrition specialist, I have some observations and thoughts which I would like to share with the online community in form of brief commentary article about the whole situation. I would like to address it to all decision makers around, but also to all of us who are recently on the edge of uncertainty. Take this commentary as a spark to think or start a conversation. Past is gone already. Present is now. Let's design the future.

I've been working in automotive industry for a decade now. I met and still know plenty people from the industry and after some time working, talking and sharing ideas, I think I got a pretty clear picture of our playground. So let's be honest for a while.

Automotive industry, in front of the others, play the game of the most innovative and flexible industry, yet we are a just a bunch of conservative corporates in same clothes everyday, which mostly resist anything new or any progress.

We're just paid to make progress. That's all. If you're lucky, your job is something what you love. Good for you. Stay where you are, because many doesn't have that luck. Any work is a form of craft, even tedious mouse clicking. The problem arise when under circumstances of modern world, computer contraptions and under pressure of innovation and progress, workers are constantly pushed to do their loved job quicker, harder, better, more effective, etc. #facepalm

I jumped into industry with constant press from management that whatever we are doing we're late and it supposed to be finished already. Meeting deadlines is almost impossible most of the time. Pareto principle in everyday practice. No matter how many weeks until next gateway deadline we have, we always make most of the work in last 20% of the time. Yet, it's still not enough. Really? For who's sake?

Constant pressure. Workload. Too much stress. Anxiety. Possible burnout? Fifth coffee. TGIF. How was your weekend? Sight, too short! Repeat.

I don't want to go back in time but what's wrong on steady continuous progress? If it was on us - simple people - we would enjoy ourselves more and still normally work from pure passion. Not because we have to. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against progress. Just feel that with all that progress we posses in automotive industry, we're not focusing enough on certain areas of health and wellbeing, while we work, where progress in this is almost non existent. Looks we living in either past or future but not in the present. Another reason why I am writing this commentary to pinpoint some ideas for further analysis or discussion.

Usual situation in the corporate

No matter if you are CEO, Executive manager, Lead engineer, Designer, Sales and Marketing director or Consultant. We all play a tiny role in rat race. We spend most of our productive day and literally life in office in two ways.

Constantly working with precisely programmed lunch break only, thinking that what we do will make a difference in world, sacrificing relationships with people around us, our valuable time and especially our health for another checkpoint in this never ending process (there's always something else which needs to be done, there's always the way how to do it better). Constant work for more work.

Second way would be most likely to spend couple hours with actual work and we fill the rest of working hours with internet, silly cat videos, dumb stuff, walking around building, coffee and cigarette breaks, stretching legs, complaining about managers, spouses, colleagues etc. If there's no work, let's pretend we do something valuable. Do we really enjoy that for decades? Wasting precious time and trading it for average money (no matter what you earn, we still have a need to impress someone of our choice) with a vision of amazing retirement (which most likely never happen) on the end?

It's probably everywhere and in every field of life or industry so keep it real. Today's situation, pushed us into our homes where we have to work for a while. Mostly for less working hours which leads to less pay.

I must also add that as you might be aware, automotive design itself is considered as a carmaker treasure and we're keeping it under the veil of mystery inside of Design studio. I like how people look at me when I mention that I know how the new model of that car will look like. But that's like 1 from 1000 people. Rest is not interested. But curiosity drives people. So I understand why most of authorities are not comfortable with idea of taking precious data from Design studio to home.

Not sure if it comes from human nature or if we have been taught the way we should keep our work in secret all the time. I get it from historical view to keep design and company competitive. We work with sensitive data. But these days? Is this rivalry really that necessary? Most of the cars looks the same due to the legislation requirements, so calm down!. Yes, some precaution are necessary, but we should also think outside of the automotive box for the sake of people involved in process and human well-being.

Current situation at the home office

Let's get couple weeks back. Even despite most of indicators. Companies, employees and basically 99% of all have not been prepared for that. Do you really think we are so flexible and progressive after all? From what I heard, some companies handled it better than the others. Some companies handled it better than the others. Some companies were prepared for that, some I would guess by coincidence from the past and some by actual preparation. In terms of computer equipment, IT infrastructure, etc. (not sure about the many of them, let me know down in the comments).

But look at us we already working from home for past month. And it's going not just well, we're doing great.

I'm totally grateful, despite other lock-down circumstances, that I'm currently in the company which is handling it better. I understand we are in deep sh*t right now but it's nothing what we haven't seen in the past. This situation will end at some point but even after month in lock down and working from home, we should be able to see many positives, negatives but also lessons learned for the future. Think about it, write it down, open a discussion with you colleagues and managers

Contractor's perspective

Employment is great. Keeps you safe in a comfort zone. School teach us to become a great employees. I got bored in that comfort zone. So I took a risk of contracting from pure vision of adventure, to learn new things, to progress, to see a world from different perspective.

