A number of the duties assigned to the company’s research associates (RAs) involved the movement of heavy laboratory items. For example, some of the RAs had been asked to monitor the amount of gas in the carbon dioxide tanks. Those tanks furnished the company with the gas that was needed by the cultured cells. Failure to monitor those tanks could subject the cultured cells to an environment with an inappropriate pH level.
The element of flexible work related to the replacement of an empty tank. It was very difficult for the smaller employees to move the empty tanks out of the lab, and to bring in a new tank. Eventually one female employee had to rely on some of her male co-workers. Then her flexibility arose from her need to plan a tank switch for a time that would best suit her assistants.
In the biochemistry lab, some of the researchers needed to work with a huge propeller. That propeller was used to stir a solution, usually a buffer. Once all of the powder had dissolved into the solution, then someone had to lift the propeller out of that solution. The above examples focus on how a flexible work load could call for a need for muscles.
Sometimes a demand for flexible work can also introduce the need for small employees. That was what happened at the biotechnology company in Los Angeles. That company put two of its freezers very close together. The research associates who had to read the temperature on those freezers had to slide into a very narrow space.
Now it should be noted that one of the women who was asked to read the freezer temperatures was also asked to change the gas tank. One can thus appreciate to what degree that woman felt obligated to perform flexible work. One can also understand why she needed to ask her male co-workers to help her with the tank replacements.
On another occasion that same woman was asked to retrieve a certain solution from the walk-in freezer. It was not the sort of thing that she could carry down the hall. She had to take a cart over to the freezer and transport it on that cart. Now she did not lack the flexibility to handle that assignment. But some male employees working over by that walk-in freezer could not understand why a male employee had not been assigned that particular task.
One time the demands for flexible work became a bit too overwhelming for that same woman. She had run out of space for the item that she needed to collect and store. She had filled-up her personal section of the small laboratory freezer. Eventually she appealed for help from the fellows who had so generously helped her to replace the carbon dioxide tanks.
They told her that they knew just the place for her samples—a cordoned-off section of yet another walk-in freezer.