The Future of Work – How Was It For You, Visitor 6?

Wooden Christmas Star

You may be wondering about your staffing levels for Christmas. Are you? After all, it is only a few months away. Whilst you consider your options, I would like to share with you what it is like to experience The Future of Work and be a Christmas casual worker at Sainsbury’s.

Wooden Christmas Star
Look after your Christmas Stars

Last December business was a little quiet for me. It wasn’t desperate, but I was at the point of cancelling lunch with a good friend and I wasn’t having that! So, I signed up to do some casual shifts at Sainsbury’s; sometimes in life you just have to suck it up.

To be one of their merry band required navigating your way through the Indeed Flex App, which is apparently the Future of Work. This is not that straightforward; all very inhuman and not for anyone who isn’t tech savvy. At one point it crashed and I had to start again. After completing the “training” (ie watching a few videos about various things, including lifting and handling – compliance training anyone?) I got there in the end. Within hours I was booked in to do two shifts the week before Christmas. The app is the ultimate in being processed. But hey ho.

So how was working at Sainsbury’s?

Well not that great. Filling shelves and being in the hustle and bustle of Christmas was fine; it took me right back to my early days in retail. There is a certain satisfaction to be gained from getting an aisle straight and helping customers where I could.

What was not so sparkly was the way we were treated.

I arrived for my first shift and reported to customer service. They clearly didn’t know what to do with me or the others also arriving. I was given a visitor badge, number 6, and told to wait.

A manager collected us, took us through to the back office where we could leave our bags and then took us onto the shop floor. I was rather expecting a briefing – health and safety, domestic stuff etc.  But no. No explanation of breaks, location of toilets, the canteen, who to speak to, what to do at the end of day, where to take rubbish etc.

Straight onto the floor, shown an aisle and a cage, given a brief explanation of what to do and then left to it.

All day

And I Mean All day.

At no point during that 8 hours did anyone check I was OK, check that I was doing things properly, send me off for a break, be curious, be kind.  Not one member of staff came to speak to me. No manager knew my name. I swear I could have walked out of the store and come back at the end to sign out and no one would have known.

The fact that one of the other workers came and found me every time he had a customer query tells you everything you need to know.

It was inhuman. I was a visitor in the store and utterly abandoned.

Sainsbury’s has a quote that

“Our values make us different.”

Which values are these, do we think?

It was exactly the same for the second shift. I didn’t book a third. I had wondered whether I might make this a regular thing to do at Christmas. I guess not.

The Future of Work?

As a customer and as a person with a particular concern for people at the margins of society, I felt I needed to do something.

I emailed the Store Manager on the 28th March outlining my experience. Then again on the 24th April.

I wrote a letter on the 28th June.

I’ve still had no reply.


What To Do When You Are Feeling Anxious About Work

This is the second part of an e-mail that I sent to my friend who was feeling very anxious about work.  She thought she was being pushed out and abandoned. Maybe she was being paranoid, or maybe she wasn’t. The first part of the email, introducing David Rock’s SCARF model is here.

This then, is the good news; what to do about it. And it’s all about taking control.

What Do You Do About A Work Place That Feels Threatening?

1. This is SO important. The feelings are caused by hormones. They are not the reality. If you were to get drunk and feel like you could fly that would also not be real.

What you need to do is manage the hormones by a) taking any medication that you are on b) getting exercise, sleep and good nutrition c) managing the things that are triggering the hormones  d) accepting that the triggers are not helping and telling your brain

 “just shut up! I’ve got this thank you; pumping cortisol around is not helping. Brain – wind your neck in!”

2. Get really honest with yourself about a whole host of things.

SWhat is your self-worth? Writing out/updating your C.V. might be a good exercise right now. Your worth is not linked to how well you are being treated; they are separate things. What are your skills and aptitudes, what experience do you have etc.? Also, who loves you? Why do they love you? Are they stupid? No. So what is it about you that is lovable, useful, clever, needed?

CThe future is a scary place when we don’t know what it is. So sit down and write out some possible scenarios. What might happen realistically? Winning the lottery is not a plan, by the way.  What can you do to make the best of those scenarios? What can you do now to prepare? (You will notice that none of the realistic, likely scenarios include an axe murderer turning up and yet that’s what your brain is preparing you for.)

AWhat CAN you take control of? Look at all of the things you make decisions about. You’ve got this.  You are not helpless; you have skills and abilities. Take some control and you will feel better; your brain needs this. Ignore the stuff that you can’t do. What CAN you do?

RPart of the problem is that you don’t feel safe with your work colleagues. But again, they are not about to attack with an axe. Contributing to this situation is being left out of the loop as far as information goes.  So you need to be a bit demanding for some information. More of that later.

FThis situation doesn’t feel fair. But actually it might be. The problem is that you don’t know.

And another thing

…your self-perception may be part of the problem. What do you believe about yourself that is not helping?  If we believe that we are helpless, stupid, mentally unstable, incapable etc. etc. etc. then to act differently takes quite an effort, because it goes against our habitual thinking – and habits are tricky little blighters. They are like bits of software code that give us short cuts. The habit of brushing our teeth the same way each morning stops us wasting mental processing power each morning. Habits are good. But our unhelpful beliefs (unhelpful habitual thinking patterns) are not and they are also unlikely to be true.

Beautiful sunset of calmness
Plan an escape route and take control.

The Action Plan – this is about getting some balance, reality, control and options.

When you are feeling anxious about work, or anything for that matter, it helps to take control. An action plan works wonders (if only to trick our brain into chillin’)


  1. Write out a list of at least 10 things about yourself that you like; this will help to re-balance your self-perception. This may take a lot of effort. Do it!
  2. If you can come up with 10 easily, that’s great; write 10 more.  If you struggle to find 3, then this is at the heart of the problem; you are undermining yourself. Persist. Put the list down and come back to it later.  Anyone who knows you well could write a list about you of thirty things without even breaking into a sweat. So write the list.  This may be the most important thing you do.
  3. Update your C.V – thinking about yourself in the third person can be really helpful too.
  4. Start to look about to see what other companies you could work for; just see what is out there. It will give you a sense that there are options; that feels better than feeling trapped.
  5. Now consider those future scenarios. What might happen?  Write them down. Doing this helps your brain (specifically the limbic system) understand properly what the threat is and also assures your brain that you are in control. Having it on paper can help you park it rather than keep going over and over the “what ifs.”
  6. Now write an e-mail to your company and ask politely but assertively for information. You have a right to be kept informed.
  7. Get someone to read it. Then press send.
  8. Add more to the list.
  9. Celebrate.
  10. You’ll be full of adrenaline so go for a walk to use it up. Then relax.

If this doesn’t generate a good response, then it’s time to look for another job. Instead of feeling anxious about work, imagine that; not working there anymore!

What Creative Thinking Skills Are You Investing In?

According to the World Economic Forum, analytical, creative thinking and complex problem solving, are key skills for now and over the next few years.


The skills the World Economic Forum think are important.


The pace of change, particularly around working lives, requires a workforce that can remain flexible, think creatively and make effective choices. Understating how the brain might actually get in the way of these skills and having a kitbag of strategies to boost thinking power, may be more important than experience. Knowing how we have done things in the past will not be as useful as coming up with ideas on how to do things differently.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein



Impasse to Insight – creative problem solving for business.