Contractors are singles, many will become a parents soon, many already have couple of kids. They all have a lot of commitments for sure. All of them sacrificing a lot by doing what they do. Spend many hours per week on the road. They usually spend and devote couple of years in company they admire and breath for, yet still treated differently by many. Yes, they should not be treated as normal employees, but they should be treated as a humans in every aspects and not like something which just suck money from company. I got so many negative comments from people around me after I started this contracting journey. I became stronger not just because of those comments, but also by learning about better wellbeing, self development and things which matters to stay away from all those negative impacts of constant working in dark office.

Companies relies on contractors a lot. They are specialists Weirdos but experts. Sometimes they don't have any other passion in life except what they do for your company. Don't take it for granted. I felt bad and sorry the other day for a colleague, creative designer, who sadly said on one of our team video meetings these days, that he will continue do the work anyway even for free because he has no better things to do anyway.. Is it passion, devotion or desperation? Do we really want to kick those people into ass when times are bad? Give them a credit for that.

We should learn from that. Most of the contractors, even if they were needed, has been sent home without working laptops, because sensitive information cannot be taken out from design studio. But why? is freaking product more important than actual human?

Some contractors, which already sacrificing their family life, by traveling back and forth, had to choose between options to stay lock-down abroad with work alone and provide for family remotely or to go home with uncertain vision if they would be able to provide for themselves and their beloved ones

Hate me for what I will say, but I think we're doing good despite the fact we're not present in office all the time.

Even if we work 60% of hours, I dare to say we're producing the same amount of work even working less. Admit, that it's true. We don't bullsh*tting around, but do better decisions and do just most important and just necessary work. We are using technologies more effectively. We're not really speeding up our workflow, yet we just unconsciously knows that it needs to be done "quicker and in less time" so we're using brain more effectively.

As a bonus to that we take long walks, we breathe, we think, we exercise more, we're talking more to relatives and friends, we becoming healthier. We're doing what we're missing out when constantly sitting in office under artificial light. I've been talking to many friends and colleagues before lock-down but also in the meantime of the home office lifestyle. Employees and contractors. They are all happier with a new lifestyle. They got on bikes everyday, enjoying life more even despite situation. And we all have a thoughts about to present the idea of home offices every week also in the future.

Give the employees more freedom and they'll likely to become a better and more loyal workers grateful to work for you.

In the end let's summarize what we need to take into an account for future instances. Even most of us are too tiny to make any decisions for future working flow. But let's be honest one last time at highlight the main ideas of this commentary

People who passionately works in design studio, would never share all the work with world just like that. They like what they doing and wanna keep their job and reputation.

Most of people outside of automotive design are rarely interested in how the new model of that car will look like? Even if they see real hot pic of new product on computer screen, I bet they would just say, nah!

Would you still hate Mondays after all that what's happening now and could not wait for a weekend?

The same amount of work will be done despite the fact of less working hours.

Automotive Design work is not a magical, fabulous thing which mean people would steal from you. Even if someone would stole a company laptop from you, 99% of people would have no idea how to even decode all that sensitive R&D data even if they would see it on the screen.

We like our work we won't lie around in case of home office and not do anything. We will deliver in the same pace as in office or even quicker.

Think about more home office days for your team. Same work will be done and you'll get more happier and loyal people in your team.

..and many more. This is just a brief bit of something bigger.

Final thoughts

The fact that we quarantine ourselves for 2 weeks or 2 months will change nothing. Maybe we’ll just postpone it for a moment ...We screwed it up as a worldwide nation, as a society, as temporary residents of the planet ... Sh*tdive therapy which we deserve. Enjoy! And if not now then again at the worse scale later in future. And on the top of it we are also pissed off about it. So typical for us. Earth don’t f*cking care if everyone around die and some other lizard species would come after us :-)

Each of us has been affected by the situation. Motivational slogans are bullsh*t all of the sudden. Don’t be that over positive person, it can be a lot worse than now. Let's be optimistic instead. Yes, famine, war or anything else and worse can come. History, people, events, viruses, pandemics, but unfortunately both moronism and people’s malice repeats over and over again, so don’t panic. If you still have the debris of judgment, so please for the sake of logic, do not watch the media. Enjoy the sun instead when it does not rain (Man, the rain is a must, you need to understand that your food has to grow from somewhere and the water is imperative, so do not complain again, ok?!)

And especially. If it’s all over once in future, let's do not forget to go back to the old track, spending hours in traffic and under artificial light in offices, the good old comfort zone, where we can stuff our heads with tons of junk food, watch games on TV, don’t f*cking care about the relationship with our closest, relatives, friend and especially to get mad and upset at useless crap.

I believe that it will open our eyes, so we could see what we have not seen for so long

TAGS: #corona #quarantine #covid-19 #work #job #homeoffice #design #automotivedesign #cardesign #designstudio #stress #workload #life #health # environment # ergonomic #history #contractor #ir35 #classasurfacing #icemsurf #alias #catia # engineering

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Surface Designer by the day | Music, Food & Fitness on the side

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