What we've been reading: Workplace democracy, squatting, and nannies

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Welcome to What We've Been Reading, the AccountingWEB editors’ weekly round-up of the stories that have caught their attention.

Enjoy the roundup of stories from our editors, and let us know if there's something that caught your eye or if you'd like to disagree with any of our choices.

Valme: The need for workplace democracy

Valme Claro

Reading Nathan J. Robinson’s article will make you feel thankful you don’t work in an Amazon warehouse. Constantly monitored workers, passing through security to go to the bathroom and mandatory overtime are all part of the description of what a normal day at the warehouse looks like.  

Not surprisingly, 89% of the Amazon staff surveyed felt exploited. But of course, Amazon’s view is quite different: workers aren’t called workers but “associates”, and posters at the company show pictures of happy employees who “love coming to work”.

“Unfortunately, people don’t seem to expect much more than that these days. The ridiculous libertarian idea of ‘choice’—that if you accept a rotten deal, you can’t complain that it’s rotten, since you accepted it—seems to have become widely accepted,” writes Robinson. “So long as you are not literally enslaving people, but are instead merely preying on their economic need, you will have zero moral obligations.”

Companies can adopt workplace democracy and codetermination at various degrees, but the idea behind it is always the same: employees are not just slaves and should be able to have their say about certain affairs concerning the place where they spend over half of their waking life.

Richard: Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

Richard Hattersley

I haven’t had the pleasure of becoming a parent yet. But as many dear readers know, this just means that I haven’t treaded the unenviable task of childcare. Accountants know as well as anyone how the 9-to-5 grind often means that additional child-rearing help is unavoidable.

When work isn’t a quiet refuge from the little one’s babble, I’m sure attention drifts from the set of accounts to wondering what they're doing. After all, it is a scary prospect leaving your toddler with a childminder, nanny, au pair or whatever for the first time.

But that scare factor will increase exponentially after reading Lullaby by French author Leila Slimani; a murderous nanny thriller that’s had all sorts of plaudits and hype thrown at it this year (with good reason, too).

It is scenario familiar to many: new mum Miriam returns to her career as a lawyer, while her husband Paul chases a career in the music industry. But their career success can only be maintained with the dependability of childcare.

So, they choose Louise, who at first appears to be a Mary Poppins-like nanny. Emphasis is on ‘at first’. But that perfect nanny facade veneer soon slips. An incident involving a chicken carcass is particularly ghoulish. The tension escalates, as a motive remains elusive.  

Office parents should be warned: don’t read the grisly opening page during your lunchbreak as you'll likely cancel all your afternoon meetings and dash home.

Francois: Learning to squat

Francois

I exercise a lot less than I used to. I was a tubby teenager and over a three year period between age 18 and 21, I lost a lot of weight. Gyming was, obviously, a big part of that process and I was at my physical peak by the end of university.

Sometimes, people ask me for advice. And I always give the same tip: lift weights along with cardio. Weightlifting is a widely misunderstood and overlooked part of losing weight.

I grew to love lifting weights and in my adult, 9-to-5 laziness, I miss it. But even at my zenith, I had a complicated relationship with one lift in particular: the squat. I was scared of it. I’m tall, I have a long torso, long levers - in other words, I’m not exactly built to squat. It seemed like an injury waiting to happen.

But the exercise is an acquired taste, and over the years, I’ve grown to love it. And on my infrequent visits to the gym, I’ll usually squat. Simply because of how good it makes me feel.

“Squatting,” as Jamie Keiles writes in the New Yorker, “involves the whole body. The legs and the hips control the lowering motion, while the abdominals and the lower-back muscles work to stabilize the torso. Add a weighted barbell along the span of the shoulders, and the deltoids and the arms become implicated, too.”

It’s the king of exercises. A compound lift par excellence. And if you’re interested in just doing a little something, squeezing some real value out of limited gym time, I’d heartily recommend it.

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